Members of Idaho's deaf community want to see more open captioning at theaters

Posted at 6:27 PM, Dec 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-09 21:18:47-05

It's a classic way to spend your Saturday night. Grabbing a tub of popcorn, heading into the theater and watching the drama on-screen unfold, but it isn't an experience that translates well for everyone.

"Hearing people wouldn't enjoying having put a headset on every time they enjoyed a movie, but yet deaf people are required to put on all this extra equipment to their bodies, to enjoy a movie," said Idaho Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Steven Snow. 

In Idaho, there are more than 200,000 people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Newer statistics show nearly 20% of our state's population has some hearing loss. Per ADA rules, movie theaters must have equipment to provide deaf and hard of hearing moviegoers with closed captioning. These glasses don't always meet the needs of those wearing them.

"I've used the caption glasses but they are really, really annoying, they're heavy on my face and they often don't workout throughout the movie," said 9th grader Katie Baker. 

The deaf community wants to see more open captioning options. Local movie theaters are typically on board. 
"We don't want limit anyones availability to our films. It's entertainment, everybody should have access to the entertainment," said movie theater manager Josie Pusl. 

However, they're facing a problem on the distributors end, who are either not sending films with open captioning or not approving open caption showings on a corporate level. 

"The open caption is maybe about 50% but closed caption and glasses is almost 100% of the films," said Pusl. 

Leaders with the Idaho Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing say besides lack of comfort and embarrassment associated with the closed captioned glasses, it's more cost-effective to use open captioning.

"The glasses cost a few thousand dollars per one set, so if you buy a few for a theater not only are they bulky and cumbersome, but they're expensive whereas a more simple solution and in fact the deaf community would prefer to have open captions," said Snow. 

One movie theater in Boise and one in Emmett have a weekly open-caption showing, but with help from Boise State's ASL department they're trying to share the message with more theaters.

"We've been trying to expose them to deaf culture so we're hoping since that movie a quiet place came out that this will continue to blossom," said Davina Snow with BSU's ASL department. 

So more people can sit back and watch or read the movies.

"Teenagers really enjoy the movie experience, and I know that open captions can be irritating to some people or there's that assumption, but it can benefit all of us including teenagers like myself," said Baker.