Media Release by The Hon Bill Shorten MP

Human Rights Commission upholds right of people with hearing impairments to access cinema

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities Bill Shorten has welcomed a decision by the Australian Human Rights Commission to deny a request from major cinemas chains for an exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act with regard to their provision of services for patrons with a hearing or vision impairment.

Hoyts Corporation, Greater Union Organisation, Village Cinemas and Reading Cinemas had requested the 30-month exemption from the AHRC last year.

The exemption would have allowed the cinema chains exemption from complaints in relation to the provision of captions and audio description in cinemas while they embarked on a limited expansion of services.

The Human Rights Commission is yet to publish its reasons for the decision but has indicated today that it would reject the application.

‘People with a hearing or vision impairment have the same right to enjoy a trip to the movies as the rest of the population,’ Mr Shorten said.

‘I am acutely aware of the difficulties faced by people with a hearing or vision impairment in getting access to a cinema. They often have to travel for long distances or are restricted to certain sessions at a cinema.’

‘Requiring patrons with a hearing impairment to attend a Wednesday matinee during work hours should not be considered meaningful access.’

Mr Shorten said that less than 0.3% of all cinema sessions in Australia were accessible to people who were deaf, hard of hearing or who have vision impairments.

‘The cinema industry has made some progress in providing better services for both hearing and vision-impaired customers in recent years, but it needs to recognise that it has a responsibility to cater for the entire community.