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Reflections on the Captioning of Web Videos (or lack of same)

Suzanne Robitaille is a disability advocate and an awesome writer. She wrote this piece for Business Week. Enjoy.


When Julia Childs’ The French Chef appeared on PBS in 1972 with captions, it marked the first time TV had ever been accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. Nearly 40 years later, when viewers first tuned in to “The Annoying Orange,” the chart-topping Webisode series on YouTube, none of the videos bore captions.

Some of the show’s videos now have captions, due to the work of a volunteer.

The new law designed to make it easier for the 54 million Americans with disabilities to access online programming simply isn’t strong enough. The Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 amends Federal Communications Commission policy to require captions for broadcast TV, cable, and satellite programs shown over the Internet if they originally aired on TV with captions.

The problem is that most emerging online formats are not covered in the new law, including popular programming such as Webisodes, content streamed from Netflix and consumer-generated videos on YouTube, where 35 hours of video are uploaded every minute. While NBC’s Hulu, for example, must now provide captions for TV shows online such as Glee, hundreds of online-only channels get a free pass.

Content providers and distributors say the accessibility hurdle is a tough one to clear because of cost and complex technical requirements. While TV delivers captions through a decoder and onto the TV screen — a process nearly perfected over three decades — online programming has introduced a new technology for which captions cannot be so easily applied across different software platforms and video formats. A typical business that posts one 10-minute basic video per week can create its own caption file or pay a captioning studio around $100 to do it. On the other hand, a TV network with hundreds of hours of weekly programming and multiple commercial breaks that require editing workarounds will pay far more.


The Web captions dilemma has drawn the attention of the U.S. Justice Dept., which regulates companies that operate in the public space. On Thursday the DOJ held a hearing to seek public comments to determine whether to consider revising the Americans with Disabilities Act to address accessible Web information and services, movie captioning, and video descriptions. If revised, emerging online programming would likely be required to be accessible through captions — and perhaps other features, such as audio descriptions for the blind. The department is looking closely at how TV, cable, and satellite providers are moving more programming onto emerging online formats that do not require captions. Cable and satellite providers, in an attempt to combat rising subscriber losses, are now giving paying subscribers “free” access to their online movie and video libraries. If a program hasn’t appeared over the airwaves, the FCC can’t touch it.

No industry understands legal loopholes better than movie studios. For years they’ve petitioned against having to provide captions on movies shown in theaters. No surprise then, to see the lack of captions on content viewed at Sony Picture Entertainment’s, Warner Bros.’ and Epix, a third player owned jointly by Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Lions Gate Entertainment. The companies claim to be working on captions for these sites.

Streaming movies don’t fare much better. Netflix says it’s working on captioning its Internet movie library, but has dragged its feet for years. Even Hulu and YouTube are getting into the original Webisodes game. None of these programs will offer captions unless the content creator voluntarily provides them.


While it’s good that the Justice Dept. has raised a red flag, that doesn’t mean private sector companies that create videos and other programming for use online should be regulated. Some companies already make good-faith efforts, which the deaf community appreciates. More companies should take the time to learn about the benefits of accessibility and the availability of do-it-yourself tools and captioning services.

Captioning gives companies an opportunity to make their content more readily findable on search engines, which drives more customers to their sites and can lead to better advertising opportunities. Businesses that innovate with captions and other features will enrich the user experience for viewers that are disabled, aging, non-English speaking, and so forth. Loyalty — and profitability — will follow.

Once a cottage industry, emerging online formats now have the potential to lock the deaf and hard-of-hearing population out of a huge marketplace of content, unless new regulation and innovation spurs more businesses — including the emerging online programmers — to embrace accessibility.

Without further incentives, waiting for hundreds of online-only providers to do the right thing will take too long. That’s the message the Justice Dept. should convey — and it’s what businesses and content creators should consider as they look to the future.

A parting thought for those still on the fence. “The Annoying Orange” generated more than 56 million monthly views in October — more traffic than for some cable channels. It’s exempt from the captions law. While some say this Web series isn’t worth spending time on, isn’t that a choice that deaf and hard-of-hearing people should be able to make on their own?


A Captioning Salute to a Chicago Cubs Legend

Ron Santo, longtime Chicago Cubs player and broadcaster, died last week. Santo was a really good player–although my father insisted he only hit during his “salary drive” in September when the Cubs were 60 games out of first place–and a schmaltzy broadcaster; nobody questioned his courage and grace, exemplified by how he dealt with his violently debilitating diabetes, which ultimately resulted in amputation of both his legs. Somewhere between the time he left the baseball field and the time he arrived at the field of the Lord he became a Chicago legend, nine times more celebrated than when he wore number 9 for the most futile baseball club of all time.

