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A still image taken from a grainy colour film, showing a close-up of a girl's face, her eyes closed. Slightly obscuring her face in the foreground is an empty sheet music stand.

Written by Nia Edwards-Behi

8 May 2024


In September 2023 the National Library of Wales Screen and Sound Archive began a 1-year BFI National Lottery-supported project, Cymru Anabl (‘Disabled Wales’).
This screen heritage project is exploring the representation of disabled and Deaf filmmakers in the archive, as well as the accessibility of its materials. Cymru Anabl will lay the foundation for transformative and on-going work to improve the archive’s ways of working. 

The project staff are working in collaboration with partners Disability Arts Cymru, Hijinx Theatre Company and TAPE: Community Music and Film, three key organisations working in the fields of inclusive and accessible creativity in Wales. 

Cymru Anabl will also be engaging directly with disabled and Deaf filmmakers, creatives, researchers and potential users, to share the archive’s work, gather feedback and seek new acquisitions.
The first few months of the project have involved project staff exploring, researching and revisiting items in current film and video collections that are either about, or made by, disabled and Deaf people.
These have included items such as This is a B.D.D.A. film taken by members of Cardiff Branch (1935), Y Gŵr o Gwr yr Aran (1978) and Call Us By Name (1968), which are all available to watch, for free, on the BFI Player, having been digitised as part of previous BFI screen heritage projects.

Other items that have been revisited have included S4C dramas, animation work by Gritty Films Ltd., and the work of the ground-breaking Chapter Video Workshop.

Accessible Webinars

The first public-facing activity of the project was an online introduction to the Screen and Sound Archive and to the project. The introduction was aimed primarily at disabled and Deaf people, but open to anyone. A recording of the webinar is available to watch online.

Although a relatively simple start to the project’s public-facing activity, we don’t have a great deal of experience in running webinars and had to take time to learn best practise in order to plan this first activity accessibly. Organising such events as part of the project is a key part of learning to work in more inclusive and accessible ways.

We knew from the start that we must offer live captions and BSL interpretation for any online sessions as part of the project. We were also aware that working bilingually meant that we needed to make additional considerations as we planned the event.

For this first event we had to rely on automatic captions, and so we had to choose a platform that offered live captioning for Welsh-language speech, leading us to use Microsoft Teams.

We also decided to host two webinars, one in English and one in Welsh, rather than a single bilingual event, so that the automatic captions – prone to error - might be more accurate than if we were alternating between languages.

When organising BSL interpretation for the webinars, we faced another challenge: there is only a very small number of BSL interpreters able to work from Welsh to BSL. This meant that we were limited to their availability and resulted in us re-arranging our original planned dates for the webinars.

We knew that we needed to allow plenty of time to undertake this work so that we might do it as accessibly as possible, but actually undertaking the work was a lesson in not underestimating the time needed. 

This was also true after the event. The webinars were recorded in order to ensure wider access to them. The work of correcting the transcriptions was time-consuming, and doubly so when working in two languages.

This first stage of the project has therefore been an important way for us to not only introduce the project publicly, but also to learn some key things about best practise and how to approach the on-going work.

Next steps

For the next stage of the project, we’ll be hosting workshops alongside our partners in order to talk with disabled and Deaf people, and particularly disabled and/or Deaf filmmakers, creatives, film fans, archive users, and heritage enthusiasts.
In these workshops we’ll talk about archives, representation and access. We’ll share films from the Screen and Sound collections and use them as a basis for discussion and engagement. We’re also hoping to learn about film and video work by disabled and Deaf makers that aren’t - but should be – in the archive.

We’ll also use what we learn from these sessions to inform onward work beyond the project. Cymru Anabl, as a 1-year project, will be a specific and targeted piece of work to kick-start long-term efforts to truly answer these questions in a meaningful way.
Our intention is to be transparent about these processes because everything we learn – however simple – is an important part of the very reason we designed this project.
We’ll be sharing the project's findings in blogs such as these and more widely, particularly with partners in the UK screen heritage sector. Our hope is to to encourage better practice and ongoing dissemination of learning in this field and to connect with others making efforts in the same field.

Category: Article