Posted on

Hearing consumers need subtitles too

two girls watching a film at the cinema enjoying popcorn

After reading the Limping Chicken blog on cinema subtitles and seeing one of our community members experience difficulties at the cinema, we thought we would add our views on the subject. Subtitles are more than ‘a deaf issue’. By limiting access to films, deaf and hard of hearing customers, their families and friends are also affected.  There are other wider social implications in terms of acceptance, equality and community cohesion. However, perhaps the most pertinent issue for cinemas is making money from a shared experience.

Shared experiences

At some point, cinemas forgot one of the reasons for their very existence.

Going to the cinema has always been a shared experience. From the very beginning, in the late 1800s, films were shown to audiences. Everyone marvelled at the new way to see stories.

In those days, films did not have sound so accessibility was not an issue for someone with hearing loss. Nowadays however, we get the multi-sensory experience that “4DX” offers. While 4DX is exciting to some, the multi-sensory experience still has sound as its main focus point.

Hearing people can go to the cinema whenever they like and can even pre-book tickets for blockbusters like Marvel’s Endgame weeks before release. However, you wont ever see a subtitled showing being offered on a pre-release basis. Subtitled showings are usually at an inconvenient time like 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon! And they are rarely offered on a daily or weekly basis. Customers with hearing loss (or their friends and family) are simply not as important as ordinary hearing folk.

Consumers want everything ‘now’

Cinemas cater to mainstream consumerism where consumers want everything ‘now’. However, more and more consumers are experiencing hearing loss. Given that cinemas cater to on-demand consumerism, it is difficult to understand why cinemas would make consumers wait, particularly when there are more comfortable options available.

Improvements in technology means a cinema experience is far more achievable at home than ever before. Watching a film from the comfort of your home becomes a much better option when you are forced to wait for a subtitled film – it’s no accident that Netflix has surpassed cinema as the favourite way to enjoy films.

What about friends and family?

Perhaps the most important point to note, is that we are not just talking about individuals. A standard ticket at our local cinema costs £12. There are 11 million people with some level of hearing loss or deafness and that figure is set to rise to 15.6 million by 2035 (Action on Hearing Loss). If each person with hearing loss took at least one friend or family member with them to the cinema, then that’s around 22 million people who would access a subtitled film. In other words, just under 1/3 of the UK population could go to the cinema. As a rough revenue figure that’s £246,000,000 that cinemas are simply throwing away!

In a diverse and inclusive world, we should be able to share our excitement with others, feel involved and be part of an experience. It’s all very well making the experience ‘different’ and immersive with 3D and 4D options, but cinemas seem to have forgotten the ‘differences’ in customers. From a hearing perspective, we want deaf friends and family to feel the immersive experience on the first night of a blockbuster release – just like everyone else.

We are the same yet ‘different’

Subtitles are a reasonable adjustment that make a shared experience inclusive to a wider range of consumers.

Subtitles also help those that have English as a second language. Ironically, cinemas are simply not looking at the bigger picture.

You could apply the same inclusive rules to any customer facing business. If businesses are not accessible, customers won’t visit – it’s that simple. They’ll stay at home where life is less ‘complicated’. So, for any cinema managers out there, please provide subtitles on more films, especially new releases because hearing people (friends and family) need them too.

We are supporting Ellie Parfitt’s petition for more subtitled films to be shown at more reasonable times. The petition can be accessed here

Posted on

Free Deaf Awareness Training Sessions

different people around a globe showing the hearing aid symbol

We are hosting a series of Deaf Awareness sessions to help Third Sector organisations in Milton Keynes become accessible and inclusive to people with hearing loss.

This sessions will help organisations offer their activities to the wider community.

Who can attend the sessions?

These sessions are open to community groups and voluntary organisations. There are two places per organisation, on each training session

What will attendees learn?

Course attendees will learn about:

– the different types of hearing loss

– the barriers that prevent people accessing activities

– different communication methods

– how culture affects the perception of hearing loss

– ways to remove barriers to make organisations are more inclusive

– the benefits of being inclusive of deaf/hard of hearing people

Organisations will receive a ‘Deaf Awareness Kit’ full of information, hints and tips on how to become more inclusive. The kit will enable organisations to share newly-acquired knowledge with staff and volunteers.

Organisations can attend a second session to enhance their accessibility, by looking at making customer facing processes more deaf friendly.

Why are we running these sessions?

Organisations open to the general public often overlook deafness, because it is an invisible disability. This is despite the fact that globally, the World Health Organisation estimates that 1 in 6 people have some level of disabling hearing loss. For Milton Keynes, that equates to around 49,000 people. It is the second most prevalent invisible disability after arthritis.

Hearing loss can lead to isolation as people withdraw from socialising with others. Communicating with others becomes ‘complicated’ and ‘tiring’. Isolation often leads to loneliness, depression and other negative health issues that cost our society around £6,000 per person in NHS treatment and social care.

Families of people with hearing loss also experience social exclusion because events need to be accessible for everyone in the family, not just the hearing members of the family group.

Why are these sessions free?

These sessions are free because we want to ensure as many organisations as possible benefit from our expertise and knowledge. We were awarded a grant from Milton Keynes Community Foundation, who are funding this important work.

Should organisations wish to make a donation, they can be made via our Local Giving page Any donation would be gratefully received as it would enable us to carry on supporting deaf and hard of hearing people overcome barriers when accessing services.

What happens at the sessions?

Sessions are fairly interactive. Attendees will participate in a number of exercises to gain a better understanding of the difficulties associated with communicating when you are deaf or hard of hearing. Places can be booked via Eventbrite.

We don’t need training, we welcome everyone’

Saying you are ‘Deaf Aware’ and being deaf aware are two different things. We invite you to take our survey and let us know about your accessible activities. We can then share your details with Deaf* and hard of hearing groups in and around Milton Keynes.

Deaf* refers to individuals who use British Sign Language and consider themselves part of a linguistic minority rather than having a disability.