Going to Court for Captions

By Shanna Groves

Originally posted at: http://lipreadingmom.com

I’m among the thousands of Deaf and hard of hearing moviegoers fed up with not being able to understand movie dialogue. Now a group is sueing Cinemark theatres for lack of captioned movies. This is a theater chain that hasn’t yet embraced captioning technology like other theaters have. For a listing of theaters currently showing captioned films, visit Captionfish.com

Below is a comparison of Cinemark with two other theater chains: AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas. Unlike Cinemark, the latter two show captioned movies at some of their locations.

Cinemark – The Lawsuit

A lawsuit brought on by the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA) and two individual plaintiffs claims Cinemark discriminates against hard of hearing and Deaf communities by failing to provide any captioned films in its Alameda County, California, theaters. The suit sees this oversight as a direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s anti-discrimination statutes, the Unruh Civil Rights Act and Disabled Persons Act.

ConsumerAffairs.com reports that about 85 percent of first-run movies are captioned and compatible with the rear window captioning system when they arrive in theaters. Each individual movie theater has the option of whether or not to install the $10,000 captioning equipment.

Apparently, Cinemark opted to save money at the expense of being accessible to the Deaf and hard of hearing.

AMC Theatres

AMC has nearly 160 theaters equipped with rear window captioning (RWC) units. RWC involves a reflective cupholder device that reflects captions emitted from a LED screen at the back of the theater. Some locations show open captioned (OC) movies, in which each movie has captions printed directly onto the film.

The theater chain provides an online search by zip code service of locations playing movies that are open captioned, closed captioned (rear window captioned) or with descriptive video.

Although AMC has been showing few captioned movies recently in its headquarters of Kansas City, the Kansas City HLAA Chapter is in talks to expedite the return of captioned movie showings. Kansas City HLAA rep Terri Shirley is in twice-weekly contact with AMC to encourage the theater chain to expedite showing captioned digital format movies. AMC’s Olathe, Kansas, theater is expected to be the first AMC location in the U.S. to show digital format films with rear window and open captions.

Regal Entertainment Group

Here is the latest on the theater chain’s captioning efforts as stated on its Web site:

“Regal Entertainment Group, the National Association of Theatre Owners (“NATO”) and the Inter-Society Digital Cinema Forum (ISDCF), film studios, manufacturers and technology designers have agreed and implemented a goal to have all digital standards associated with closed captioning and descriptive audio available for digital servers and projectors in the near future.

“The primary intent behind these efforts is to have 100% of all digital cinema systems being manufactured for theatres contain closed captioning and audio described technology that is accessible to theatre patrons in the near future.

“We also are working directly with manufacturers of closed caption systems that will be able to plug into compliant digital cinema servers.

“While there remains much work to be done, and while we are dependent on third party manufacturers, we are optimistic that acceptable personal captioning system will become available in the near future.”

What the Cinemark Lawsuit Means

While the Cinemark lawsuit has captured media attention and has fired up those of us with hearing loss, what difference will it make in the long term? If Cinemark, the third largest U.S. theater chain, can be sued over captions, how quickly will other theater companies heed the warning and make their films accessible to everyone?

I’d like to imagine theaters packed with people with varying levels of hearing, deafness, vision loss and other (dis)abilities. Here’s hoping that 2011 becomes the Year of Accessible Theater for Everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

‘Tis the season to be thankful. I’ll post about one thing I’m thankful for this year – the U.S. 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act of 2010. I’ll write up more in an additional blog post, but basically the internet has become ubiquitous in my life and yet, I’m not able to fully access things like news or TV shows that are captioned on TV but not on the internet. Stuff like that will become handy as people continue to get older and are used to accessing the internet and getting the same experience they already do on TV.

HLAA’s press release on this item: http://hlaa.convio.net/site/MessageViewer?em_id=10641.0&dlv_id=24001&printer_friendly=1

Have a wonderful holiday and if you’re out and about, safe travels!

Walking and Advocating with Kids

By Shanna Groves, KC HLAA Board Member

Originally posted at LipreadingMom.com

Advocacy is always a work in progress… for everyone. That’s why I decided to include my 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter in a Deaf and hearing loss awareness 5K walk/run this past weekend.

We walked with leaders from our local Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Chapter. I use the work “walk” loosely. My son decided to speed walk the entire time while my daughter followed several steps behind her Lipreading Mom. While walking and signing with fellow walkers, many of whom are Deaf and use American Sign Language (ASL), I used my “third eye” to keep track of my precious children.

