Something I’ve really gotten into lately is going to the cinema. Looking forward to the time before the film starts, watching the previews to see the new releases.  Popcorn in lap – ready for 90 minutes of zoning out to a fantastic film.

One of the film franchises that I was really keen on seeing was the Fifty Shades series. After reading all of the books back to back, I was waiting excitedly for the first film to be realised.

It is the type of film you want to watch with your girlfriends, and I wanted to do the same.

I waited and waited….what was I waiting for, the film had been released? I was waiting for subtitles. Yes, I was going to the cinema with my deaf friend.

The first film was released on 13 February 2015 and we finally were able to see it at our local cinema in Newbury on 10 March 2015 – nearly 4 weeks after the film was released.

In order to go the cinema with my deaf friend again to see the second in the series, this time waiting for over 4 weeks.  We had to. Wait patiently, whilst everyone else around us had seen the film, talked about the film, mentioned the film on Facebook, raved about – whilst we were STILL waiting.

We’re now in a position where last night – there was finally a subtitled screening.

Now this is starting to sound like we were absolutely desperate to see the film (which is partly true, seeing as 50 Shades of Grey was left with such a cliffhanger!) – but in reality it is really the frustration at having to wait so long to see a ‘new’ release.

Now, as a hearing person we can wait ’til the date of release and then have a choice from the plethora of dates.  We can prebook our tickets, or we can go when we feel like it.

It is not just as simple as waiting for the subtitled film to be released and pre booking our tickets.  Subtitled screening times are only released the Sunday of the previous week, so we had exactly two days notice to go.  The only ONE subtitled screening for 50 Shades Darker in Newbury was 5:20pm on a Tuesday, meaning that we both had to leave work early to go to see a film – or wait for another local cinema – at least 30 miles away, or wait for it to be released on DVD.

So we adjusted our schedules accordingly, having to cancel some plans and booked the tickets.  I booked the tickets online on Monday night – and at this point none of the seats had even been booked – as everyone has seen the film already.  We in fact shared the cinema with 6 others!

This is not only an issue faced for us at our local cinema – take a look here for experiences of other deaf people around the country:

“I know of many, many deaf people who feels frustrated and upset about how scheduled subtitled films is on at an inappropriate time and they usually varies on early mornings, before work hours and late in the evening. It is incredibly rare to see a subtitled film on a Saturday too.”

–         David Deacon (click here)

 deaf customers are still advised to check whether the subtitled screening is going ahead before they actually turn up. Even when you’ve confirmed the screening, asking to see a scheduled subtitled film once you reach the box office usually results in frantic phone calls to the projection booth. There’s nothing quite like being responsible for holding up a queue of people to get your evening off to a pleasant start. You end up holding your breath until the opening credits roll. Sometimes the subtitles appear, sometimes they don’t. I know people who have a drawer full of free vouchers, so often have they been let down.”

–         Charlie Swinbourne (click here)

“It is impossible for a deaf person to go to the cinema on the spur of the moment, like everyone else. Why do we not have more choice? The cinemas say that they don’t show more subtitled films because there is little demand for them. They say that most of their customers are hearing and they don’t require subtitled films. Some of them actually complain that subtitles distract them from their enjoyment of the film, which is why they don’t show them at peak times. I think that many people are still not aware of how essential they are to deaf people.”

–         Richard Turner (click here)

“Being deaf has restrictions on our social lives! I can’t tell you how many times my friends have said “let’s go to see the new film at the cinema”… I can’t, as they never have enough subtitled showings!

Normally, new films won’t have a captioned showing until a week or two after the release date, so I miss out on a lot of social outings. The number of people who couldn’t be bothered to wait for me is extremely frustrating”

–         Deafie Blogger (click here)


So why does this happen?

Why is it that the reasonable adjustment made by cinemas is that deaf people have to wait for a number of weeks?

There’ve been many campaigns out there in the deaf community, to improve access to cinema, due to the fact that deaf people sometimes have to miss out on films entirely – with no subtitled screening being made available at all.

In USA, hundreds of cinemas have made ‘subtitle glasses’ available which means only the person wearing the glasses see the subtitles.  In Australia, many cinemas have small seat mounted screens offering subtitles.

So there are solutions already available and being utilised in other countries for deaf cinema-goers – but why has this not yet happened in the UK? state that “a personal subtitle solution could help increase the weekly number of subtitled shows from 1,200 to 50,000, allowing much better access for the 10 million deaf people in the UK”.

Take a look at these campaigns that are looking to dramatically improve deaf people’s access to UK cinemas and show your support today by sharing this article, signing petitions and getting involved in this campaign:

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