Santo’s funeral the other day was quite remarkable–a solemn, poignant church service and gawkers-heavy funeral procession rivaling that of a pope: Holy Name Cathedral….Michigan Avenue….WGN Studios….and finally Wrigley Field. As this all occurred the Chicago Tribune gave an online play-by-play of the drama. This was clearly Chicago’s most difficult day since losing their 2016 Olympics bid.

In any case, during the just-mentioned solemn, poignant church service a hymn was sung with a line that went (according to my hearing wife): “In my body I shall look upon God my Savior.” The captioning on television rendered this somewhat differently. I’ll not reveal the broadcasting network to protect the guilty CART writer, but the captions read: “In my Police Department I shall look upon God my Savior.”

What a classic send-off. What would a Cubs event be like without an egregious blooper? As Jack Brickhouse, another Cubs broadcaster, whose bust stands alongside Tribune Tower (true story) might say: “Hay! Hay!” Whoops. There’s another.

Cinemark Compared with AMC and Regal Theaters

In the media hubbub about the ALDA-Cinemark lawsuit, one pertinent question has been largely overlooked: What are other major theater chains doing for deaf and hard-of-hearing people? Shanna Groves, a member of the steering committee of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Kansas City Chapter, has addressed this a bit in one of her blogs, republished here.


By Shanna Groves

Originally posted at:

I’m among the thousands of Deaf and hard of hearing moviegoers fed up with not being able to understand movie dialogue. Now a group is sueing Cinemark theatres for lack of captioned movies. This is a theater chain that hasn’t yet embraced captioning technology like other theaters have. For a listing of theaters currently showing captioned films, visit

Below is a comparison of Cinemark with two other theater chains: AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas. Unlike Cinemark, the latter two show captioned movies at some of their locations.

Cinemark – The Lawsuit

A lawsuit brought on by the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA) and two individual plaintiffs claims Cinemark discriminates against hard of hearing and Deaf communities by failing to provide any captioned films in its Alameda County, California, theaters. The suit sees this oversight as a direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s anti-discrimination statutes, the Unruh Civil Rights Act and Disabled Persons Act. reports that about 85 percent of first-run movies are captioned and compatible with the rear window captioning system when they arrive in theaters. Each individual movie theater has the option of whether or not to install the $10,000 captioning equipment.

Apparently, Cinemark opted to save money at the expense of being accessible to the Deaf and hard of hearing.

AMC Theatres

AMC has nearly 160 theaters equipped with rear window captioning (RWC) units. RWC involves a reflective cupholder device that reflects captions emitted from a LED screen at the back of the theater. Some locations show open captioned (OC) movies, in which each movie has captions printed directly onto the film.

The theater chain provides an online search by zip code service of locations playing movies that are open captioned, closed captioned (rear window captioned) or with descriptive video.

Although AMC has been showing few captioned movies recently in its headquarters of Kansas City, the Kansas City HLAA Chapter is in talks to expedite the return of captioned movie showings. Kansas City HLAA rep Terri Shirley is in twice-weekly contact with AMC to encourage the theater chain to expedite showing captioned digital format movies. AMC’s Olathe, Kansas, theater is expected to be the first AMC location in the U.S. to show digital format films with rear window and open captions.

Regal Entertainment Group

Here is the latest on the theater chain’s captioning efforts as stated on its Web site:

“Regal Entertainment Group, the National Association of Theatre Owners (“NATO”) and the Inter-Society Digital Cinema Forum (ISDCF), film studios, manufacturers and technology designers have agreed and implemented a goal to have all digital standards associated with closed captioning and descriptive audio available for digital servers and projectors in the near future.

“The primary intent behind these efforts is to have 100% of all digital cinema systems being manufactured for theatres contain closed captioning and audio described technology that is accessible to theatre patrons in the near future.

“We also are working directly with manufacturers of closed caption systems that will be able to plug into compliant digital cinema servers.

“While there remains much work to be done, and while we are dependent on third party manufacturers, we are optimistic that acceptable personal captioning system will become available in the near future.”

What the Cinemark Lawsuit Means

While the Cinemark lawsuit has captured media attention and has fired up those of us with hearing loss, what difference will it make in the long term? If Cinemark, the third largest U.S. theater chain, can be sued over captions, how quickly will other theater companies heed the warning and make their films accessible to everyone?

I’d like to imagine theaters packed with people with varying levels of hearing, deafness, vision loss and other (dis)abilities. Here’s hoping that 2011 becomes the Year of Accessible Theater for Everyone.

