A couple of years ago I attended the showing of a movie “the Hundred Foot Journey” in a small hearing looped community theater – (if you have not seen this movie, I can highly recommend it) with three friends and my husband. As an ESL – English as a Second Language person – I struggle understanding dialogue through the music, sound effects, and background noise. I have stopped attending movie theaters. I wait until I can order the DVD from Netflix. At home I turn on the captions and do not have to struggle and get to enjoy and understand movies with ease.

I had previously seen the “The 100 Foot Journey” and, as I often do with movies I enjoyed, I was looking forward to seeing it again. A hearing loop announcement was made by one friend whose foundation helped fund the loop, and we settled into our chairs with our popcorn.

As soon as the movie started, I realized the captions were not on. This upset me; I knew one of my friends has limited speech discrimination. I turned to my husband – who motioned a “don’t bother, honey.” I knew the movie involved actors with Indian and French accents, which would not only make hearing difficult (hearing loop or no hearing loop) for my friends who use hearing aids and/or implants, but it would also make it difficult for me to enjoy the movie.

So, I got up and pleaded with the pop-corn lady to turn the captions on– my request was dismissed with a terse “No. Our patrons do not like to see captions!” But when I insisted, explaining that several persons in the theater would not be able to enjoy the movie without them, she recommended I talk to the community theater director in his office. He didn’t think their equipment had that capability but suggested I talk to the volunteer in the theater control room. “Captions? I have never seen them in use here!” he protested when I asked about activating them. He pointed to the remote control for the DVD player on his desk. I spotted the “CC” button on the device right away – pushed it, and instantly the captions appeared on the white screen. Success! Upon returning to my seat, I got two thumbs up from each of my friends and once again settled in my chair, to enjoy the movie.

The best part? When we were leaving the movie theater, I overheard someone say that they really enjoyed the captions because people with accents are so difficult to hear! Ha! I felt vindicated.

Why aren’t more films screened with open captions? Shari Eberts recently wrote a blog about a group of advocates in New York City is trying to achieve just that. This group supports a city ordinance that would boost the required number of open captioned screenings at local cinemas. Their aim: more equal access at the movies for people with hearing loss. I singed it as I personally would much rather see block-buster movies in the theater with many others. Read Shari’s blog below and don’t forget to sign the captioning petition

Hearing loss advocates in Seattle WA were able to pass a bill that requires televisions in all of the city’s public spaces to show closed captioning whenever those TVs are on.  This includes bars, restaurants, fitness centers, and hospital waiting rooms. Albuquerque, NM recently passed similar legislation. Maybe, bills like this will get folks used to seeing open captions on TV. Perhaps getting to open captions acceptance is a journey. Plus, the Boomers are aging fast and with age comes a change in hearing. Perhaps that too will lead them to request open captions shows in movie theaters. I too would like that.