On Year’s Results of “Special View” Program and Future Plans

The “Special View” program implemented by the “Art, Science and Sport” Charity Foundation supports the development of innovative technologies in the field of diagnostics, treatment of eye diseases and socialization of visually impaired people, participates in arrangement of performances, excursions, audio books and workshops for blind people and pays great attention to the development of audio description in Russia. We had a talk with Ksenia Dmitrieva, the Program Head, about the landmark projects of the ending year, networking between organizations, officials and visually impaired people, and about the plans for 2019.

“How do you rate the results of implementation of the ‘Special View’ program in 2018? What objectives did you set and did you manage to achieve them?”

For 2018, the “Special View” program has taken a big step towards the creation of an accessible environment for blind and visually impaired people. We divide our program into two major directions. The first direction is the social and cultural adaptation and rehabilitation of people with vision disability. This includes all projects on creation of accessible environment, inclusion, protection of health and eyesight, and scientific research. For example, two series of free operations on eye retina were performed this year in the spring in Perm and in the autumn in Moscow as part of the “Generous Tuesday”, an international charitable action. The second major direction is social communication and building social dialogue. The result of these efforts was creation of the same-name Internet portal “Special View”. It is important for us to become the main platform uniting experts on inclusion, ophthalmology, living of blind people, and blind people themselves.

“What was the main point for you in 2018? Please tell us about the key projects of the past year.”

The flagship projects of 2018 were the project “Implementing Audio Descriptions in Russian Theatres” and the above-mentioned Internet portal “Special View”.

Together with the “Rehacomp” institute, we have increased the number of audio description specialists by half, not only in Moscow but also in regions. We have established communication with public organizations and theatres, which were ready to cooperate in this area and have created audio descriptions for performances in 17 theatres throughout Russia: in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Kazan, Volgograd, Nizhniy Novgorod, Samara and other cities. About 800 blind and visually impaired people attended performances conducted as part of the project. We also donated equipment for creation of audio descriptions to seven organizations, which contributes to the general promotion of this direction.

“Internet portal “Special View” is the first multi-functional platform, an inclusive portal that leads blind people out of the “blind zone” in which they have stayed until now. The Internet portal, opened on October 15, 2018, helps blind authors and readers of the portal socialize themselves, reach culturally significant projects, take new steps in their personal fulfilment, and also is a source of information about technological innovations, accessible art, hints on communicating with blind people, their capabilities in various spheres of life for the immediate circle of blind people, the expert community, and professionals in the field of culture and accessible environment. We believe that this is not just an information portal; it is a platform for new opportunities. When we can bring this to a larger audience, then we will be able to talk about real results. Now it is time to work.

“What new activities have you launched in 2018?”

This year we had many new projects, some of which I would like to mention. “Guide Dog Friendly” is a universally significant social project, which is being developed jointly with the Dog Training Center “Dogs Help Disabled”. This project is aimed at public education. According to the Federal Law “On Social Protection of Disabled Persons in the Russian Federation” and a number of other laws, people accompanied by guide dogs have the right of access to any institution. However, not all institutions understand this. In an age of information overload, we consider it very important to talk about these nuances. During the year, we have conducted a lot of meetings and workshops as part of the project, dedicated to creating an accessible environment in organizations for people accompanied by guide dogs in seven regions of the country.

This year, together with Nex-T we created the NextVision audio-visual system based on the vOICe algorithm developed by Peter Meyer, a Netherlander and an employee of Philips Research and Development Department. NextVision converts images taken with a camera into a sophisticated system of sounds, which are then transmitted to a user through headphones. This system allows a blind person to “see” using the sound. The product is to be tested in 2019.

We can be proud of the participation of the “Special View” in the St. Petersburg Economic Forum and the Eastern Economic Forum, as well as of the cooperation with the Ministry of Culture of Russia, Roskultproekt, and Roscongress. This is important from a global point of view. The world is changing in a different direction. Social aspects, inclusion, accessible environment issues become more and more relevant.

“One of most significant events for your program was the launch of the information portal ‘Special View’ in October 2018. Have you already received the feedback from the portal readers?”

Any feedback is important for us. Since the portal launch, dozens of organizations, which deal with accessible environment issues in one way or another, have joined us. As of the moment of launch, there were 77 such organizations, and now 130 ones cooperate with us. This means that our society is ready to open doors to public institutions even wider and that the portal becomes an intermediary between blind people and those who is creating the accessible environment. We are excited about this.

We receive the feedback from blind people often enough: they advise us how to improve the portal from the technical point of view, what is missing, what they would like to see. This shows that those people for whom it was created need the portal.

Personally, I have no questions concerning the content. You only have to go to any section and listen to the materials. Their strength lies in the fact that they are interesting for not only blind people and for experts, but for other people. Our editors are doing everything possible to ensure that the portal always shows the agenda, that the materials not only tell the story, but also show the real picture. Understanding how much is done in the area of inclusion, I feel good about our future.

“What are your plans for 2019? What are the objectives and tasks of the ‘Special View’ program, and how will the information portal develop?”

The mission of the “Special View” program is to create an inclusive social and cultural environment in Russia and to form a new special view of the problems of visually impaired people. Our strategy for the next year is outlined on 32 pages, so, in short, we will deal with this. What is worth paying attention for organizations, professionals, and beneficiaries, is that the program will receive several grants in 2019 for the support of private initiatives related to creating the accessible environment. As early as in January, we plan to publish the information about the grants in the “Useful Information” section. The grants will be used for training of audio description specialists in Moscow and in the regions, for purchasing audio description equipment for regional organizations, for staging inclusive performances, and for media support of social projects.

For better work of the audio description cinema on the information portal, we enter into cooperation with key copyright holders of films with audio descriptions. In the new year we plan to further develop this direction and also to launch two new ones, an educational direction in partnership with the Polytechnic Museum and a museum direction, together with the “Hermitage”, “Garage”, “Jewish Museum”. The Internet portal is a platform that has already united many people and organizations. Nevertheless, we plan to further develop and strengthen these relationships and make them more productive. Now, organizations and blind people have to take many efforts to get through to each other.

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