Co-Counsel in ALDA Lawsuit Blogs

John Waldo, co-counsel in the ALDA/Cinemark lawsuit, is one of the most eloquent voices in the fight for captioning at the movies.  He has educated consumers on this issue from coast to coast.  His blog for the Washington (State) Communication Access Project (Wash-CAP) is must reading. Seriously. Put down that tabloid and read his blogs. Yes you can.

California movie-captioning lawsuit creates media buzz

A lawsuit to require movie captioning filed Nov. 30 by our office and a well-known disability-rights law firm in California has generated a welcome blitz of very sympathetic media coverage.

The case was filed in Oakland, California, on behalf of the Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA) and two individual plaintiffs against Cinemark Holdings, America’s third-largest movie-theater chain that operates both the Cinemark and Century theaters. The class-action complaint asks that Cinemark equip its theaters in Alameda County, California, to show captioned movies.

My office is working in conjunction with Disability Rights Advocates of Berkeley, a prominent and experienced public-interest firm that specializes in precedent-setting litigation to advance the interests of people with disabilities. DRA litigation director Sid Wolinsky and senior attorney Kevin Knestrick are leading DRA’s efforts.

The case comes in the aftermath of a decision in April by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declaring that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires movie theaters to offer closed-captioned movies unless the theaters can demonstrate that doing so would constitute an “undue burden.” Despite that holding, Cinemark, which has a very substantial presence in the Oakland-Berkeley area of California, continues to be the only major theater chain that does nothing to make first-run movies available to individuals with hearing loss. After Cinemark ignored a letter from DRA asking for a commitment to provide captioning, the suit was filed.

The San Francisco CBS-TV affiliate made the lawsuit the lead story on its local newscast that evening, and the ABC-TV station also provided substantial coverage. In both cases, the reporters interviewed one of the individual plaintiffs, who explained that they simply want to join the millions of Americans who enjoy movies every week, and one of the DRA lawyers. The lawyers explained that technology such as Rear Windows Captioning enables movie-goers who need captions to see them without interfering with the movie-going experience of the remaining audience. (Unfortunately, the television captions were lost when the story was put on the internet — another story for another time — although the ABC station posts a copy of the narrative).

The story also received print coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Associated Press wrote a short story, which has been reprinted in a number of outlets.

While we were pleased the the United States Department of Justice has announced plans to possibly require that at least some theaters be required to show captioned movies, implementing a requirement through regulations is time-consuming and uncertain — a new federal administration could abandon the plan altogether. So we think it is important to continue involving the courts, particularly in states like California and Washington where state law is at least as powerful as federal law.

The California case is conceptually similar to the case Wash-CAP filed in 2009 in Seattle against all three major corporate theater owners and three smaller operations. While our case in Washington is based exclusively on our Washington state law, the California case claims violations of both California state law and the ADA.

San Jose Columnist Champions ALDA case

To date this blog has been rampant with stuff about the ALDA-Cinemark case. Well, it’s a damn important lawsuit, so don’t expect this post to be the last on the subject. In fact, I have a few blogs about it myself if I, the blog curator, ever get in the zone to, um, write. “Tomorrow for sure” is my mantra, but for today this column by Patty Fisher of the San Jose Mercury News works just fine.

Fisher: It’s fun when you know what the actors are saying

Carrie Levin couldn’t wait to see Leonardo DiCaprio in “Inception” when it was released in July.

But the film came and went, and the Sunnyvale woman never did see it. That’s because even if she had seen Leo on the screen, she wouldn’t have been able to hear him, which makes it rather difficult to follow a movie.

So Levin, who is deaf, is still waiting. Waiting for movie studios and theaters to make closed-captioning technology widely available so that the deaf and hard-of-hearing can enjoy films the way other people do.

“When ‘Titanic’ came out, I had to wait for it to come out on DVD in order to see it,” she told me. “I’m sick of waiting.”

Last week, advocates for the deaf in Alameda County sued Cinemark, the nation’s third-largest movie chain, for failing to provide closed-captioned movie equipment in its local theaters. The equipment, called Rear Window Captioning, lets people read subtitles at their seats through a small window that attaches to the cup holder. Rear Window costs about $10,000 per theater to install.

It’s the law

Across the country, movie complexes have slowly begun offering this service, but so far Cinemark hasn’t gotten on board.

