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Delhi HC orders inclusion of accessibility features in cinema for visually & hearing impaired

IANS | March 28, 2024 03:10 PM

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court recently directed the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to finalise and publicise guidelines by July 15, ensuring that films are more accessible to visually and hearing-impaired individuals.

Justice Prathiba M. Singh was hearing a petition filed last year for accessible captions in the Shah Rukh Khan-led film 'Jawan' for the visually and hearing impaired.

The petition sought the inclusion of audio descriptions, close captioning, and subtitles in accordance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.

The court noted that accessibility is not just a legal right but also a necessity, and private entities must ensure reasonable accommodation to improve accessibility for visually and hearing-impaired individuals.

Failure to provide accessibility features could be considered an offence under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.

The plea, initiated by various persons with disabilities (PwDs), including a law student, lawyers, and the Executive Director of the National Association for the Deaf, aimed to enforce rights and accessibility requirements as mandated by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

The judge stressed the necessity for these guidelines to mandate accessibility features in feature films, offering a reasonable timeframe for all involved parties to comply.

This directive comes in response to the MIB's ongoing efforts, as revealed in an affidavit, to establish the “Draft Guidelines of Accessibility Standards in the Public Exhibition of Feature Films in Cinema Theatres for Persons with Hearing and Visual Impairment”.

These guidelines aim to set standards for the public exhibition of feature films, ensuring that those with hearing and visual impairments can enjoy movies in cinema halls and theaters.

Justice Singh has also ordered the MIB to appoint an Under Secretary as a designated officer to address any requests for incorporating accessibility features in films during the interim period before the guidelines are officially announced.

The MIB is expected to respond to such representations within three working days, striving to include these features in feature films and on OTT platforms. The designated officer’s contact information will be available on the MIB website by April 10, 2024.

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