Deafness Is Rife Amongst our Advocates

It’s an epidemic. Deafness is everywhere amongst our advocates. I speak, of course, of our representatives in the cinema captioning campaign, namely Deafness Forum, Deaf Australia and Media Access Australia. These organisations appear to lack the capacity to hear us. We, the consumer, do our best to let them know our feelings about the new CaptiView system that is replacing open captions. But no matter how loud we scream our discontent we seem not to be heard. One can only assume that our advocates are deaf to our voices.

CaptiView is the new system that is replacing open captions in cinemas around Australia. The device is placed in the cup holder at the viewer’s seat and has captions transmitted to it digitally. The viewer then must adjust the device and then synchronise watching the movie and the captions on the device at the same time. It can be adjusted so the captions can be in the field of the big screen so that the viewer can see the movie and watch the captions without missing too much. In theory it sounds great but the problem is most deaf people despise it.

It was introduced after the Australian Human Rights Commission threw out a submission by the major cinemas to be exempt to disability discrimination complaints. The cinemas had put in an application for exemption after doing a deal with our advocates for a minimal increase in open captioning. Our advocates accepted the deal with no detailed consultation with deaf consumers. Deaf consumers got wind of the deal and let our advocates know, in no uncertain terms, that it was pathetic and unacceptable. Deaf consumers were up in arms, and rightly so, and demanded greater access. Our advocates told us we were all wrong and that we should accept what was on offer. This was the first example of deafness in our advocates. They just could not grasp that the MAJORITY of deaf people DID NOT ACCEPT what was being offered. Thankfully the Australian Human Rights Commission listened to the consumer and the cinemas’ application for disability discrimination exemption was thrown out.

The chastened cinemas immediately came back with an offer of CaptiView with much fan fare. Suddenly, after eight years of crying poor, they had an answer. Go figure! CaptiView was the answer they said. It would give us access to a far greater range of movies. A plan for its rollout was released and on paper it looked fantastic. Our advocates were all lovey dovey. They all jumped on board at the urging of Bill Shorten who said it was the best that was possible. There was a lone voice, however, who we shall not name, who urged the advocates to slowdown. The lone voice said, trial it first and see if the CaptiView device is acceptable among consumers. Of course this made complete sense. Why spend many thousand of dollars on a device that consumers might find unacceptable? But of course our advocates were deaf to this advice too. In fact they told our lone voice that he should “tone it down” and that he should “pick his battles”. And so the roll-out of CaptiView began.

Of course the consumers were largely kept in the dark. They were fed spin about how wonderful it would be. They said we would have much greater access and that the outcome was fantastic. Our advocates, who originally urged us to accept the cinemas’ application to exemption to disability complaints, suddenly all jumped on board and began to claim credit for the wonderful new outcome that they had achieved (?!?) Well ain’t karma a bitch!

At first the objections to CaptiView were a trickle. There were some positive reviews to come out about CaptiView, but they all seemed to come from within the circles of our Advocates. There were media releases that our advocates, particularly Bill Shorten, milked for maximum exposure. Media Access Australia even sent someone to review the CaptiView and wrote about it on their website. Bizarrely the reviewer was a hearing person. But a couple of months ago deaf people began to really voice their displeasure about CaptiView.

To find out what deaf people really think of CaptiView all that is needed are lots of deaf friends on Facebook. And it is comments on Facebook that really show what deaf people feel about CaptiView.

The rumblings first began in July. Sporadic comments started to appear that were very negative about the CaptiView.The Rebuttal wrote about this at the Blog in July, This article highlighted some of the comments that were being made about CaptiView. At best people said they found the system passable but not great. At worst they said it was ”useless technology” that they would never use again.

Deafness Forum saw fit to respond to this article. They insisted that objections to CaptiView were only a few and that there were many that found the system useful. Well not anymore. It is very clear that MOST deaf people HATE CaptiView. Positive comments about CaptiView are as rare as hen’s teeth, but not by much.

It started with Michael’s Facebook post. Michael wanted to know if there were any movies available with open captions. This post turned into a full-scale criticism of CaptiView.  There were 16 comments and not one was positive. People bemoaned the lack of choice and expressed dismay at the phasing out of open captions. They complained about the stress the system placed on the eyes and how deaf children and deaf people with vision or physical problems would find the system very difficult to use. One person went as far as to suggest that CaptiView, at worst, was a health hazard.

