The Current State of Technology’s Answer Toward the Inclusion of
Audience Members with Sensory Impairments in the Cinema Auditorium
The role of cinema exhibition is complex. It is complex not only because of the technology involved, though the new digital technology is indeed complex. It is complex not only because of the security involved to keep very sophisticated copyrights protected, though cinema exhibition security is fundamental and an extremely complex part of the technology.
Cinema exhibition is also complex because it takes place in notable physical spaces and holds a notable mystical place in cultures worldwide. It brings people together to share well-crafted experiences, imaginative pieces that provoke and keep conversations flourishing, conversations that often integrate into the world’s narrative for decades.
There is a presumption that these experiences are available for everyone; that the viewing and the discussions — some of the foundations of our cultural intelligence and growth — are accessible for all who want them. In reality, large segments of society find the explosions too loud for the dialog, and in varying degrees cannot discern the audio or visual presentations. They therefore cannot take advantage of much of society’s available art and entertainment.
There have long been methods to mitigate these problems, and though many societies have laws that encourage or compel commercial and non-commercial facilities to offer mitigation, there have been more obstacles – technical, fiscal and normative – than swift and easy Accessibility compliance.
In the conventional wisdom of the time – pre-2000 through 2009 – the transition to digital cinema should have given options that would make acceptance and compliance far easier than analog choices. In reality, everything in digital cinema’s transition has taken longer than expected, including accessibility equipment for the deaf, hard of hearing and the blind and partially sighted communities.
Just as the needs of the blind community are different than those of the deaf community – what good do written captions on the screen do for a blind person? – each part of the movie exhibition chain had separate needs and considerations toward finding and creating solutions to handle the problems of access. This lesson – originally a white paper – will discuss the current state of that workflow and equipment as well as some of the history and politics of this issue, an issue that is critical for a growing number of people.