Audio films to serve blind audience

'Barrier-free' films will debut in Shanghai

BEIJING -- A new Chinese movie for the blind is the first of nine such "audio films" planned this year by a sightless former employee of the Shanghai Film Group, who has founded a "barrier-free" film studio in China's largest city.

Jiang Hongyuan, a blind 66-year-old, decided that adding recorded narration to describe action on the screen between dialogue would help the visually impaired enjoy movies like never before.

Her maiden project, "Examination 77," will screen for free for Shanghai's 158,000 visually impaired residents starting April 23.

Zhao Jihong, director of the Shanghai Association for the Blind, worked with Jiang and the Shanghai Film Group to develop and produce the film.

"Blind audiences can track the story line's development and get a sense of the atmosphere," Zhao told the Xinhua news agency Wednesday.

Previously, blind moviegoers relied on volunteers' live, often chaotic, narrations, Zhao said. It was also difficult to find volunteers willing to help visually-challenged audience members. "That's why we decided to ask professionals to do the recording and make it easy to understand," she said.

The film's subtitles also make it accessible to the hearing-impaired.

The Chinese "audio film" service echoes a product pioneered by U.S. public broadcaster WGBH in Boston in 1990, which now has more than 200 popular Hollywood movies and public television programs in its archives.