After the walk, a Deaf and hearing loss resource fair was set up on the park grounds. I was supposed to assist with the HLAA table, but spent most of the time chasing after my curious kids. I first chased them into a tent set up with an ASL storyteller, who signed the words to popular children’s books. My daughter has always been fascinated with sign language, since she was a baby. At age 8 months, she and I attended a baby-mommy sign language class, and since then she’s taken to the language like a kid in a candy store. So the ASL storytelling held her attention. As for my son … Let’s just say I had to keep chasing after him.

Our next stop was an ASL arts and crafts booth, put on by the local school for the Deaf. My kids transformed two foam handprints into clever magnets depicting the sign for “I love you.” I’ll add these magnets to our eclectic collection of refrigerator magnets holding all their artwork at home.

At the next booth, we learned about  a local church starting a ministry program for Deaf and hard of hearing people. Beginning next month, the church’s Sunday night services will be CART captioned (Computer Assisted Realtime Translation) and sign language interpreted. What a Godsend. This would allow Lipreading Mom to attend church with the family and finally understand every word spoken, sung and preached. Hallelujah!

Our favorite stop was the food booth, where we gulped down Sunny D and munched on fruit, donuts and crackers. Entertainment was provided by a very loud guitarist and drummer with a local Christian band. Thank goodness for the ear plugs given away by an audiologist at another booth. Lipreading Mom does everything she can not to expose her little ones to noise that could harm their hearing and turn them into Lipreading Kids.

After 20 minutes of songs and snacks, we ventured to another booth giving away free books and stuffed animals to promote hearing aids. The book “Oliver Gets Hearing Aids” tells about a little hard of hearing elephant getting his first set of behind-the-ear listening devices. Lets just say that Oliver’s hearing aids were bigger than Lipreading Mom’s head. The animated book came with an Oliver the Elephant puppet that storytellers can wear and wiggle their fingers in. Guess who got to wear the puppet and read the book in a silly Oliver voice at storytime that night?

I’m thankful for opportunities, like this walkathon, to share in hearing loss advocacy with my children. Although they always see me wearing hearing aids and sometimes signing to friends, it’s eye-opening for them to see lots of other people in the same boat as Lipreading Mom.

What else can I do to teach them about advocacy?

5K Deaf/Hearing Loss Awareness Walk Photos

On November 20th, the Kansas City HLAA Chapter was represented at the 1st Annual 5K Deaf and Hearing Loss Awareness Walk/Run at Blackbob Park in Olathe. Among those attending from HLAA were Chapter Chairperson Dennis Selznick, Minda Nelson, Kelly Rogel, Alex Vetor, Lisa Ledo and Shanna Groves. The group participated in a walk/run around the park, followed by a hearing loss/deaf awareness resource fair on the park grounds. Other groups participating included the Kansas School for the Deaf, Deaf Cultural Center/Marra Museum, Olathe East High School, Nexus Church-Overland Park, Midwest Ear Institute, Associated Audiologists, and the Kansas/Olathe Clubs for the Deaf. Funds raised from the walk will go toward creating Kansas School for the Deaf’s outdoor athletic area.

HLAA-Kansas City Chapter officers set up a booth to tell more about the chapter (from left): Alex Vetor, Dennis Selznick, Minda Nelson, Kelly Rogel and Shanna Groves.

Minda Nelson (left), Alex Vetor and Morgan Brooks enjoyed snacks after completing the November 20th 5K  Walk/Run.

Fox 4 News provided media coverage of the 5K Walk/Run.

After the Walk/Run, attendees gathered to look at Deaf and hearing loss awareness booths on the Blackbob Park grounds.

Leslie Caldwell with the Kansas School for the Deaf welcomed everyone at the Walk/Run.

5K Walk/Run T-shirts were available for purchase, with proceeds going to the Kansas School for the Deaf.

AMC Corporate’s Response about Theater Captions

As mentioned before on this blog, Terri Shirley with the KC HLAA Chapter has been in regular communication with AMC Studio 30 Management about the lack of captioned movies at its Kansas City Olathe theater. Below is an update from Melissa Johnson, Director of Guest Services for AMC Entertainment Corporate Offices in downtown Kansas City. Also included are previous e-mails from Terri and Dan Glennon, Olathe’s AMC Studio 30 General Manager.

November 22, 2010

Hi Ms. Shirley,

Dan forwarded me your contact information along with some communication and questions that you have recently asked.  I understand your frustrations with the lack of CC/RWC (closed captions/rear-window captions) at Studio and am trying my best to gather as much information as I can to keep you up to date with the new installation.

 I’m not sure how much information Dan has been able to give to you, but I can offer some history to the mix.  Our theatres are progressively transitioning to all digital presentations (Studio went all digital 4/29)  When theatres are converted, the current technology does not allow for CC/DV films due to the complications in the CC/DV code.  There is a new product on the market that AMC is currently testing that will enable digital projectors to read CC/DV code.

