AD Spotlight: Shakila Maharaj

Audio describers all over the world are making advances in their craft every day. The ‘Spotlight’ blog series draws attention to individuals who are advancing AD through their practice, industry, and activism.

A poster promoting Shazacin Movie Night in colaboration with the Alliance Française on October 6th, 2021. Text gives address and states "Special Screening of the South African classic - now with audio description! - eLollipop (1975)."
ShazaCin Movie Night poster

Our first featured audio describer is Shakila Maharaj from South Africa. As reported by Frank Chemaly for The Independent, Maharaj is a trained audio describer, app developer, and avid movie fan working to improve and develop AD as a viable industry. Thanks to her, this month saw the launch of a full audio description track for the classic South African film e’Lollipop (1975), directed by Ashley Lazarus.

With funding from SmartXchange, Maharaj has worked with a team to develop an audio description app. “We’re doing everything ourselves,” she explains, “from creating the descriptions, to voicing them and recording them, to synchronising them with the movie.” Maharaj is hoping to distribute and expand this tool in a way that can assist people consuming and producing audio description.

“We need to remember there are 50 million blind people in Africa and one million in South Africa, and that doesn’t look at ageing people with visual impairment. Research shows there are many people for whom [AD] enhances their enjoyment.

“We’re creating a whole new industry, a whole new market, so we’re busy creating a lot of awareness, awareness for blind people themselves, awareness in the film and television industry.”

Shakila Maharaj

In the following video, Maharaj discusses audio description in a presentation for the Brussels World Summit on Accessible Tourism: Destinations for All 2018.

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