Subtitle glasses offer deaf cinema goers a new future

Apologies for taking two whole weeks to blog about this – I got married a week ago and things were very hectic at the time!

After writing a Guardian comment article about the poor service deaf cinema fans receive here in the UK (including how few subtitled screenings are scheduled) I was lucky enough to be asked by BBC News to try out some new glasses which deaf people can wear while watching films – which have the subtitles built in.

Here’s the BBC News film – which shows me trying them out.

I have to say, the glasses are great. The subtitles look as if they are on the screen. They’re very clear, and easy to read. The glasses may look bulky, but they’re light, and they can be worn with existing glasses, for people who already wear a pair.

Some people might have misgivings about the appearance of the glasses, granted they do look unusual but since they’ll be used in dark auditoriums, I for one would be willing to wear them and risk looking a tad strange if it means I get to see – and fully understand – the latest releases with the same freedom that hearing people have.

The glasses were developed by Sony and are already set to be used by a major cinema chain in the USA. Depending on whether cinemas buy and install them, they could be available in the UK from next summer.

What the glasses potentially offer is the chance for deaf film fans to go and see a film anytime they like. Currently, deaf people have to plan visits to the cinema carefully, because of the reluctance of cinemas in the UK to display subtitles on the screen when non-deaf people are watching. So subtitled screenings are few and far between, and often at off-peak times.

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6 Comments

  1. They neglected to consider if deaf want to wear them ! It tends to IDENTIFY deaf people and many are still Greta Garbo’s about being deaf. I can see an real use IF they enable deaf to understand hearing face to face, I’d rather that aspect.

    Cinema has an mixed appeal to deaf. Most have settled for the DVD. This access doesn’t deny, it delays, I can live with that,it’s not as if I have none at all. If you wear glasses anyway what’s that like ? or want to watch 3D as well ? Since you went on TV deaf have moaned all cinema should have in-vision titling, which is an sure way to kill off deaf access. Deaf fashionistas would want something considerably less obvious than specs Mr Magoo designed. I see negligible take up, since the issue is getting deaf to GO to the cinema. will these specs encourage them ? Don’t see it.

    It’s great someone is looking (!) at deaf access, but other areas we need FIRST. I know cinema is important to you,it is less so with many others… I don’t think they researched usage frankly or take up potential. I want specs that enable direct contact to take place with hearing then we’re in.

  2. There are currently around 700 English language subtitled shows around the UK every week, as listed here: (Google subtitled cinema).

    Subtitles on the cinema screen, for all to see. Although this is the preferred way to view cinema subtitles amongst most people that need them to enjoy a film, it requires cinemas to put on separate shows. Most people can’t work their lives around one or two cinema shows a week, so currently, most people that would like to attend subtitled cinema shows can’t do so. There’s not enough choice of films and showtimes.

    A ‘personal’ subtitle system, like the specs Charlie tried out, or seat mounted displays, like they have in the US, would give people a better choice of films and showtimes, which would of course result in more people attending the cinema, purchasing popcorn & drinks etc.

    Derek Brandon

  3. I am deaf and I love going to the cinema with friends,. Many time I have had to travel a long way to see a film that I have been waiting to see. Sometime it is just not possibe to go one the one day that it is showing with subtitles. I know that lots of my friends would also have no problem using the glasses as it would make it possible to go to the cinema on a Saturday evening rather than Tuesday afternoon. Maybe it’s an age thing ( I am 21) but I love going out to the cinema, I don’t want to wait to watch a dvd at home. I can’t wait to try the glasses, you will never be able to please everyone.

  4. I agree totally with the above comment. I think anybody that is deaf/hard of hearing and likes going to the cinema would jump at the chance to be able to go to the cinema any time they like. I think it’s wrong to say such negative things without even trying them; if somebody would rather not go to the cinema because they are too bothered about being identified as Deaf, then they clearly have bigger issues.. Any advances in technology that will improve the quality of life / social lives of deaf people, should be welcomed with open arms.

  5. Wholeheartedly agree with Nat on this one. New technology must be welcomed. This particular technology if developed further to transcribe live conversation could have huge implications for us – changing our lives for the better.

    All technology has teething problems, let’s not introduce negativity to kill a good idea without giving it a chance to develop.

  6. Mint idea! As a deaf Film and Media student i’ve been complaining for years about the lack of subtitled cinema. I personally can’t see the problem with putting them below the image on screen or something, but if wearing chunky glasses is the answer, then i’m fine with that!

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