 I have spoken with the Project Manager for Studio and he has expedited the work order for Studio and moved the theatre to the top of the list for installation.  Unfortunately the timeline for installation is a two-part phase that may take several weeks (after the parts arrive.)  This week he provided this insight:

 “We are very close – we’ve resolved the configuration problem that was the last major pre-rollout hurdle of the new digital captioning equipment, but still have a couple of approvals to get before we can begin scheduling installations.  Once those are made, the theatre will be receiving a few more minor pieces of equipment that will be necessary for installation.  Unfortunately, until then, I won’t be able to narrow down a date or time that it will happen.  We hope to test Mainstreet’s system next week.  As soon as everything checks out and is approved by our Technical groups and the Digital Team, installations will be scheduled.  Studio is high on the project list.  I understand the urgency, and I apologize for being unable to give you a definite date.  At this point, I do anticipate that it will be sooner than later.”

I know the team at Studio appreciates the business your group brings for the CC/RWC movies and values your loyalty.  Please bear with us as we continue to work towards bringing these features back to Studio.  Hopefully this information is insightful and valuable.  I will be your contact going forward and will continue to press for additional information on this project and keep you updated.  Our project manager has provided some answers to your questions below.

Thank you for reaching out to us!

Regards,

Melissa

 ________________________________________________________________

Melissa J. Johnson | AMC Entertainment, Inc. | Director, Guest Services

920 Main Street | Kansas City, MO 64105 |( Office 816.480.4741 Mobile 816.695.2991 | Fax: 816.480.4618 *:mjohnson@amctheatres.com

From: Terri Sent: Monday, November 15, 2010 9:28 AM
To: Dan Glennon
Cc:
Subject: Fwd: Fork and Screen experience

Hello Dan,

This is Monday and the start of a new week.   I thought perhaps trying to contact you with emails at end of week may not carry over to your next week’s agenda of things to do.

It has been six months since AMC Studio 30 has stopped CC/RWC.   I am looking forward to hearing back from you this week on a detailed update of the questions I mailed last week. I added a few below:

 1.      Did they order equipment?  DAN’S ANSWER: Yes. Additional minor components needed to complete installation will be ordered after test bed sign-off.

 2.      What date did they order the equipment? DAN: 7/13.

 3.      What is expected shipment date? DAN: Delivered 8/13, 1Z1848XW0359656536

 4.      How long does it take to ship from manufacturer? DAN: NO ANSWER

 5.       Where is the equipment being shipped from? DAN: Various; TX, CA, IL.

 6.       Do our AMC 30 employees need additional training to install new equipment?  DAN: No; theatre staff will not be participating in installation procedures.  TSE, QA, and a 3rd party contractor will be handling the installs.

 7.      What is the expected date of captioned movies for the hearing impaired community? DAN: Unknown; awaiting test system approval by S&S and Digital Team.

 DAN: Follow up that some type of captioning, such as RWC, will defiantly be available for every movie all week long.   Studio’s upgraded digital CC/DV system will be installed in-house #19, the same auditorium that their previous assisted moviegoing system inhabited.  Also, as it was with the 35mm system, not every feature includes closed captioning or descriptive narration content.  As with all theatres, Management will be scheduling titles that are CC/DV-compatible in their equipped house.   

 TERRI: As you know, many hearing impaired are boycotting movie theater shows that are not captioned.   I realize we are not AMC’s majority of a selling crowd.   However, it is still important as hearing impaired/deaf individuals that do pay for an un-captioned movie feel we do not get what we pay for.   Since we cannot hear all the words,  we can’t fully understand the entire plot of the movie.   For example, the Social Network, is spoken fast, main actor’s upper lip never moves and scenes switch back and forth in time, makes it difficult to piece enough of the things we can hear together for understanding full plot.  A hearing person understands the entire plot much better than we do.   After viewing such a movie, hearing impaired/deaf individuals wait months for the movie to come out to purchase or rent to see it captioned.   Most movies on iTunes are not even captioned to rent and some movies, sometimes do not come out captioned to purchase on the market.  Then I read Kansas City Star’s Fri, Nov. 12, 2010 article titled  Kansas luring AMC Entertainment from downtown KC http://www.kansascity.com/2010/11/12/2427465/kansas-luring-a-kc-fixture.html. I realized AMC probably has much bigger issues to focus on than captioning movies at AMC 30. Shanna (Groves) and I are speaking for the hearing impaired/deaf community.  We have contacted you with our needs and strong desire for captioned movies.   You are our voice to AMC headquarters.   I urge you to get on the phone and get some answers to the questions and continue calling regularly until we have reached our goal and mission is accomplished.   

 Thank you,

Terri Shirley