This project (led by Dr Jennie Middleton) emerged out of discussions with a group of young people with visual impairments (VI), who shared an interest in film making and campaigning to improve accessibility across public transport.

A still from a video journey made by one of the project participants

We had engaged with this group for more than four years through the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC) charity as part of the ‘Everyday mobilities of VI young people’ study funded by the John Fell Fund (visit the project website www.vi-mobilities.co.uk for more details). The research used participatory video methods to explore VI young people’s everyday experiences of independent mobility/ accessibility across London’s transport systems.

After recording hours of footage on GoPro cameras, participants expressed a wish to collate this audio-visual data into a series of films, to raise awareness and share mobility strategies. Our proposed project was a distinct and original new programme of work centred on the co-production of an accessible film screening. An accessible film screening means wheelchair access and space (lifts, ramps, floor space, etc.); audio description provided through headsets; subtitles; relaxed screening (not too dark, audience allowed to make noise/ move/ walk around if they need to); warnings about flashing lights/ startling sounds; BSL interpreters for Q&A; assistance available; accessible website for online advertising/ marketing of event; and affordably priced/ free. The aim of the event was to enable this group of visually impaired young people to share this series of short films about their everyday experiences of moving around London.

Funding

The project was awarded £4000. This money funded a Research Associate (Hari Byles) to organise the film-making workshops, coordinate making the films accessible with audio description and sub-titles, and organise the film premiere at an accessible screening event. The funds also paid for the time of a film-maker (Santiago Rivas) to run the workshops and edit the films.

Benefits and Outcomes

We organised three film-making workshops - bringing together participants, researchers and a film-maker to co-produce the 6 short films, each telling a different story about VI young people’s journeys around London. The films incorporate accessibility tools into the narrative and craft of the film through the creative layering of subtitles, narration and audio-description.

Panel discussion at the accessible film screening

They were premiered at an accessible film screening at the Rio Cinema, London in Autumn 2018. We consider the screening to be an important project development, not only in disseminating the project findings to a wider audience, including stakeholders such as Transport for London (TfL), but also in creating an exchange with the participants who gave their time and labour to gather data, share their experiences, and co-produce this powerful range of films.

As well as being an important way of giving back and supporting our participants in their journeys, the project also represents an important and accessible way of disseminating and sharing research with non-academic audiences. Academic work frequently overlooks the accessibility of research. In particular, those with sensory, physical, learning or mental health impairments are often excluded from academic knowledge-making practices. This filmmaking project explored ways of improving access to research at every level, from methodology and co-production, to designing accessible knowledge interfaces, and dissemination activities. The research team benefitted from learning more about practical ways of expanding accessibility within research and working collaboratively with participants to co-produce events and outputs.

Outputs

  • Journal paper: Middleton, J. and Byles, H. (2019) Interdependent temporalities and the everyday mobilities of visually impaired young people. Geoforum, 102, 76-85.
  • Draft tool kit for SoGE to share learning, resources and ideas for making current and future research projects more accessible.
  • The films have been incorporated into TfL accessibility staff training and have been drawn upon as a teaching resource in SoGE undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.
  • Films entered into the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Research in Film Awards and the Association of American Geographers Annual Conference (AAG) film shorts screening.

Further Information

Visit the project website www.vi-mobilities.co.uk.