Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday soon, and for the rest of their lives, deaf people must get the service they deserve at cinemas.
They should be able to watch a movie whenever they want, and they should always be able to access good captions.
If you don’t have a disability it can be easy to miss the barriers that stop disabled people doing things non-disabled people take for granted.
From the big things (getting a job, travelling, etc) to the simple pleasures like watching a film, it’s not always easy to live a ‘normal’ life if you have a disability.
Captions should make cinema accessible
Take going to the cinema to watch a film as an example. How do you listen to the sound if you’re fully or partially deaf?
Of course, you can’t listen to it, but you can read captions (aka subtitles) made up of written descriptions of the audio, including speech, sound effects and music.
Or at least you should be able to read captions.
Deaf actor Nyle DiMarco recently burst the big bubble of cinema-related frustration experienced by deaf people across the world.
The anger and annoyance poured out after DiMarco tweeted about the poor quality of captioning at a screening of Black Panther in the US.
In his tweet he said: “…10 mins into Black Panther, I had to leave. It was awful. Kept skipping lines. The difference of focus while switching, gave me headache. And I kept missing important scenes…”
Hundreds of deaf people then began tweeting about their own horror stories at the cinema.
Time and again the same message was repeated: film captioning at cinemas just isn’t good enough. In fact, it’s often utter rubbish.
Poor quality, badly-written captions that are out of sync with the film need to make their way to the cutting room floor. And stay there.
But unless you’re deaf you may not know this isn’t exactly a big secret.
Timing is everything for deaf audiences
Joanna Wootten is an age, disability and inclusion consultant who works with organisations to identify how they can be more inclusive or effective.
She explains that whilst we tend to have better captioning for films shown in cinemas here in the UK, getting to see the film in the first place is the main issue for many deaf people.
She said: “What is good in the UK, unlike the US, is that we have open captioning that is better and more inclusive.
“The closed captioning they use in the US works by viewing the captions on a device (usually provided by the cinema).
“Whereas the open captioning system in the UK means we can read the captions on the screen.
“If you are looking at a device in your lap, this is tricky if you have eyesight problems.
“Plus you have to look back and forth from two different screens so closed captioning is a less immersive, less enjoyable experience
“And as we’ve seen on Twitter recently, poor captions can also be a big issue.
“Another big issue is the timing of captioned films. It’s great that there are subtitled films but often they are shown at a time and/or location that isn’t convenient.
“There is a brilliant website called Your Local Cinema that deaf people can use to find listings for showings of films with captions
“But many more screenings are needed so that deaf people can get to them at a convenient time.
“Charlie Swinbourne really hit the nail on the head when he blogged about this last December.
“As he explained, what deaf people really need is for cinemas to dedicate one screen in each multiplex solely to subtitled screenings.
“And they should also dedicate one day each week to show all films with subtitles.
“Or even better, you could open a subtitled cinema somewhere with good transport links and a sizeable deaf population, like London, for example.
The show must go on, WITH SUBTITLES
Cinema began with silent movies over one hundred years ago.
But it’s been way too long since whether you could hear or not didn’t make a difference to how much you can enjoy a film.
Now is the time to make a new episode in the history of cinema, one which is fully accessible for deaf people everywhere.
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