The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates accessibility services at movie theaters for people with disabilities including deaf and hard of hearing. Constant efforts are being made by movie theater owners in conjunction with their technology partners to create a better experience at movie theaters for people with hearing difficulties.
Nowadays, most of the movie theater owners are trying their best to comply with federal regulations, which require them to offer assistive services for the deaf and hearing-impaired viewers. Let us have a look at some of the assistive features provided by movie theaters for deaf and hard of hearing community.
All of us are quite familiar with what closed captioning is. Closed captions or subtitles are the streams of explanatory text that run on visual screens. It is way back in 1993 that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) first wanted television manufacturers to have closed captioning capabilities. This allowed deaf and hard of hearing viewers see and clearly understand visuals with help of text displayed on their TV screens.
National Association of the Deaf (NAD), in 1996, formed Movie Access Coalition, which encouraged movie theaters to provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing community. Even with all the technological advancements that almost eliminated excessive cost involved in creating closed captions for film prints, the NAD estimates that only a little over a percent of movies are displaying closed captions.
What Else Can Help?
Entertainment Access glasses
Around 2012, Sony invented Entertainment Access glasses. This was a personalized closed captioning concept. Viewers wearing these glasses could see captions in front of them on air and the text would only be visible for those viewers. These glasses looked more or less like conventional eyeglasses. Technically, movie theaters started offering this technology to its viewers in 2013.
Regal Entertainment Group offers this technology at many of their units. Some other theaters that provide the equipment are Carmike Cinemas, Water Gardens Theaters, Muvico Theaters, BAM Rose Cinemas, etc.
Then we have rear-window captioning. This technology allows viewers to see text on a personal panel that displays captions that get mirrored from an LED screen from the back of the movie hall. These personal panels are attached on to a springy plastic shoot that could fit to the cup holders. It is necessary for the viewers to sit at special seats in order to use this facility and get a better angle to view the text.
Motion Picture Access website has the list of movie theaters equipped with this service. AMC theaters provide rear-window captioning service in as many as 160 of their locations.
There are also smartphone applications that offer closed captioning/subtitling for relatively a large library of new and old releases. You can download this application on to your smartphones. A major advantage for iPhone users is that their closed captioning application offers closed captioning in around 20 different languages. It is always better to inform the theater owners before you use this application as many theaters follow a “no phone” policy.
Assistive Listening Device (ALD)
Assistive Listening Devices are sound-amplifying devices. Theaters offer Assistive Listening Device for viewers with some residual hearing.
Locate Theaters Offering Accessibility Services
To locate theaters near you that provide captioned screens of recent movie releases, you can check your local newspaper; subscribe to NCAM’s e-mail list. You can also check websites providing information on accessibility services in theaters such as; Captionfish, AMC Theatres, Regal Entertainment Group, Marcus Theatres, etc.
Captionfish is a search engine developed primarily for Apple users by three deaf developers to locate movie theaters that provide assistance facilities for the deaf community. You can look for theaters near you that offer closed-captioning, rear-window captioning and other facilities with the help of the Captionfish application.