16 Sep The Disappointment of Movie Accessibility
Will you do me a favour? Would you walk through a mental exercise with me?
Imagine that you made plans with friends to go to a general admission concert, and you happily anticipated the night spent socializing and seeing a great band. You drove across town to the venue; maybe you paid for parking. You got there early to score a great seat. You stood in line to get in, and then stood in another line for a drink. The opening acts were loud and not very good, but you were pumped up and didn’t care. When the main act took the stage, though, the sound equipment failed. The staff tried to fix it but after a half hour, they admitted defeat, said “Sorry!” and gave you a free ticket to a future concert. Well, what can you do, eh? A few weeks later, you go through the process again – from the excitement of making plans to finding a prime spot at the venue – but once again, the equipment fails, and you are given another free ticket. This cycle of failing equipment and free tickets can continue as long as you’re willing. How would it make you feel – angry, frustrated, or discouraged? Would you feel like your time and money to get to the venue had been wasted? How many times would you try again?
Welcome to my HOH life. I am hard of hearing (HOH) and rely on captions. The mental exercise I described above is my reality when I go to the movies.
To be honest, the captioning equipment doesn’t fail every single time. Based on memory, I believe I am able to sit through two or three movies for every ten that I try.
Kudos should be given to Cineplex for installing the Captiview captioning system in many Canadian multiplexes. In Saskatoon, Cineplex theatres are the only ones that provide any kind of captioning. However, the system is extremely glitchy. Often, it displays a message saying it is ready, but then fails to kick in when the movie starts; or sometimes it stops working in the middle of the movie. This requires leaving the auditorium, and missing part of the movie, to find someone to fix it. If it can’t be fixed, I’m sent on my way with a voucher for a free movie. I’ve heard that this happens in other Canadian cities as well.
Glitches plagued my attempts to see Southpaw recently. The first time I went, my Captiview device said that it was connected and good to go. Captions are rarely provided in the pre-show, so you have to wait for the movie to start before you know if the system will work. When the movie started, no captions were displayed. I waited until I was sure there was dialogue before I went looking for help. The manager sent to assist me tried – valiantly but unsuccessfully – to fix it, and promised that it would be fixed for the next showing. Perhaps I should have taken her literally because when I tried again eight days later, Jake again had no love for me. But, hey, I got another voucher to add to my collection.
Every time I go through this process, I am reminded of my inability to participate in activities many Canadians take for granted.
I feel belittled, squashed, unimportant. It brings home the idea that I am broken, and that the problem is with me. Although accessibility is often advertised with great fanfare, the reality is that this world is just not as accessible as it appears to be.
Cineplex should perform regular testing and maintenance of the Captiview systems. If the system fails in a particular auditorium, movie listings should be updated, and the “cc” designation removed until the system is fixed. More staff need to be trained on the system. If Cineplex truly believes what is written on their website – that they welcome people with disabilities, and that they are proud to offer captioning devices – then they need to step up and make this more than an empty PR statement. Please encourage Cineplex to live up to their accessibility promises by signing this petition.
Jacki Andre works for Disability Services at the University of Saskatchewan, where she earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees. She is passionate about disability rights, animal rescue, and music. She also blogs for The Huffington Post.