Making Festivals More Accessible for Disabled Attendees Just Got Easier With the Festival Scorecard (EXCLUSIVE)

A long-awaited Accessibility Scorecard for film events will be released on Friday, providing a tool that could enable filmmakers and other industry professionals to make festivals more accessible.

In order to draw visibility to the inaccessibility of festivals and entertainment industry events, FWD-Doc has partnered with Film Event Accessibility Working Group (FEAW), led by Cassidy Dimon, to begin the collective reporting of data related to accessibility successes and failures. Variety first reported on the initiative following the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Dimon, who developed the Scorecard questionnaire, explains that “the burden of explaining inaccessibility” is currently placed on the filmmaker or attendee.

“The objective of the Scorecard is to make it as easy as possible for people to provide concise feedback without requiring them to invest even more of their time and labor on improving a festival or event,” she said.

Eryn Brown, agent and co-founder of Hollywood campaign group 1IN4 Coalition, added: “Professionals attending festivals should be able to focus on their art or their job, and not have to fight just to get fair access to a room or a stage.”

Festivals, filmmakers, professionals, and event attendees can access the Scorecard as an online questionnaire template, where users can provide responses about their experiences with festivals and film events. The Scorecard will then provide documented feedback from attendees (filmmakers, professionals, and audience) on the current state of accessibility so that film events can identify strategies to make their events more inclusive.

In addition to feedback on viewing experiences, the Scorecard will seek feedback from event attendees on several areas of accessibility, including the red carpets, stage, networking and related events.

Despite some improvements in recent years, inaccessibility continues to prevent disabled attendees from participating fully in key festivals and film industry events. In Cannes, for example, Variety observed a lack of accessibility in the Palais des Festivals’ press conference room, which only has steps leading into the main seating area. Without a ramp present, one journalist who was using a wheelchair had to get out of the wheelchair and slowly descend the steps before getting back into her chair.

“The entertainment industry clamors for fresh talent with interesting perspectives and knows authentic representation results in record sales, and yet the industry’s institutionalized barriers prohibit talent with exactly those skills from reaching the industry and audiences,” said FWD-Doc Interim Director Amanda Upson.

“By failing to include disabled filmmakers, the entertainment industry is depriving itself artistically and financially. Not only does this eliminate the point of view of 20% of the world’s population, but it also has quantifiable business ramifications,” said Upson. “The Accessibility Scorecard offers a solution to bring skilled fresh talent into an industry that desperately needs it, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to adopt a mindset and practices that can make this industry accessible.”

Oscar-nominated “Crip Camp” co-director James LeBrecht added: “We are heartened by the festivals that have improved accessibility, and we want to encourage all festivals to commit to ensuring their festivals are accessible. A high accessibility score on the Scorecard is achievable. The concept our Scorecard promotes is quite simple, but it comes down to prioritization. Everyone should have the ability to experience these festivals, regardless of disability. The key here is to provide true equal accessibility for audiences, filmmakers, professionals, and journalists through intention, education, and the allocation of resources to make this a reality.”

The Film Event Accessibility Scorecard was developed by FWD-Doc in partnership with Film Event Accessibility Working Group, with the support of Film Festival Alliance, and in association with 1IN4 Coalition.

A virtual event detailing the Scorecard will take place at 1 p.m. EDT on Friday.