Kevin Knestrick, an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley, is representing the Association of Late-Deafened Adults and two Alameda County residents. He insists that the Americans with Disabilities Act

requires theaters to accommodate the deaf and hard-of-hearing.”The technology is readily available,” he said. “And financially, it is a drop in the bucket for theater chains like Cinemark to provide this service for men, women and children with hearing loss.”

I couldn’t get Cinemark — or AMC, which does offer closed captioning — to comment on the lawsuit. In similar cases in other states, theater owners have argued that Rear Window isn’t perfect, and they are waiting until something better comes along.

That means that Levin has to wait, too.

‘Say what?’

Here’s my take on this closed-captioning business. There are 36 million Americans with some degree of hearing loss. Those numbers are going up as more of my contemporaries who blew out their eardrums at ’60s rock concerts join the ranks of the hearing-impaired. And if it’s true that blaring iPods are deafening our children, before long movie theaters will be filled with people whispering: “What did he say?” or “Did you catch that?”

I think that if I were in the movie business, I would be clamoring for the perfect technology to keep this growing sector of the market from going straight to DVD. In the meantime, I would offer closed captioning, headphones or any other imperfect device that improves the audio experience.

After all, it’s not just the hard-of-hearing who are turned away when the captions are turned off. Consider the experience of Linda Drattell, one of the plaintiffs in the case.

“The last movie I saw was ‘Morning Glory’,” she told me. She was out with seven other people, and they wanted to see a different film, but it didn’t have captioning.

“I was the only one who needed captioning, but the theater with the other movie lost out on eight tickets.”

If I owned a movie theater, I’d be hearing that message loud and clear.

ALDA/Cinemark Reflections: Video Description Another Access Problem

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2010  02:59 AM


While I’m not a fan of litigious solutions to problems that typically could be resolved by common sense and human decency, my hat’s off to a group of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in Alameda County, Calif., who are suing the Cinemark theater chain there. They just want to be able to go to the movies with their friends and families, the plaintiffs maintain, and Cinemark, the third-largest theater chain in the country, has resisted installing the necessary equipment to display the closed captions developed for a variety of first-run movies.

The Motion Picture Access Project (MoPix) has been around for nearly 20 years and, while the concept is straightforward and the technology solid, theaters can’t seem to make it run as smoothly as logic would dictate.

I’ve had more than my share of frustration with movies that are intended to be accessible, too. For me and others with visual impairments, accessibility lies not in captioning, but in video description. I have shown up at theaters where the headsets had no batteries, where staff couldn’t find the headsets and where the technician simply forgot to turn on the disc containing the additional sound track. In each of these instances, in cities from Los Angeles to Washington to Cincinnati and Columbus, I was granted a range of apologies and sometimes free tickets. But after a certain number of repetitions, inertia sets in.

It shouldn’t be this hard.

In 1993, WGBH, the largest PBS station in the country, launched its National Center for Accessible Media, which in turn created MoPix to provide description for visually impaired and captioning for hearing-impaired moviegoers. As the entity that had launched captioning for television in 1972, and Descriptive Video Service nearly 20 years later, it was no surprise that the effort to make movies accessible to all audiences would come from WGBH.

If you have difficulty hearing the dialogue, you pick up a device that looks like a piece of Plexiglas on a short pole, sit anywhere in the theater, and see the captions for all dialogue spoken displayed on your personal viewer (called Rear Window Captioning.) If you have difficulty seeing the visual details on the screen, you pick up a headset, sit anywhere in the theater and hear verbal descriptions (neatly spaced between lines of dialogue) of gestures, scenery and other relevant details in your personal headset.

Theaters must install the necessary equipment to display the captions or play the additional audio track. The additional discs are sent to the theater. The cost of installation is about $12,000 per theater ($4,500 less if films are displayed digitally).

Motion picture companies are paying to have the descriptive video and closed-captioning developed for loads of movies. Right now, on the MoPix site, about 25 current films are listed as having Descriptive Video Service and Rear Window Captioning added, including Love and Other DrugsSecretariatHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, and many more. The site also lists dozen of upcoming films for which they will be added throughout the next year.

Some 500 theaters across the country have had the necessary equipment installed to play the captioning and description for these movies, but often, moviegoers who need the extra features are going away disappointed.

Seeing the latest Harry Potter film might not be as essential to quality of life as, say, getting a job or a college degree, but movies are an integral part of our popular culture. Whether you have a disability or not, a little bit of entertainment and escapism is a necessary piece of the equality package.

The folks in Alameda are trying to force a particular theater to install captioning equipment. I hope they win – and when the equipment is installed, I hope the theater learns how to use it.

There are two MoPix-equipped theaters in Columbus: AMC Easton 30, 275 Easton Town Center, and AMC Lennox Town Center 24, 777 Kinnear Rd.

