Hawaii Passes Law to Offer Open Captioning in Movie Theaters

January 7, 2016 BY EMILY GRIFFIN
Updated: January 4, 2018

Deaf Hawaiians are kicking back with some popcorn to enjoy a better movie-going experience from now on.

Hawaii has become the first state to require open captions in movie theaters, a measure that has been lauded by Hawaii’s deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.

Hawaii State Representative James Tokioka introduced the measure after witnessing the exclusion of deaf movie goers like his son, who would complain that he could not follow along with movies and would rather not go at all.

Now Hawaii state law requires that cinemas screen at least 2 open captioned films per week. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was the first official premiere of open captioning in theaters.

Closed Captioning Accommodations

Under ADA accessibility law, movie theaters are places of public accommodation and must provide assistance to people with disabilities. The standard accommodation for deaf and hard-of-hearing moviegoers is a small closed captioning screen that attaches to a cupholder and can be positioned in front of the viewer. Another option is for viewers to wear special glasses that display captions at the bottom of their field of vision.

While this solution is better than nothing, some deaf moviegoers complain that it produces a subpar experience. With the attachable screen, you need to glance down and up between the caption screen and the movie screen a lot, and the glasses can be uncomfortable and difficult to position over glasses.

Open Captioning Accommodations

Open captions display spoken text and sound effects at the bottom of the movie screen, which eliminates the need for an assistive technology tool. Open captioning provides a superior user experience for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers, as well as ESL-speakers, people with autism, people with attention deficit disorders, or people with auditory neuropathy.

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Read the free report: 2017 State of Captioning.

The closed caption CC icon shown in the middle of a TV.