Then there was John’s post. John vented his frustration at the phasing out of open captions at the popular Jam Factory in Melbourne. John posted a link from Media Access Australia who is promoting the roll-out of CaptiView to the hilt. John’s posting received 24 comments.  Various people commented, “I don’t like CaptiView, I’ve tried and tested it.” – “…really hate the CaptiView system, a piece of crappy 80’s technology with a bendy arm taken from a Spielberg movie”“This is too silly… where are our options and rights to watch a movie like everybody else? What really is happening is that we have to conform of what is given or said to us… a joke!”  These comments are hardly positive are they?

And then there was Kate. Like John, Kate protested the phasing out of open captions and expressed her displeasure with CaptiView. She received 24 comments in support. Perhaps the best came from Dean, who had this to say, Why are Australian cinemas waiting on the other countries to come up with the solution (The latest I hear they think caption glasses will solve some of the issues). The cinemas boast $100m profits annually. The digital changeover is happening around the world and you have to wonder why Australia can’t lead and develop the right technology that caters for everyones needs and then sell the concept to the world rather than wait on others. Cinemas will get their money back plus more and the community will be satisfied. Golly Australia leads in heart transplants, medical solutions, critical black boxes for planes – so you have to wonder if the cinemas interest and commitment is really there. Any marketing person would jump at this innovation! Nothing to lose but a lot to gain.” All we need is to cure the deafness of our advocates so that we can all be heard! Can Australia lead the way?


The organizations of men, like men themselves, seem subject to deafness, near-sightedness, lameness, and involuntary cruelty. We seem tragically unable to help one another, to understand one another.

John Cheever


It is hard to believe it has been almost two years since we collectively campaigned for better access to the movies for deaf people. The Big 4 Cinemas might have gotten away with their exemption application if it wasn’t for certain people within Arts Access Victoria and Disability Legal Service who explained what the ramifications would be if we didn’t fight this. From people power, determination and campaigning, we were able to persuade the Australian Human Rights Commission to overturn the Big 4’s application for exemption.

That was the first battle won. An advisory group to the Big 4 Cinemas was established. CaptiView was put forward as the technology to provide closed captions. It looked as if things might start going our way.

Then the second battle began.

CaptiView was forced upon us. It is a device that does not bother other hearing cinema attendees. It provides access to deaf people. It seems to be a win-win for the all. Except for one small issue – someone forgot to run a trial and check the community’s responses.

To be fair, many of us went with an open mind. Despite this many of us are disillusioned. Some were prepared to give it a go over a fair period of time. Others knew it was useless for them. Children can’t navigate CaptiView. Tall people have to slouch to watch the captions on the device. Small people (children for example) can’t sit comfortably to see the device. Sore necks, sore backs, tension headaches were experienced after using CaptiView. Viewer comfort and safety are real issues.

No feedback / evaluation forms were left for customers. How do we communicate to the Advisory Group to cinemas? How do we keep our organisations accountable? How do we even know they are attending the meetings, much less advocating for us? We, the community, are not consulted, not informed and our advocates are deaf to our voices.

With this in mind, Action on Cinema Access organised a community consultation meeting in the last fortnight. Support for the CaptiView devices was underwhelming.

Many griped about the lack of consultation. All accepted open captions might be a thing of the past but did not want their access options limited. They were fair and reasonable. All they wanted was the opportunity to enjoy a movie. As it stands CaptiView hinders and for many spoils the movie going experience.

It is time that deaf consumers, the paying customers, were heard. The deafness among our advocates, unlike ours, is curable. All it takes is a shift in attitude.

If anyone wants a detailed summary and a copy of the powerpoint used at the recent community consultation meeting, this is available. Email Also contact your organisations involved in the Advisory Group. Ask them to advocate for you for proper access. At the moment, it is just not happening.

All we ask is that our advocates hear and act on our concerns. After all, is that not why they are funded?

letters and articles to:

All views expressed are the sole responsibilitu of the authors  alone.


Article by: Gary Kerridge

Editorial by: Marnie Kerridge



In a recent Rebuttal article, “It’s a Scandal” concerns were raised by Mr Simon Shepherd that there might be grounds for mistaken identity, given the proximity of very few male Deaf Facility co-ordinators in Australia.  The Rebuttal apologised for any distress caused. Mr Shepherd would like it known that he empathises with the issues raised in the article but wishes to have it acknowledged that the person/s referred to are in no way related him. The co-ordinator in question in the article was in fact a culmination of a few people from all over Australia with educational influence. The term ‘he’ was used as a generic term, however we acknowledge this may not have been seen as such. We apologise for any misunderstandings.


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