Deborah Kendrick is a Cincinnati writer and advocate for people with disabilities.

Blogger Responds to Negative Comments on ALDA/Cinemark

Dana Mulvany is a consultant specializing in issues that concern people with hearing loss. She also writes an occasional blog and yesterday responded to negative comments by people with regard to the ALDA lawsuit against Cinemark. I copied, I pasted…..enjoy her post:

Commenting on the San Francisco Chronicle article about the lawsuit against Cinemark

Disability Rights Advocates has brought suit against the movie theater chain Cinemark for not doing enough to provide closed captioning in its theaters.  The San Francisco Chronicle has an article here about it:

There have been many comments written in response, most of which are quite negative. Most of the people writing negative comments seemed very concerned that they’d have to pay much higher ticket fees if the suit was successful and if it cost $10,000 to install the technology, so they think people with hearing loss should just stay home and not drive up costs for anyone else.

However, the movie theaters have actually been very, very profitable. Last year alone, Cinemark paid out roughly $16,300 in dividends per theater. And Mary Watkins of WGBH’s National Center for Accessible Media stated today that the actual cost of the Rear Window Captioning technology is now around $5000, not $10,000.

After learning all that, I submitted a comment on the web site to provide some of this additional information.  If you like my comment, please mark it there as liked so that it’ll be more likely to be read as a “popular” comment and will educate more people.  (The most popular comment is negative and was “liked” by 129 people as of the time of this writing.)  The easiest way to find my comment might be by going to this link:

Here’s what I wrote:

1) According to Mary Watkins of WGBH, the actual cost of the Rear Window captioning system is around $5000 and is even less when purchased in bulk. (However, there are other kinds of closed captioning technology options in development, too.)

2) The movie theater chains can well afford to install this equipment. Last year alone, Cinemark paid out roughly $16,300 in dividends per movie theater. If they made their theaters more accessible by spending $5000 on the closed captioned equipment, they would bring in even more customers and make even more money.

3) Hearing loss probably already affects someone within your own family or circle of acquaintances. One out of 3 people over 65 has hearing loss. If more movie theaters were fully accessible, think about how enjoyable it would be for that person with hearing loss to be able to join other people in an outing to the theater instead of being left out.

4) Your ability to hear is a gift. Have compassion. You could lose it at any time.

Read more:

DRA’s Press Release on ALDA Suit….and Much, Much More

Things are hoppin’. Here’s a press release on the suit from Disability Rights Advocates, the nonprofit firm representing the plaintiffs. The press release is followed by a gold mine of facts on captioning. So keep reading and reading…challenge your attention span!



November 30, 2010


Kevin Knestrick

Sid Wolinsky

Disability Rights Advocates: 510-665-8644

John Waldo, Washington State Communication Access Project:

206-842-4106 (phone)

206-849-5009 (text to cell)



Oakland, CA – Going to the movies is central part of mainstream American life.  More than 200 million Americans went to the movies last year according to the Motion Picture Association of America.  But alawsuit filed today in Alameda Superior Court alleges that the Cinemark movie chain, the third largest in the country, discriminates against the deaf and hard of hearing communities by failing to provide any captioned movies at its theaters in Alameda County.

The suit is brought by The Association of Late-Deafened Adults (“ALDA”) on behalf of its members with hearing loss, and two individual plaintiffs.  The plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”), a non-profit disability rights firm headquartered in Berkeley, California that specializes in high-impact cases on behalf of people with disabilities and John Waldo, a lawyer whose practice focuses on the unique legal needs of the Hard-of-Hearing and Deaf. He works on access and advocacy issues through the Washington Communication Access Project (Wash-CAP).

The most common form of movie captioning technology is the Rear Window Captioning system.  An LED screen is mounted in the back of a theater that displays captioned dialogue onto small reflective plastic panels provided by movie theaters to deaf and hard of hearing patrons.  Only people with the reflective screens can see the captions, which they can adjust to superimpose on the screen.  Approximately 85% of first-run movies are captioned and compatible with the Rear Window system when they arrive at theaters “in the can.”  The only cost to movie theaters is the one-time installation of captioning equipment, which costs approximately $10,000.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders approximately 36 million American adults report some degree of hearing loss.  Hearing loss increases with age: 18 percent of adults 45-64 years old, 30 percent of adults 65-74 years old, and 47 percent of adults 75 years old or older have a hearing impairment.

The correlation between aging and hearing loss is well established.  The number of adults with hearing loss is expected to increase significantly as the baby boomer generation continues to age.

