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Mixed Welcome For First Accessible Dvd

Editor's Note: This article is reprinted from E-Access Bulletin, Issue 59, November 2004.

The RNIB has issued a qualified welcome to a new DVD version of the Shawshank Redemption, the first general release film DVD to be issued with audio description and talking menus for vision-impaired people.

Audio description offers a descriptive narrative of actions, gestures, scene changes and other visual information which would not otherwise be available to vision-impaired people.

The new DVD has been produced by Granada Ventures ( on the tenth anniversary of the film\'s initial release.

The RNIB has broadly welcomed the new three-disc boxed set DVD, although it criticized the fact that only one of the three discs has audio-described content with talking menus. This means that while vision-impaired people can access the main feature and choose specific scenes, they can\'t, for example, access interviews with actors on the other discs.

Additionally, when the discs are put into a DVD player, there is no way of identifying which disc is which.

"The talking menu feature should be available on all three discs. If you couldn\'t see at all and put disc two or three into your DVD player, you\'d have no idea what was on that disc, let alone how to get to the area you were interested in," says Jill Whitehead, broadcasting and talking images officer at the RNIB. She also criticized the fact that the disc that contains audio content only speaks three out of six of its menu options, meaning vision-impaired people are excluded from some content such as the directors\' cut.

"The problem with this product is that the publisher has decided for blind and visually impaired people what they might want to access," says Whitehead. "This is in effect a form of censorship." If Granada Ventures had consulted with the RNIB, it would have been able to avoid such basic design faults, Whitehead says.

However, she welcomed the broad efforts towards accessibility being made. "Granada have made a giant step forward in making DVDs accessible and showing to the rest of the industry what\'s possible, they just haven\'t gone quite far enough. Hopefully this will be the first of many more and, for a first attempt, this is a very commendable effort."

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