Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Better cinema access for hearing and vision-impaired

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Bill Shorten MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's Services, Parliamentary Secretary for Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction

Australia’s four major cinema groups and the Australian Government have agreed to jointly fast track new audio description and captioning technology, as part of a bold new plan to improve cinema access for people who are deaf, blind, visually or hearing impaired.

The plan will provide cutting edge technology to allow people with impaired hearing or vision to enjoy movies in more cinemas across Australia, with 242 accessible screens to be available by 2014.

The Australian Government has committed $470,000 to the project, with the rest of the cost to be paid by the cinemas.

Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, and Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten, today announced the new Cinema Access Implementation Plan, an agreement between representatives of Village Roadshow, Greater Union, Hoyts and Reading Cinemas and disability sector representatives.

Ms Macklin said the current situation of cinema access was unacceptable and the plan offered a genuine opportunity for change.

“Cinemas have a responsibility to cater for the entire community and at the moment the situation is clearly not up to scratch,” Ms Macklin said.

“Less than 0.3 per cent of all cinema sessions in Australia are accessible, meaning that an accessible cinema is showing as few as three sessions a week.”

Under the agreement, captions and audio description will be available in 242 screens by 2014 – at least one in every cinema complex owned by the four cinema chains.

In addition all new cinemas constructed by the group will contain accessible technology.

Mr Shorten said that people with a hearing or vision impairment had a right to enjoy a trip to the movies.

“At the moment people with impaired hearing are being forced to travel across town to catch a Wednesday matinee, because there are so few cinemas offering captions,” he said.

“I am excited that major cinemas have recognised that this form of discrimination is not acceptable, and that they will improve their business by attracting a new group of customers.”

“Current rates of vision and hearing impairment in the general population will significantly increase with the ageing of the population, and it is not acceptable to ignore them any longer.”

Cinemas today unveiled the CaptiView technology, which will be rolled out in selected cinemas in Australia this year. This technology allows hearing-impaired patrons to use a screen that folds out from an armrest and delivers a captioned version of the film.

The four major cinema chains have also agreed:

  • That where there is existing accessible cinema technology in place, local managers will be sensitive to their local audiences, and draw upon their patrons to help them to innovate and implement new accessible technology.
  • To gain ongoing consumer input when implementing emerging platforms such as ‘Captiview’.
  • To adjust implementation of new technology options according to future innovation and consumer preferences.
  • That operators will work with the Australian Human Rights Commission and the disability peaks to develop or update disability action plans to help with operation and delivery of cinema access services for people with disability.

Cinema groups will also actively engage with distributors to ensure a reliable delivery of film content that includes audio description and captioning.

In addition to the grant funding, the Government has committed $30,000 to subsidise the costs of a new Accessible Cinema Advisory Group (ACAG), with members from the cinema industry and the disability sector.

The funding will allow the ACAG to continue to advise and assist the cinema industry to improve cinema accessibility in Australia and monitor the implementation of the Cinema Access Implementation Plan.

Current cinema access worldwide, from Media Access Australia:

Location Population Number of accessible cinema complexes People per accessible cinema
UK 61,399,000 307 199,997
USA 309,147,000 630 490,710
Australia 22,325,000 24 (only 12 have audio description) 930,208

Post implementation:

Location Population Number of accessible cinema complexes People per accessible cinema
Australia 22,325,000 144 155,035