“We just want the opportunity to go to the movies with our friends and family like everybody else,” explains Rick Rutherford who lives in El Cerrito.  “By failing to screen captioned films, movie theaters like Cinemark are denying me an experience I thoroughly enjoyed before the onset of hearing loss.”

“The theaters’ unwillingness to screen captioned films is short-sighted, particularly as the hearing loss community continues to grow,” says Kevin Knestrick, an attorney representing the Plaintiffs. “The technology is readily available and financially, it is a drop in the bucket for theater chains like Cinemark to provide this service for men, women, and children with hearing loss.”

Linda Drattell, a plaintiff in the case, says “It’s disappointing to read reports of blockbuster holiday weekends with films like Harry Potter and Unstoppable, and I can’t go because Cinemark refuses to provide captioning.”

The lawsuit alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s anti-discrimination statutes, the Unruh Civil Rights Act and Disabled Persons Act.  A copy of the Complaint can be found at

For information about where to find captioned films in your area, visit websites like or  A list of first release films that are captioned for viewing with the Rear Window Captioning System can be found at

# # #

Captioning Fact Sheet

How many people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can benefit from captioned movies?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders approximately 36 million American adults report some degree of hearing loss.  Captioning makes films accessible to those people whose hearing is too limited to benefit from assistive listening devices (ALDs) — a group that makes up a significant percentage of the 36 million.

Why should captions be provided?
Captions should be provided to give today’s 36 million Americans who are deaf or hard-of-hearing equal access to the first-run movies that many millions of hearing people are able to enjoy. As the percentage of the population that is deaf or hard-of-hearing steadily increases — based on the growing number of older people (aged 65 or older) and the longer life expectancy of adults — the need for captions will become more urgent. Currently, members of this large, ever-increasing under-served population depend on closed-captioned television and video for their audio-visual entertainment, which significantly limits their ability to participate in the social, recreational and educational aspects of movie-going. Assistive listening devices, presently made available under ADA regulations, do not serve the significant portion of the population who rely on visual translations of sounds due to more severe hearing losses.

What is the Rear Window Captioning system?

The patented Rear Window system is a technology that makes it possible for exhibitors to provide closed captions for those who need or desire them without displaying the captions to the entire audience and without the need for special prints or separate screenings. Developed in the early 1990s with the assistance of grants from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), the system was first deployed at the National Air & Space Museum’s IMAX® theater in December of 1994.

How does it work?
The Rear Window Captioning system (Figure 1) displays reversed captions on a light-emitting diode (LED) text display, which is mounted in the rear of a theater. Patrons use transparent acrylic panels attached to their seats (either with a flowerpot-shaped base designed to fit into a drink holder on most theater seats or with a clamp that attaches to the armrest) or on freestanding floor stands (like a microphone stand). The acrylic panels reflect the captions so that they appear superimposed on or beneath the movie screen. The reflective panels are portable and adjustable, enabling the user to sit anywhere in the theater and to either superimpose the captions over the film image or position the captions above or below the movie screen, depending on preference.

How do Rear Window captions differ from open captions?
Open captions are similar to subtitles. They are “burned” onto the film and are visible to everyone in the theater. To provide open captions, it is necessary for studios to create, and for exhibitors to obtain, a special print of the film. Open-captioned films are generally presented at special screenings.

The Rear Window system is a way of providing closed captions. The captions are not on the film itself, so there is no need for a special print. The captions are on a floppy disk or CD that plays in synchronization with the film and can be made visible — via a reflector — to only those patrons who choose to see them. The captions are available during each regularly scheduled presentation for as long as the film plays in the equipped theater (not all films are presently closed-captioned).

How are the captions synchronized to the film?
The synchronization process differs depending on whether the system is being used in a conventional movie theater or specialty theater (e.g., IMAX® or other large-format theaters or theme parks’ theatrical attractions). In conventional movie theaters, captions are transmitted to the LED panel by the Digital Theater Systems (DTS) digital audio system, which provides multi-channel digital audio on CD-ROMs. The caption data resides on an additional CD-ROM that plays in synchronization with the digital audio disks in a DTS player (model DTS 6D, with additional models soon to be available). A “reader head” (a sensing device) attached to the film projector reads a timecode track printed on the film and signals the DTS player to play the audio and captions in synchronization with the film. In turn, the DTS player sends the captions to the LED display. In specialty theaters, caption data is fed to the LED panel by a computer with special software that synchronizes the caption files to the film.

