Sundance Partnership Extends Accessibility for Attendees With Disabilities

2019 Sundance Film Festival - A view of official signage around town as Park City - Getty-H 2019
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

A new alliance with the Ruderman Family Foundation will improve the accessibility of closed captioning, audio description and assisted listening devices, among other resources, at the 2020 event.

The Sundance Film Festival is making changes to improve accessibility for attendees with disabilities.

The Ruderman Family Foundation on Wednesday announced a partnership with the Sundance Institute to provide more resources for attendees with disabilities and to include a greater amount of programming featuring people with disabilities, including an opening-weekend film.

The disability organization is helping to improve the accessibility of closed captioning (CC) at the fest with CaptiView devices and Feature Film Captioning Service. It will also be expanding Audio Description (AD) and Assisted Listening Devices (ALD) with headseats for AD and ALD and Feature Film Audio Description Service. American Sign Language interpretation will additionally be available at all official Sundance events and official panels at the festival's Filmmaker Lodge.

All Sundance theaters have CC, AD and ALD devices that can be requested from theater staff at the start of an event and retrieved by them afterward. All theaters are additionally wheelchair-accessible and offer seating for attendees with disabilities and companions. Wheelchair-accessible shuttles are available on festival transit roads, and staff and volunteers have been trained to work with attendees with mobility devices if they ask for them.

In terms of programming, the upcoming festival is set to screen Crip Camp, a documentary about a summer camp for teenagers with disabilities and its effect on the disability rights movement, on the Friday of the event's opening weekend (Jan. 24), followed by a Q&A. Additionally, the Ruderman Family Foundation is partnering with The Atlantic to host a panel on disability in entertainment and disability inclusion on Sunday, Jan. 26.

"The generous partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation allows us to expand accessibility resources in theatres and official venues, providing audiences with disabilities the much needed capabilities to enjoy and experience our Festival programming, and activating all of our Artist Programs to deepen our creative and professional development engagement with artists with disabilities," a Sundance spokesperson said in a statement.

The move follows Sundance's announcement that a quarter of the recipients of 2020's Press Inclusion Initiative, which offers cash stipends to 51 freelance critics from underrepresented communities, were people with disabilities.

The Ruderman Family Foundation also put pressure on the entertainment industry to improve inclusion last month when it published an open letter asking studios, network and production executives to open up more casting opportunities for talent with disabilities. Signatories of the letter included Ed Norton, Bryan Cranston, Mark Ruffalo, Glenn Close, Eva Longoria, Orlando Jones and Peter Farrelly, among others.

“We are excited that Sundance shares our commitment to advancing the rights of those who have been historically underrepresented in film, media, theater and other artistic platforms,” Ruderman Family Foundation president Jay Ruderman said in a statement. “Our partnership will enable Sundance to infuse themes of inclusion of people with disabilities and diversity throughout the festival and its year-round programming, while casting a crucial spotlight among the festival’s 120,000-plus attendees on our work to pioneer a culture of greater inclusion in the entertainment industry.”

This year's Sundance Film Festival is set to run through Feb. 2.