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September 25, 2004

Deaf people and movie theaters

From: El Diario New York, NY - Sep 25, 2004

Movie theaters have become increasingly high-tech - digital images, Dolby sound, stadium seating and computer kiosks that dispense tickets ordered from home. With all this emphasis on convenience, on better picture quality and surround-sound systems, there has been little attention paid to movie patrons who cannot hear. That has changed.

State Attorney General Peter Harvey announced on Sept. 15 that New Jersey is the first state to require movie theater chains to install technology for the deaf and hearing-impaired. Currently, only three theaters in the entire state use Rear Window Captioning, where captions are projected on transparent screens units mounted on seat cup holders. The text is only visible to the person seated in front of the device; it will not disturb other moviegoers. In practice, it is similar to the translation program device used for years at the Metropolitan Opera House, where English translations appear on a screen mounted on the backs of seats.

Rear Window is an unobtrusive method of making the movie-theater experience possible for a large segment of the population who are now excluded.

There are more than 700,000 deaf and hearing-impaired people living in New Jersey. With only three theaters in the state offering a hearing-impaired option, they have been disenfranchised from a very basic form of entertainment. …

Under the agreement reached with the state, 39 theaters, operated by four chains, will have the technology installed in 90 days. The participating chains are: American Multi-Cinema (AMC), Loews Cineplex Theaters, Clearview Cinemas and National Amusements. …

New Jersey takes a lot of heat for corruption, pollution and too many taxes. Advocating for the handicapped is worth some national attention, too. The state should be applauded for taking the initiative. This not only sounds like a good idea; it reads like one.

Herald News of West Paterson/ AP

© 2004 El Diario New York