I have always wanted to create a TV show or film with a deaf or hard of hearing (D/HoH) character, who would be accessible to the D/HoH audience. While I was abroad in Berlin last summer, I met up with my thesis advisor to attend a performance piece called (in)Visible by Jess Curtis. The piece explored performance for the blind and visually impaired by using sound and touch to convey 'visuals' to the audience. This inspired me to think of ways to visually deliver 'sound' for the D/HoH.
I desperately wanted to be able to watch live television, go to the movies, and be part of the discussions that hearing individuals can have about the media.
How did you conduct your research?
I started my thesis by researching legislation and the accessibility process for film, television, and theater. I found that distributors (the movie theaters, television networks and theater teams) were responsible for making content accessible rather than the creators or producers. This means that post-production, outside contractors, with limited time and funding are often deciding which sounds and tones are transcribed into captions (rather than the media's original creator). Making accessibility a footnote instead of an integral step in the production process, can lead to inaccurate or malfunctioning captions that take away from the media's intended message.
After sorting this out, I began looking at media could to find examples. I met with creatives and accessibility specialists in the United States and London to develop a contextual analysis of the current efforts to make theater, film, and television more accessible for the D/HoH.
What was your conclusion?
My research identifies what is being done and proposes three new methods for making media more creatively accessible: creative captioning, camera and actor-interaction and diverse casting, and inclusion of the D/HoH.
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