What specialized equipment is needed to provide Rear Window captions?
In order to provide Rear Window captions, the theater must purchase and mount — in the rear of the theater — a light-emitting diode (LED) text panel or “datawall,” which displays reverse captions. This component must be 32 characters wide and 3 rows tall. The characters, or letters, that make up each row are 3.2 inches or 4.1 inches tall depending on the size of the auditorium and the distance people will be sitting from the datawall. A theater also must purchase either portable seat-mounted or freestanding reflectors on which patrons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can read the reverse text from the LED panel. The reflector component consists of a 3/16-inch thick transparent or semi-transparent acrylic panel, which is approximately 4 inches tall by 12 inches wide, attached to a flexible, 12 to 18-inch-long gooseneck arm.

How much does it cost a theater to install Rear Window?
The cost of installing the Rear Window Captioning system varies from theater to theater based on factors such as theater size and existing equipment. The number and style of reflectors that a theater chooses to purchase also will affect the overall cost. The basic cost of the LED datawall is estimated at approximately $4,000 for conventional theaters and $8,000 for large specialty theaters (IMAX®). The cost per reflector is approximately $80; theaters that have installed the system have initially purchased 12 reflectors at $50 apiece. The DTS 6D player, which many theaters already have available, costs $6,000 if purchased separately. Installation costs depend on the theater’s maintenance arrangements; arrangements for installation can be made with the equipment supplier.

Will installation require any alteration to existing facilities? If so, what types of alterations need to be made?
In order to provide Rear Window captions, the facility will need to acquire and mount a light-emitting diode (LED) display mechanism to the wall in the rear of the theater. Mounting hardware is required, which is able to support a 30- to 50-pound datawall, that is 3- to 5-feet-long and 1.5- to 2-feet-high. The LED display requires standard electrical service and a data signal fed to it from the projection booth. The reflectors may be mounted to theater seats via existing or added drink holders. Theaters without drink holders can purchase reflectors fitted with a clamp or mounted on freestanding microphone stands. Some theaters have fitted seats with a mounting bracket that enables the bottom of the gooseneck arm to be fitted directly into an area between each seat.

Will additional electrical service be needed to accommodate Rear Window?
The LED display requires a standard electrical outlet.

How many equipped seats or equipment attachments need to be available?
It is recommended that theaters purchase a number of reflectors equal to approximately 4% of a theater’s seating capacity.

Are special seats necessary?
The installation of special theater seats is not required for use of Rear Window captions. The seat-mounted reflectors can be fitted to standard theater seats using the drink holder or armrest, while freestanding reflectors can be used in theaters without drink holders.

Are both fixed and portable reflectors available to accommodate different types of seating? Or is there a standard design that works with any kind of seat?
The reflectors are presently available in three styles. The portable, seat-mounted model consists of a movable, acrylic screen on an adjustable gooseneck arm that can be fitted to any theater seat that has a built-in drink holder. The clamp model can be used to attach the gooseneck to the armrest of seats without drink holders. The freestanding device is mounted on a floor stand (similar to a microphone stand), which can be placed adjacent to any type of theater seat, but is most effective when used on a level floor. To accommodate patrons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and use wheelchairs, theaters may opt to order several clamp or freestanding reflectors.

Are the reflectors easy to use, attach and adjust?
The screens are portable and simple to use; the seat-mounted reflector is easily mounted in the drink holder or on the seat arm, while the freestanding reflector is placed beside the viewer’s seat. In any case, the gooseneck arm and tilting acrylic panel can be adjusted until the captions are visible and comfortable to watch. Test captions are generally made available before the film begins to enable Rear Window users to adjust their reflectors. Depending on the user’s preference, captions can be positioned over or just below the movie screen. Some users have reported that reflectors work best when positioned low and further away from the body, allowing the user to move in the seat with only minimal reflector adjustments.

Are the reflectors adjustable for both child and adult users?
The reflective screens can be adjusted for use by both children and adults. There is no height restriction, though children or very short adults may require assistance in bending the reflector arm into place.

Do users need to sit in certain seats in order to use the Rear Window?
The Rear Window system is designed so that the captions are visible from any seat in the theater. However, depending on the size and layout of the theater and the location of the caption display, some seats may offer better viewing angles than others may. Seats in the middle of the theater generally offer the best view of Rear Window captions. Some LED displays have been mounted above an auditorium’s balcony, thereby making the seats directly underneath the balcony unusable with a reflector.

Can another patron’s head block the user’s view of the captions?
Because the captions are displayed in the rear of the theater, someone sitting in front of the user cannot block them. The LED display can be hung high enough so that the heads of tall people behind the user will not block the view of the captions. However, if someone behind the user stands up, they may temporarily block the captions — just as someone who stands up in front of a viewer may temporarily block the picture.

