Top 12 of 2012 #9 – the cinema access revolution

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Thursday, 13 December 2012 14:49pm

The end of the year marks the halfway point of Australia’s world-leading Cinema Access Implementation Plan. The strategy is seeing access technology introduced to the country’s biggest cinema chains, revolutionising the cinema experience for those who are blind and vision impaired.

Overseen by an advisory group convened by the cinema companies and on which Media Access Australia sits, the plan is the only one of its kind in the world.

Across Australia there are now over 140 cinema screens that show movies with closed captions and audio description. This will increase to at least 242 screens over the next two years. This is happening as digital cinema is rolled out to the Hoyts, Village, Event/Greater Union/Birch Carroll & Coyle and Reading Cinemas.

While the plan increases access for everyone with sensory impairment, it is particularly important for people with blindness or low vision. Before audio description was introduced in cinemas, people who could not see the action were forced to rely on others to explain a film’s visuals to them, or miss out altogether. Now, blind moviegoers can attend any session of an audio described movie and receive an audio track describing what’s on screen through headphones.

Jody Holdback attends the Event MEGAPLEX in Marion, South Australia. She said, “Audio described movies allow me to get the whole cinematic experience rather than missing out on things that are vision-only clues. I can’t wait to see more movies in 2013 now that more cinemas are showing accessible movies.”

Under the scheme, closed captions are made available on personal display units, which sit in the cup holder or are clamped to the armrest and positioned between the viewer and the screen. Other cinema access technologies range from the Rear Window Captioning through to Sony’s Entertainment Access Glasses, released in April this year.  As cinema accessibility becomes more commonplace it is expected that these types of devices will be widely used in the years to come.

The four movie chains involved in the plan were recognised for their efforts at the Australian Human Rights Awards, where they won the award in the business category.

The Christmas period is a busy one for cinemas and we encourage patrons who require closed captions or audio description to arrive at the cinema early to reserve a unit.

We maintain a list of accessible cinemas in each state and territory.

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