Well, well, well – It is now public. the Cinema’s have made their offer and the consultation has begun. Deafness Forum have got the ball rolling and have put a poll on their website to see if people are happy with the offer. I for one must say I am EXTREMELY impressed. Having said that this is just the first step on the way to fair and reasonable access for deaf and blind people at the cinema.
Below is the substance of what the cinemas are offering. This has been taken from the Deafness Forum website.
- By the end of 2014 captions and audio description would be available in at least one screen in every one of the 132 cinema complex run by these operators.
What this means is that every cinema owned by the major cinema companies will have at least one cinema that can show captioning for the deaf and also provide audio description for the blind. Keep in mind that some cinemas have more than one cinema in a cinema complex. However under the offer from the cinemas they have committed to ensuring AT LEAST ONE MOVIE THEATRE in the complex will be able to provide access.
But THERE IS MORE!!
- In addition captions and audio description would be available in:
– one screen for every complex with 6 or less screens
– two screens for every complex with 7 to 12 screens
– three screens for every complex with 13 or more screens
This would equate to captions and audio description being provided at 242 screens in 132 complexes compared to the current situation where only 12 screens in 12 complexes provide captioning. AND I believe none of these twelve screens provide audio description for the blind. It is a vast improvement.
The cinemas have proposed a roll-out of their proposal. This is what they are suggesting.
A timetable for achieving this goal might be:
- By the end of 2010 access would be provided in 24 screens (10% of proposed total)
- By the end of 2011 access would be provided in 73 screens (30% of proposed total)
- By the end of 2012 access would be provided in 145 screens (60% of proposed total)
- By the end of 2013 access would be provided in 194 screens (80% of proposed total)
- By the end of 2014 access would be provided in 242 screens (100% of proposed total)
One must remember that initially the cinemas were offering JUST 35 cinemas for a two and a half year exemption to discrimination complaints WITH NO PLAN as to how to improve things at the end of this two and a half year exemption.
With the roll-out that has been suggested by the cinemas they calculate that the following levels of access will be provided.
- Captions and audio description would be available at every session of a movie that had captions or audio description showing on those screens. For example, the initial roll-out of 10% of the screens would result in 840 shows per week of closed captioning and audio description content (ie. 24 screens at 35 sessions per week).
- Industry proposed that the technology used to deliver captioning and audio description would initially be CaptiView, but noted that like in other areas of technological change, improvements would occur and alternative improved technologies would develop over time. Industry acknowledged that the implementation of CaptiView would not preclude the adoption of improved technology in the future.
This means that every cinema that has the technology to provide captioning and audio description will provide captioning and audio description FOR EVERY MOVIE that is shown in that particular movie theatre. That wont be every movie because, for example, some cinemas have up to ten movie theatres in a complex. Under this proposal by the cinemas, if a cinema complex had ten theatres at least two of these will provide captioning and audio description for the movies shown at those two movie theatres. BUT access will be provided at every session shown at those theatres – everyday and at every session.
Considering that the initial proposal was only offering access at 35 cinemas with no suggestion as to how many sessions would be available this is an enormous increase in what the cinemas were offering.
But why has there been this dramatic change of heart. Part of this has been the introduction of the CaptiView system. This is technology that the user has to set up at their seat … it means they watch the captions at their seat and not on the screen. There will not be open captions. The cinemas have been very opposed to open captioning stating that it takes away from the cinema enjoyment of those patrons that don’t require captioning.
Their are mixed reviews of the CaptiView system. Some believe that it takes away from the enjoyment for the deaf person. They say that watching a movie with the system means the watcher must coordinate looking at the captions and the screen and that this can be difficult. To try and reassure people the cinemas have agreed to a consultative process so that patrons can provide feedback about the system. I believe they cinemas have also agreed to regular reviews of the technology and upgrades of the technology when appropriate.
Perhaps at this stage it is a bit premature to celebrate because we do not yet know how deaf people will react to the CaptiView system. The same will not apply to blind patrons because they will have a headset where they listen to the audio description direct to their ear. Blind patrons will not have to coordinate watching the movie and captions at the same time.
So there we have it. The first step to better cinema access. There is one lesson that we have learned from all this and that is that we must always CHALLENGE decisions that are made for us. If we had sat back and accepted what was on offer, if we had accepted what our advocates had agreed to and if we had not made a protest we would not be in this situation. Having said this we must also appreciate the work of people that managed to negotiate the original proposal. Weak as it was they battled hard on our behalf. The cinemas played hard ball but they kept the cinemas at the negotiation table. Their part in this process should not be underestimated. BUT still we must challenge if we do not agree we must say so – If we do not change never happens.
There are cynics that claim that the Cinema protest is a small fish. People who claim that there are bigger issues and more important issues. All of this is very true but one needs to remember that the cinema protest has set a PRECEDENT. It brought the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) to the table. It provided the AHRC with ammunition to hold the cinemas to account. The benchmark has been set – The cinemas were told, that based on their profits, what they were offering was not acceptable and that they were not meeting their responsibilities. If the cinemas can be held to account, what then of the Government that doesn’t provide proper access to education? What then of big multinationals like Telstra who charge through the nose for data plans that for many deaf people are the only means to access telecommunications to an equitable level of their hearing peers?
Do not underestimate the impact of this cinema campaign. The precedent has been set. We must now keep the fire burning!