In Belarus, HumanDoc Foundation has been active since 2014. Back then, we have implemented a project related to Audio Description under the “Polish Aid” program by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Audio Description (AD) is a technique, which uses verbal description to bring art, culture and information closer to the persons with visual impairments. Thanks to additional verbal comments, the visually impaired are able to get to know the cultural achievements and works in the area of art, theatre and film.
These actions are highly innovative because so far in a very intuitive way, without theoretical background and solid standards, the so called typhlodescriptions for the films have been used, which were common in Western Europe a few decades ago. Thank to this project, the participants from Belarus became familiar with the AD technique and over 13 people have been trained to work on adjusting films to the needs of the blind. In 2015 we visited Belarus during the Week of Inaccessibility, where among others we presented the films adjusted in 2014.
For 5 years now the Foundation has been successfully cooperating with the blind and deaf community in Poland. During the annual International Documentary Film Festival HumanDoc we always prepare films adjusted to the needs of person with visual or hearing impairments.
During our activities in Belarus we recognized major needs to adjust art, culture and information to the special needs of the blind. Seeing huge potential and commitment of the local partners, we decided to use our extensive experience and in 2016 we implemented a project “Technological Advances in Adapting Information and Art to the Needs of Persons with Visual and Hearing Impairments”. The project was funded under the “Polish Aid” program by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The main goal of the project was to continue working on AD and, simultaneously, reviewing the methods and techniques of AD as well as recently acquired knowledge and skills. What is more, we introduced techniques of adjusting art and audiovisual materials to the needs of persons with hearing impairments using the special subtitles system. All activities were aimed at increasing the level of activity of persons with disabilities and to enable easier access to cultural and social life.
In the course of the project, we conducted a series of trainings for Belarusian Audio Descriptors and people working on subtitles. The results of these actions are visible on two exhibitions of National Museum in Minsk and Marc Chagall Museum in Vitebsk. We created also Standards of Techniques of Information and Art Adjustment to the Needs of the Blind and Deaf in Belarus.
In addition to all that, trained specialists prepared two films and a cartoon for persons with visual and hearing impairments. The films were published in 900 copies and distributed all over the country to the centers and schools for persons with visual or hearing disabilities. Together with our local partner we organized 19 film screenings, in which over 1500 took part. One of the films was broadcast on Żest TV, thanks to which more than 500 000 viewers were able to watch it. “Imagine”, a film by Andrzej Jakimowski, was presented during the International Festival “November”. It was the first in history display of a film adjusted to the needs of the blind and deaf during such a big and spectacular event. The screenings gathered over 500 persons with disabilities.
Implementation of this project proved huge enthusiasm and commitment and Belarusians interested in the above-mentioned topics. Popularity of these activities exceeded all our expectations, which is why we decided to organize more screenings than initially planned. Many blind and deaf persons had for the first time the opportunity to visit a museum or a cinema and to feel noticed, appreciated by having an offer adjusted to their needs. It is vitally important that thanks to the series of trainings and study visit in Poland, the Belarusian experts are able to prepare independently AD and subtitles to another films, exhibitions, spectacles, as well as train new audio descriptors, people working on subtitles as well as representatives of cultural institutions.
The project was co-funded under the polish development cooperation program by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.