The state of Delaware recently announced that they will begin to show open captioning on select showings of movies playing in theaters. This will be part of a 1-year pilot program that Daphne Werner, a language arts teacher at Delaware’s School for the Deaf, pushed for. Werner argued that the captions would help to make movies more accessible to not only deaf and hard of hearing individuals, but children and people with learning disabilities as well.
Why Do Deaf and Hard of Hearing People Need Open Captioning?
Open captioning is a HUGE deal for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Some of the alternatives to open captioning are captioned glasses and cup holder caption devices.
I previously shared my experiences on my blog with using caption glasses and why I didn’t particularly like them. The captioned glasses are great in theory because they allow deaf and hard of hearing individuals the ability to read captions for the movie in a way that won’t interfere with other movie-goers experiences, especially if they don’t like the idea of having captions on the screen. But in reality, caption glasses are terrible. 9 out of 10 times they are not charged or do not work properly. Even asking for them at movie theaters is awkward because most employees do not know what they are or how they work. In the instances where caption glasses do actually work, they are still terrible because they are so incredibly bulky and uncomfortable, especially if you have to wear the captioned glasses on top of regular glasses.
The cup holder option is a bit better. With this device, you don’t have to actually wear anything; the cup holder device just sits in you cup holder and shows the captions as the movie plays. But it still is not great. What I don’t like about the cup holder device is that it requires you to look down and away from the screen to read it; you could easily miss some key moments of the movie. I am also subconscious of the device and worry that it might block someone’s view or interfere with their experience.
Open captioning is by far the best option. With open captions, deaf and hard of hearing movie goers do not have to ask for a specific device or worry about if it will work. All they need to do is buy a ticket that says it’s for an open caption show and sit back and enjoy the movie.
Why Hearing Movie Goer’s Opinion On Open Captioning Does Not Matter
This pilot program is progress and a step in the right direction. However, if this is all there ever is, it is not enough. Open captioning should be on every movie at all times. Public buildings are required to be accessible to those with disabilities, why should the movies be any different? If movie theaters were not made to be wheelchair accessible, people would be up in arms. If a person who can walk did not like that a ramp was placed outside of the theater because they prefer to use the stairs, most people would say “who cares?” or “get over it” because society recognizes that the ramp is needed for those who cannot walk or take the stairs. I think that we as a society ought to have the same attitude towards open captioning.
When I first heard about this program it was through a news story conducted by NBC10. My boyfriend actually sent me this story and was very excited about this news. I live not too far from Delaware and while I no longer need captioning to enjoy movies, he was still excited for me and wanted to take me to an open caption movie because he knows how important this cause is to me. However, I was a bit disappointed with the way NBC10 framed their story. By the end of their broadcast, it sounded as if they were apologizing to the hearing world for having to suffer through an open caption movie. They even made sure to let viewers know that the caption would only be on a limited number of movies at limited showings for those who are hearing and prefer to see a movie without captions.
Captions are not a big deal for those who can hear; they can easily ignore them. Closed captioning is easy to get used to and if they give it a chance, they will probably like it. Either way, having the closed captioning will not interfere with their ability to enjoy the movie, if anything it might just be a matter of preference. However, for those with hearing loss, captions are CRUCIAL. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals MUST have captions in order to enjoy the movie. No caption = no movie enjoyment. I don’t see why the hearing world can’t just suck it up an deal with captions for the benefit of the deaf and hard of hearing. Those with hearing loss already must try to navigate an audio-driven world. I don’t think they are asking for too much by asking to have open captioning on all movies, all the time.
Can I Still See Open Captioned Movies Outside of Delaware?
Don’t live in Delaware? You will be happy to hear that other states may also have open captioning, especially if they have AMC theaters. On AMC’s website or app you can search for open captioned movies closest to you. However, you may be disappointed in the number of results, or at least I was when I searched for local theaters near me in New Jersey. None of the closest theaters to me were even listed; only ones that were about a half hour or more away. Now, a half hour or so is not bad, but the options were still very limited compared to the total number of showings at the theater. I guess I can’t complain too much, though. Slow progress is still progress, right? If I and the rest of the hearing loss community continue to fight for our rights maybe one day, we will have open captioning on all movies all the time.