Film & Cinema8th May 2015

Closed Captions Enshrined in Law in Progressive and Thoughtful Hawaii

Recognising the barriers Deaf people face, the Hawaii Government force cinemas to offer captioned films

by SLFirst Entertainment Team

In Hawaii, Republican James Tokioka, a Governor with a deaf son and therefore better understanding of some of the barriers deaf people face, introduced a Bill that would change the way movies are aired on the island. Signed into law on Wednesday 6th May by Governor David Ige, the law will require greater availability of captions and audio descriptions when movies are being aired.

An issue close to the hearts of deaf people across the world, the steps taken by the authorities in Hawaii, put in place a strict mandate to improve access to deaf people, a situation best described as an ‘invitation to comply’ in many other jurisdictions around the world. The politicians involved in Hawaii should be commended.

The new law will become operational on the 1st January 2016. It requires companies that own a cinema in more than two locations within Hawaii to provide open movie captioning during at least two showings a week for each movie it shows. Where a movie has been produced to be able to offer an audio description, the new law requires that it must be provided to anyone who requests it.

Explaining his thinking behind the initial introduction of the Bill, James Tokioka commented, “Having a son who’s deaf, I knew how difficult it was for the deaf community and the blind community to enjoy a movie at the movie theater. I know it’s going to make the lives of the people who are deaf and blind a lot easier when they go to watch a movie at the theater.”

“This law makes Hawaii the first state in the United States to mandate broader accommodations to allow equal access to movie theaters for our deaf, blind, deaf/blind and hard-of-hearing communities.”

In keeping with our personal experiences of the cinema as deaf viewers, the law removes communication barriers and provides equal access to persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have poor vision through reasonable accommodations at movie theaters.  It will also help older people who have trouble hearing, as well as individuals who are learning English as a second language by providing the written dialogue on screen.

For Deaf people in Hawaii, this is undoubtedly good news, not just in respect of their cinema going experience but because the showing of films with captions will serve to highlight the issue of deafness to the wider society. Seeking better access for deaf and other disabled people through the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, perhaps the only surprise is that it has taken this long for the first American State to introduce a law to mandate this requirement for deaf and blind cinema goers.

Hopefully other states will follow suit, and with deaf people clamouring for cautioned films in other countries, we hope the decision by the Hawaii Government will positively other law makers around the world.

Article by SLFirst Entertainment Team

posted in Entertainment / Film & Cinema

8th May 2015