January 23, 2020. I haven’t been in a movie theatre since 2013, mostly due to the stress of trying to understand what is being said in a movie. It just didn’t seem worth the effort. Many theatres on the Island have a captioning screen that fits into the cup holder by your seat. That’s a good hearing accessibility solution but I didn’t like to have to look up at a movie, then down at the cup holder to see what had been said. So I waited until the movie came out on video and watched it at home with subtitles.
Then, on Sunday afternoon, while our husbands talked sports, some of us discussed how we’d read Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ as children. After a nostalgic trip down memory lane, we decided to see the current film ‘Little Women’ one weekday afternoon.
Tuesday afternoon was a cold and miserable day, perfect for going to the movies. After paying for my ticket, I asked about hearing assistive devices. “We have two kinds” I was told. “One is headphones which amplify sound. The other is captioning glasses.” I chose the captioning glasses, as that matched how I normally watch a program. After waiting a few minutes, the glasses arrived. “We’ve set it for the theatre you’ll be in, so you’ll have captions for that movie.”
I was a bit bemused as I was unfamiliar with captioning glasses. They look like sunglasses and come attached to a small receiver box. I noticed it had a number of very small windows on one side and sure enough, the fifth window was lit up. Our movie was in theatre #5.
Now, you may be wondering what I looked like with these glasses. Just as we had gone to the theatre to see a movie about a story we’d read in childhood, the glasses reminded us of the days when you saw cartoons, instead of advertisements, before the previews and feature presentation. In the city where I grew up, there was always a ‘Mr. Magoo’ cartoon, and, if the movie was for children, there usually was a ‘Fearless Fly’ cartoon. Those glasses reminded me of ‘Fearless Fly’. (If you’ve never heard of ‘Fearless Fly’, you can watch a brief cartoon here: https://youtu.be/9brdv8ci39o)
The glasses have a tiny projector that displays a holographic image of the captions in green colour at the bottom of one’s eyesight. The text is sent via a wireless system to a receiver that feeds the data to the glasses. (For more information, see https://newatlas.com/sony-closed-caption-glasses/23376/ or https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/sony-subtitle-glasses/ or https://hearingmojo.com/sony-movie-caption-glasses/)
The glasses are lightweight, and fit easily over my own glasses. I had to keep my head steady, as the text moved as my head moved. Turn your head to one side, and the text goes in the same direction! After figuring that out during the previews of upcoming features, I was able to watch the movie in comfort, and not have to strain to figure out what was being said. Everything was displayed right in front of me, as you can see above.
It was a great experience, and I had a lot of fun watching the movie and being with my friends Susan and Moira. This is a wonderful example of a hearing accessibility tool made available in a public place! Some of you may be wondering if there was a fee to use the glasses. The answer is No. Another question someone asked me was if I had to reserve the glasses in advance. I didn’t. I only had to wait a few moments while the glasses were programmed to the particular theatre the film was playing in. A third question I was asked is if this was a special theatre for people with hearing loss. It wasn’t. The glasses can be used in any of that cinema’s theatres (there are 10).
Are the glasses are available in movie theatres where you live? If you’ve used captioning glasses please share your experience! Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also comment on this blog, or follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.
Reminder: If you haven’t already taken our 10 question survey, Do Others Mumble Or Might You Have Hearing Loss?, please do so. Here is the link to the survey….. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FZ2ZD6K. Thank you to all who have already done the survey! (For more information, see Do Others Mumble Or Might You Have Hearing Loss?)
© Daria Valkenburg