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After the Golden Globe nominations were announced, I was intrigued by one of the films nominated: “The King’s Speech.” I thought I’d treat my family to a captioned showing of a first run film during the holidays. So, I visited the website http://www.captionfish.com/ to see if a theater nearby had a captioned showing. Well, much to my dismay not only did I fail to find either an open or closed captioned showing, I found that the movie has not been captioned at all for theatrical release. So much for my holiday treat for the family.
Movie captioning has come a long way from the time we could only see open captioned movies at special screenings set up by deaf groups. Now there are regular open captioned showings in some theaters in the country. And in 333 first-run theaters in the US and Canada and 55 specialty theaters (IMAX, Disney attractions, national parks, etc.), you can see closed captioned movies using Rear Window Technology.
Several companies have been busy developing new ways to provide closed captions to moviegoers. Recently, HLAA was invited to attend an Emerging Technology Symposium where a group of deaf and hard of hearing advocates were able to try out four different captioning technologies. I found all the devices provided easy access to the captions: they were readable, usable, and didn’t take me long to forget they were even there.
Still with the exception of Rear Window, these devices have yet to be deployed to movie theaters. With 6,039 theaters in the country with 39,028 indoor screens, there are a lot of movies we are missing out on.
Recently, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) determined it’s time to look again at the rules for captioning in movie theaters. DOJ has released Advanced Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) and is holding a series of public hearings on the movie access, as well as three other issues.
It was a cold and snowy day in December when HLAA testified before the DOJ in Washington DC regarding their ANPRM on movie captioning. Thomas E. Perez, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Samuel R. Bagenstos Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, Mazen M. Basrawi, Counsel in the Office of the Assistant Attorney General, and John L. Wodatch, Chief of the Disability Rights Section were at the dais at the opening of the hearing. Many other DOJ staff attended the hearing as well, along with a room full of spectators. We were among the first to provide comments that day.
 
We were pleased to see other advocates provide comments as well, including TDI (Telecommunications for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing), NAD (National Association of the Deaf), AAPD (American Association of People with Disabilities), Gallaudet University, AFB (American Federation of the Blind) and approximately 40 other commenters. DOJ held a hearing early in Chicago and will hold the last hearing on January 10, 2011 in San Francisco. Visit www.ada.gov for more information about the upcoming hearing and for a transcript of hearings already held.
 
To provide the DOJ more input on this issue, HLAA posted an Action Alert, asking HLAA constituents to send in their comments to the DOJ on movie captioning. Many people are already busy sending in their comments to the DOJ. If you have not, and you are interested, visit our website for our sample letter and instructions on how to send your comments either via US mail or electronically.
 
We do see that a number of people are simply cutting and pasting our sample letter onto the comments file. We urge you to tell the DOJ your own experience in your own words instead of using our version word for word. We think it’s important for them to hear about the issue from many different perspectives.
HLAA is in the process of drafting formal comments and we plan to send those in to the DOJ before the January 24, 2011 deadline. We will post those comments to our website for you to see too.
Here’s hoping the next time I want to treat my family to a movie, there will be many captioned movies showing whenever we want to see them.
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