Objective: Making Cinemas Accessible for People with Disabilities
Backdrop: Taking stock of the disability eco-system in our country, I found that 7-8% of the population of our country as some form f disability; and just Mobility, Hearing & Speech and Vision constitute 65%. Of these, 60% reside in Villages; PVR being an Urban brand would focus only on the balance 40%; of which we decided to first focus on.
Mobility: The first step was to assess the PVR eco system; with 130-odd cinemas across 50 odd cities, so the team embarked on the first level of assessment by getting a layout filled, based on which, the cinemas were categorised in 5 to 6 categories. The first 50 Accessible Cinemas were announced, branded and made discoverable on 3rd December 2018 culminating in the 1st Phase of this program.
The Second Phase, aimed at making the next 32 cinemas accessible (with the help of SANO PTR Stair lifts that transport the wheelchair along with the person); from among those that have steps at both entry and exit. This Phase was to be completed by 31st March 2020 but has been stalled due to the Lock down and now will be completed only after cinemas reopen.
Hearing/ Speech/ Vision: On exploring the Global Cinema Eco system, I found that Cinemas in Europe and USA were using assistive equipment manufactured by some of the best known electronics brands. These enabled the hearing and visually impaired to get the enabling content (audio description and captions) that would complete their movie experience. However, in India no movies come with audio description and very few with ca
ptions/ subtitles. Hence, making capital investment in purchasing this equipment did not make sense so we got samples of the equipment and approached the Government. The relevant Ministry had no idea that such equipment existed and asked for a demo for a cross functional team. A demo was arranged, however despite repeated follow ups, this demo never took place. In the meanwhile, however I came across XL Cinema- a mobile app that allows the visually impaired to get audio description through their Smart Phones. For this, the audio description file needs to be shared with XL Cinema. With the help of NGO Saksham, 8 films were audio described and made available on the XL Cinema platform. However, of these not one was audio described by the film maker/ producer.
Policy Advocacy: To enable Accessible entertainment, on behalf of PVR, I have made various representations to the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to enable relevant clauses of the Rights of People with Disabilities 2016.
Similar efforts were slated to start on the Employability side with 2 Cinemas hiring people with Hearing and Speech Impairment; however now it will happen once business returns to normal.