My fight to make cinemas deaf-friendly

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, people complain?!

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.

As for the complaints about subtitles, I’m sure some people are bothered by this – but 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.)

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 come back 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!

Untitled-2_roundEllen Parfitt, is an 19-year-old typical, but not ordinary, teenager. She was born profoundly deaf, but it hasn’t prevented her from achieving major accomplishments in her life, such as finishing her education, scoring an marketing apprenticeship, and working as a lifeguard, Avon Representative and Girlguide Leader. She is passionate about deaf awareness and campaigning. In her free time, she runs her jewelry and gifts business with her mum.

You can follow her here on Open Ears on a regular basis, or on her personal blog, Day in the Life of a Deafie and on Twitter @deafieblogger.



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