Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

A Boxing Day blockbuster experience for people with disability

As thousands of Australians head to the movies this Boxing Day, people who have hearing or vision loss can now also enjoy the latest Christmas blockbusters thanks to cutting-edge technology installed in local cinemas with support from the Gillard Government.

At Event Cinemas in Cairns today, the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas said good progress is being made to make cinemas more accessible for people who are deaf, blind, or visually or hearing impaired.

“Catching a movie is something that many of us don’t think twice about but the fact is there are many Australians who haven’t been able to enjoy this popular pastime,” said Senator McLucas.

“The Australian Government has invested $470,000 to help cinema chains with the rollout of accessible closed caption and audio description screens, improving cinema access for people who are visually or hearing impaired.”

In 2010, Hoyts Cinemas, Village Cinemas, Event/Greater Union/Birch Carroll & Coyle Cinemas and Reading Cinemas jointly announced an agreement with the Australian Government to introduce new audio description and closed captioning technology, as part of a bold new plan to improve cinema access.

“Our plan will ensure that 242 screens across the country will provide accessible technology for people with disability by the end of 2014.

There are currently 74 cinemas in Australia that show accessible movies on a total of 146 screens.

“Historically, accessible cinema was limited to just a handful of sessions per week at major city locations, and sessions were often of the same movie for two or more weeks running and played at unpopular times of the day.

“It is fantastic to see local deaf people here today enjoying the movies for the first time and able to get involved in the Aussie tradition for many of seeing a movie on Boxing Day.”

Local deaf resident, Wayne Reynolds, who is also a Community Development Officer at Deaf Services Queensland advocated for cinema captioning in Cairns.

“Captioning, provided by Captiview, has made movie-going more accessible for Deaf and hard of hearing people,” Mr Reynolds said.

“With Captiview, deaf and hard of hearing people can also watch movies with their hearing family and friends.

Earlier this month, Hoyts Cinemas, Village Cinemas, Event/Greater Union/Birch Carroll & Coyle Cinemas and Reading Cinemas took out the Business Award at the 25th Human Rights Awards for their work in improving cinema accessibility.

“It is wonderful that the cinemas have received this award, which recognises a commitment to the promotion and advancement of human rights in the Australian community,” Senator McLucas said.

“This award is shared with all of the people who have been working over the past two years to improve accessibility of the cinema experience. This includes people with disability, disability and community organisations, the cinema industry and government.

The cinemas saw the transition to digital cinema as an opportunity to introduce digital accessible cinema technology and worked with the Australian Government and groups representing people with disability to develop a bold plan.

“As a collective, they have worked together to find a way to better meet consumer demand for access to cinemas, promote further social inclusion and make a positive impact on the lives of people with disability.

“By engaging with people with disability and working together to implement the plan nationwide, the cinemas have been active leaders in ironing out technical issues as they occur, ensuring staff are trained on the equipment and disability awareness, and providing high quality customer service to patrons who may be new to not just their cinema but cinema in general.

“Progress has been solid and accessible cinemas are coming online faster than initially scheduled.”