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Accessibility Consultation with the Pelican Project

  • Session led by Phil Kingslan John; participants Sam, Georgia, Sheena, Nicky, Izzy, Charlie, Ben & Nicole
  • Four of Swords is looking to investigate live streaming theatre that can be accessed digitally and remotely; something that is different from watching a film and is accessible to as many people as possible

Ways in which using technology can assist with accessibility

  • Voice notes: holding down one button to send efficient messages as opposed to texting
  • Predictive text to speed up writing messages
  • Facetime/Whatsapp faster than writing messages
  • Using tablets for entertainment
  • Linking handheld devices up to TV
  • Watching productions and virtual interactive performances without having to navigate the live environment/during lockdowns
  • Audiobooks for accessing stories when literacy is challenging
  • Learning scripts from using programmes that can read words out loud
  • Alexa – to play songs, listen to a radio station, listen to news headlines
    Can be used by users with electronic talkers and understands different speech patterns well
  • Electronic talkers for watching tv or films, listening to music, telling jokes, etc.

Issues with accessing technology

  • Needing time and space to do a lot of practice
  • Needing a bigger screen for visual impairments
  • Cost of data to access the internet on the move
  • Ben’s electronic talker: not robust so can’t use it in transit or in the rain

Use of subtitles

  • Not useful for users with literacy barriers
  • Not useful for users with visual impairments
  • Audio description is often more useful

Challenges following the action with visual impairments

  • Portable vision impairment = difficult to focus directly on a thing
  • Difficult to focus on and follow fast-moving action
  • One 4OS idea is to give the viewer the ability to choose when to cut to a different angle: Georgia agrees that this could be useful for her 

Duration of films & programmes

  • With visual impairments such as portable vision impairment, the additional effort required to focus means that it’s hard to concentrate on long films or programmes
  • 30-40 minute programmes are better than long films, or watching a film over a few nights
  • Shorter episodes of 15 mins can be useful
  • Ability to pause when needed is important
  • BUT if it’s something really interesting, it can be engaging for longer (e.g. live shows)

Other engagement techniques

  • Music at the start or in the tv programmes can draw you in

Difference in experience between live theatre and remote watching

  • Immersive and all around you = more engaging, able to watch for longer
  • Physical theatre with less speech – banter and slapstick – is engaging and easier to process for some viewers
  • In a live situation it can be stressful trying to navigate other physical aspects (e.g. Georgia talks about trying to keep calm and not fall out of her seat)
  • With some processing conditions, viewers can have difficulty with finding things too real and need to know the story first so that they know what’s coming next
  • Companions can help, e.g. family members who know to forewarn and remind that it is not real
  • Issues with jumpiness because of visual impairment, not seeing people until they are too close
  • Georgia comments that she enjoys the theatre experience – likes the noise and excitement – but struggles with it for the above reasons

Audio barriers

  • When tired visually, can entertain self with audiobooks and music
  • Wearing headphones makes sound slightly clearer
  • Difficulties of headphones for users who move around a lot – need to be wireless
  • Shared vs private experience: the choice of whether to share what you are listening to, or to keep it private/not impact on those around you
  • Sharing music via speakers is difficult remotely e.g. on Zoom

Augmented reality: 360 degree films or ‘perspective of an actor’ experiences (e.g. RSC clip) – are these effective? What are the barriers?

  • Issue: needing a fast connection to watch high resolution recordings
  • Use of mouse or arrow keys: alternatives are joysticks, or apps where you can connect it to a handheld device and use touch screen to drag it
  • Another technique is moving phone around to move view, either on its own or with goggles
  • If you haven’t got good sensory integration, this could be very disorientating, especially balance issues – need to get used to it

Perspective of being an actor: RSC clip

  • Does it lend anything extra to that scene?
  • Easier to have control of the camera so that you can look away from the action when needed
  • But can get lost and not know where to focus – might get stuck and have to figure out how to get back to the action
  • Issues with controlling the movement with coordination difficulties e.g. dyspraxia, cerebral palsy
  • Camera following action might be easier – would be less disorientating because you can focus your attention on the looking, not the moving
  • Suggestion: one camera angle, but following character round

  • Knowing story well in advance can also help

Lion King stage show example

  • Choosing what you look at is useful
  • Problems with being scared in really immersive parts?

In terms of experiencing a full story (no matter the length) – would you enjoy it?

  • Depends on the context of the performance
  • Something like a big shiny musical would work; something like Macbeth would be perhaps too dark (subject wise)
  • 3D cinema: people found it annoying after a while – wearing glasses over glasses – perhaps it would feel the same
  • Better for shorter things?
  • Not shared experience – a better equivalent would be to wear 3D glasses or similar so everyone is immersed in the same way
  • Some users would still prefer to watch in private so they could pause when needed, so this wouldn’t necessarily work at a live show
  • Silent discos: shared but not – could that be applied to shows?
  • Choose your own adventure version? E.g. watch it from POV of different character

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