Training for Non-Technical Cinema Employees

Accommodation, In General

“It is not right that individuals with hearing loss are systematically relegated to second class citizenship (or worse) when it comes to opportunity for participating fully in community and cultural conversations. The capacity for inclusive communication exists: it should be required.”

Accommodation, In General

Different societies have approached inclusiveness at different times and in different ways. Balancing the rights of property owners with the rights, needs and expectations of the users of facilities on their property has evolved through cases of class, gender and race, and recently through the rights of the communities with various physical disabilities.

There are national laws in the United States, England and Australia which, except for slight differences in names, are generally similar. They attempt to require that publicly used facilities – business and non-business – ensure that disabled individuals are not excluded from or denied services because of “the absence of auxiliary aids.” Mitigating the requirements for auxiliary aids, there typically is a clause that restricts potential legal mandates to “Reasonable Accommodation”, which cannot cause “undue hardship” or “change the nature of the business”.

Because none of the terms are fully defined and evolve with the society and technology, it has been up to the courts or Agencies to interpret and then help implement the Americans with Disabilities Act, the UK’s Disability Discrimination Act (now substantially replaced by the Equality Act), and Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act. No countries have been as involved as these three.

In no case did any court or agency ever mandate “open captions” for movie exhibitors.

Captions are a type of auxiliary aid that most people are familiar with. Captions were seen in the earliest movies. Cards with words –“intertitles”– were displayed during the action telling people what the actors said, and giving clues to off-stage sounds and action. Since the audience can see these printed words, they were “open captions”. They were common until 1927, when movies with sound became dominant.

Since that time, people watching a movie in their native language will usually only see captions when the movie contains words in a foreign language that the director wants everyone to understand. The term for this type of open caption is “subtitles”. Subtitles is also the term commonly used around the world to describe the printed translation of a movie for an audience with a different native language.

This leaves the term “open caption” to mean the showing of a film in the same language as the audience, for the purpose of aiding comprehension for the deaf or hard of hearing. This can, but might not, include off-screen sounds and other descriptions.

Separate from captions is audio enhancement of a movie sound track. There are two types, for two different audiences. The first gives extra emphasis to the dialog, lifting it above action noise and music. These were typically supplied by specialty companies for the distributor as the HI track, or “auto-created” by the theater’s sound processor equipment.

The other audio enhancement is a descriptive narration of what is on-screen, so that a blind or partially sighted person can get the same understanding of the story in real time. This involves the art of putting audible descriptions of on-screen action in between the standard dialog of the movie. This can include such things as facial descriptions and expressions. Some facilities call this “Descriptive Video”.

These terms are getting more use recently as additional countries – as diverse as France, India and New Zealand (among many others) and which have no mandates for movie captions and assisted listening tracks – are quite active in mandating them for television and videos on the internet. The corner has even been turned to mandate them in live and near live broadcast presentations in the US. This is a technology that has reached “reasonable accommodation” for that segment of entertainment technology.

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