The Ultimate Con

George Parker died in 1936. He was a brilliant if somewhat corrupted fellow. He is famous for selling famous American landmarks to unsuspecting tourists. He apparently sold Brooklyn Bridge almost weekly. He would convince his victims that they could charge a toll if they brought the bridge and become very rich very quickly. Several times the police had to stop people as they attempted to erect toll booths at the bridge. Other land marks that he sold to naive investors included the Madison Square Gardens, the Statue of Liberty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Quite how he managed it is any ones guess. He must have been an extremely smooth talker. Not unlike the people who have managed to smooth talk people who are Deaf and hard of hearing into believing that CaptiView was going to offer us all more access to the cinema. Parker would not have been out of place as one of the representatives for the Big 4 Cinemas who have foisted CaptiView upon us.

Last week there was a Forum about cinema access. The Forum was organised to coincide with The Other Film Festival. A panel was held to discuss cinema access for people who are deaf or have vision impairments. Disability Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission, Graeme Innes, was part of a discussion panel. Mr Innes came under fire from all quarters. Many people that attended the Forum made it very clear to Mr Innes that they were very dissatisfied with CaptiView. Under much onslaught Mr Innes absolved himself of any blame and planted the blame solidly with the Federal Government.

 According to people that attended the Forum Mr Innes implied that the introduction of CaptiView was Bill Shortens fault. Mr Shorten had been the Parliamentary Secretary for Disability when The Australian Human Rights Commission decided to throw out the Big 4 Cinemas application for exemption to Disability Discrimination Complaints. At the Forum Mr Innes is alleged to have said that it was Shorten who brokered a deal for CaptiView with the Cinemas. Apparently it was Shorten who agreed, without consultation with anyone, that the Big 4 Cinemas would no longer have to provide Open Captioning if they agreed to introduce CaptiView.

For the first time it became clear that deaf people had been sold out. Shorten had brokered away rights to open captioning without consultation. For the first time it became clear why the Big 4 Cinemas and the Government have ostensibly refused to consider any other alternative except CaptiView. Like Parker selling things that did not belong to him, the right of quality access to the cinema for people who are deaf had been sold from under them.

It was virtually legalised discrimination. All the cinemas need to do is to ensure CaptiView is installed as agreed in the Accessible Cinema Roll Out Plan. It did not matter whether cinema goers who are deaf found CaptiView acceptable or not. A deal had been done. The whole Accessible Cinema Roll Out Plan has been a charade.

Initially our advocates all urged that CaptiView be ‘trialled’ before rolling it out widely. The trial was a quality control measure to ensure that the device was effective. Of course the powers that be all nodded wisely and made soothing noises. What liars! If Innes is to be believed CaptiView was a done deal the minute Shorten agreed to it with the cinemas.

Over time it became obvious that CaptiView had many, many problems. People who were deaf  who have vision impairments could not use it. Children who have short attention spans found it virtually impossible to use CaptiView. Tall people had to slump in their seats to align the device with the screen. Stories were common telling of eyestrain and headaches from the constant refocusing from device to the screen. Diligently the Action on Cinema Access Group brought these issues to the attention of the cinemas and the Government. But neither the cinemas nor the Government cared.

CaptiView was the technology of choice and nothing else would be considered. It was the technology of choice even though it often did not work. It was the technology of choice even though it often dropped pout in the middle of movies. It was the technology of choice even though it became obvious that CaptiView was widely LOATHED. You see it had already been agreed that CaptiView was it. OUR rights had been brokered away!

Not only were our rights brokered away but we were lied to. We were told that with the new Doremi digital severs that open captions were not possible. This is not true. We were then told that it was possible but complicated. This was again not true. We now know that open captions are possible IF the right captioning file is requested. Once the correct file is obtained it is virtually a matter of flicking a switch. We were told that alternate technology would be ‘considered’. Again a blatant lie because CaptiView was the technology of choice ad the only technology that COULD be considered by virtue of the Shorten deal.

We were told it would provide more access to more movies. Perhaps it gives access to a variety of different movies but is it actually more access? There are only six devices per screen. Only six people who are deaf can watch a movie at any one time! And even then there is no guarantee that the CaptiView devise will work. Stories abound of cinema goers who are deaf attending the cinema because it was advertised as captioned only to be told that the movie is not captioned. People who are deaf and who want to attend the movies have been treated like dirt.

Mr Innes cannot be absolved of the all blame. Mr Innes, knowing full well that this deal had been brokered without the input of the consumers, chose to tell no one until last week. This is the same Mr Innes who has been championing the Accessible Cinema Roll Out at every opportunity even though he is well aware of the immense dissatisfaction from many consumers.

On the day of the Forum Mr Innes took to Twitter praising the cinemas for opening six more venues with CaptiView and Audio Description. The day after attending the Forum and hearing the views of dissatisfied consumers, including a consumer who is blind, Mr Innes again took to twitter praising the cinemas because they are set to complete the Accessible Cinema Roll Out two years ahead of schedule. Is Mr Innes listening to us at all?

 It’s clear that as far as CaptiView goes, we are stuck with it. Whether we like it or not this largely ineffective and discriminatory technology is here to stay. People who are deaf have been sold out. They have been lied to and they have been conned. Mr Parker would have been proud.