Movie Theater Captioning Access Survey Results

Theater room with seat rows

Despite the fact that many deaf and hard of hearing prefer open captions on a screen in movie theaters, many theaters force them to use cumbersome closed captioned devices such as CaptiView or RearView or Sony Glass. Many deaf and hard of hearing people share their frustrating experiences with those devices.

Many theaters make wrong assumptions that open captions on a screen would turn away many hearing viewers. They make assumptions simply based on a few hearing people complaining about how open captions are “distracting” to them. Theaters are more than happy to fix issues of a missing sound, but many of them don’t care much about the issue of missing captions. The incredible example is a theater in UK removed captions from the only accessible movie screening to deaf people to satisfy whims of some hearing viewers who didn’t bother to check that the movie was open captioned and could have picked another screening that was not captioned!

So I did a survey in February for a couple weeks and created the summary of results and comments last month. I got around 5,000 responses to the survey.

A few facts from the survey results:

  • 38.5% of deaf, 15.7% of hard of hearing, 45.8% of hearing filled out the survey;
  • 75.1% of responders say they prefer OPEN captions;
  • 91.5% of responders say OPEN captions do NOT bother them.

As results of the survey show, majority prefer OPEN captions on a screen as long as they are done well and are easy to read. Some people suggested to move captions under or above the image which I also think is a good idea. Also, many hearing people said that if captions become more common the more people will get used to them and no longer will find them “distracting.” That’s true!

I suggest you to watch the video by Deafies in Drag called “Worst Closed Caption Device!” to better understand what it’s like to use the cumbersome device. The video may be funny but sadly it’s what many deaf and hard of hearing patrons experience frequently when they are forced to use devices. I had terrible experience with CaptiView when watching Wonder Woman at a theater last summer.

Hope the survey will help more people realize how important high quality same language captions are in theaters and why they are easier to watch on the screen than on an individual device. A mild annoyance for hearing people (who complain about captions) should not be compared to constant frustrations of deaf and hard of hearing people with the lack of important visual access to aural information.