Can the reflectors block the view of, or be distracting to, other patrons?
As the clear acrylic reflector is adjusted for use by individual patrons, and only those patrons can see the reflection, the use of the Rear Window system will not affect other patrons’ views of the movie screen in any way.

Do the reflectors block the user’s view of the screen in any way?
Since the reflector is made of clear acrylic, the user can see through the reflective panel to the screen, or can adjust the reflector so the captions appear below the screen. If the reflector is not adjusted properly, a user’s head may block his or her own view of the captions. In this case, the user will need to move the reflector slightly to one side or tilt the plastic panel until their view is complete.

How do users know when Rear Window is available in a theater?
Theaters that have made the Rear Window Captioning system available to their patrons have publicized the service to build awareness in their community. Publicity generally includes posting appropriate signage at ticket booths, including information in theater advertising. When the service is offered initially, theaters often publicize the system’s availability via announcements to local newspapers and to local organizations and schools that serve deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

Is there an additional cost to moviegoers to use Rear Window?
Moviegoers who request use of the Rear Window Captioning equipment pay the regular adult, child or senior ticket prices, with no additional costs.

Who is ALDA?

The acronym “ALDA” stands for the Association of Late-Deafened Adults.  ALDA is a not-for-profit organization incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois.

Late-deafened adults are people who were not born deaf, but rather became deaf after they developed language skills.  They cannot understand speech without visual clues, and thus cannot rely on their hearing as a means of receptive communication.  Instead, late-deafened adults must primarily depend on some visual mode of receptive communication, such as cued-speech, speechreading, sign language, or text-reading.  Their deafness may have been the result of heredity, accident, illness, drugs, surgery, or “causes unknown.”  Their hearing loss may have occurred suddenly or it may have progressively deteriorated over a period of years.  Most importantly, however, regardless of the cause or rapidity of their hearing loss, all late-deafened adults share the cultural experience of having been raised in the hearing community and having “become” deaf, rather than having been “born” deaf.

The General Objectives of ALDA

EDUCATION … ALDA is committed to provide educational information to late-deafened adults, their families and friends, deaf service providers, rehabilitation counselors, government agencies, private corporations, and members of the general public concerning the nature of, as well as strategies for coping with, the social, psychological, familial, occupational, economic and communication problems of  late-deafened adults.

ADVOCACY… ALDA is committed to advocate on behalf of, and to represent the needs, desires, and interests, of all late-deafened adults in the promotion of public and private programs designed to alleviate the problems of late-deafness and to integrate late-deafened people into all aspects of society.

ROLE MODELS … ALDA is committed to provide good role models for late-deafened adults who are striving to cope with the issues of late-deafness and to enhance their personal image, competence, and quality of life.

SUPPORT … ALDA is committed to provide support for all late-deafened adults, (and their families and friends) regarding how to cope with the problems caused by late-deafness, and to provide social enrichment through the promotion of activities in which they meaningfully participate.

Cinemark Holdings, Inc. Fact Sheet

Cinemark Holdings Inc., is the third largest theater operator in the United States with 294 theaters and 3,830 screens in 39 states.  Cinemark is located in headquartered in Plano, Texas.  Cinemark is the second largest motion picture exhibitor in the world in terms of both attendance and the number of screens in operation.

For the year ending December 31, 2009, Cinemark’s revenues increased 13.4% to over $1.9 billion.  Over the last three fiscal years, Cinemark has grown its total revenue per patron at 6.8%, the highest in the industry.

According to industry sources, in 2009, the U.S. motion picture industry experienced its third consecutive records breaking year and the first in history with box office revenues of $10 billion.

ALDA/Cinemark Goes Viral


Don’t blink. In less than one day, ALDA vs Cinemark is, well, everywhere. Power to the people who post!

Recycling the AP story:

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AP Picks Up ALDA Lawsuit Story


BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Deaf moviegoers are suing Cinemark, claiming the movie theater chain is denying them access to films by refusing to install closed captioning devices.

Berkeley, Calif.-based Disability Rights Advocates filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court on behalf of two plaintiffs and the Association of Late-Deafened Adults. It seeks class-action status.

Kevin Knestrick, an attorney for the plaintiffs, says Cinemark Holdings Inc. is the only one of the nation’s three largest movie chains not to offer closed-captioning equipment. Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Inc. provide captioning, though not at all hours and in all theaters.

The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages and an order requiring Plano, Texas-based company to install the captioning devices.

A call to Cinemark was not immediately returned.