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My fight to make cinemas deaf-friendly

petition for subtitled movies

Until recently, I only went to the cinema two or three times a year. Going to watch a movie at the theater has always been a ‘luxury’ for me. With my hearing loss, and the lack of subtitled showings, it just wasn’t possible. It also wasn’t fair. Most families have the choice to go to the cinema wherever and whenever they desire. Our options were pinned down to luck, and the hope that the ‘yourlocalcinema’ website would announce a subtitled showing would be playing.

A couple of months ago, I finally had enough!

Why don’t those of us with hearing loss get the freedom to choose when we want to go to the cinema? Why do cinemas keep showing subtitled films at ridiculous times? Deaf people have jobs, they go to school and they have busy lives, so they’re not always available when the cinema thinks they should be.

Last autumn, My family and I wanted to see the new James Bond blockbuster film, Spectre, but to my surprise the manager at my local cinema told me they had a ‘policy’ not to show subtitled films in the opening week. WHY?! –

Apparently there’s no demand and also they claimed people complain when there’s subtitles. This, to me, was a shock. I’m sure some people are bothered by subtitled, but I feel like it’s not any different than when you watch a foreign film, plus, they don’t take up the whole screen. If it is too much to deal with, you always have the option to go and see another one of the 39 other showings on the same day! (Something we with hearing loss don’t have the luxury to do.)

And, from my experience, the reason for the ‘lack of demand’ is because of the lack of ‘reasonable’ showings. Many deaf people have just given up on going to the cinema altogether.

After pestering my cinema, they finally agreed to play a captioned showing for my family at the end of the opening week. But, even today looking at the website, they still don’t seem to have made any improvements. I am trying my hardest to make my local cinema more accessible, but it’s hard to make yourself heard when you’re against an establishment on your own.

If you’ve dealt with similar situations, the only piece of advice I can give you is to contact your cinema if you don’t think there’s enough ‘reasonable’ showings on different days at different times. If they respond with a typical, rubbish response then you can take it further and quote the Equality Act 2010. Once they see that they’re not complying with the law, they are more likely to make a change.

Feel free to show them this blog if necessary, so they can see that it’s an ongoing problem. If we all work together then maybe one day we’ll see a change!

Author Details
Ellie was born profoundly deaf, uses verbal communication, lipreads and wears Phonak Sky Q hearing aids. She is currently learning British Sign Language. Ellie hasn’t let her disability stand in the way and embraces every new challenge. Her deafness didn’t prevent her from achieving major accomplishments in her life, such as excelling in her education, previously working as a Marketing Executive and now as an Events Coordinator for a deaf organization, as well as blogging for Hearing Like Me. She is passionate about deaf awareness, campaigning for equality and helping others through her personal blog as Deafie Blogger.