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2010 Media Release: Great news at the movies for people with hearing or vision impairment

Disability Disability Rights

Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, today applauded an agreement that will vastly improve provision of captions and audio description in cinemas, so that people who have previously been unable to enjoy going to the movies will have greater opportunity to do so.

Representatives from the disability sector and major cinema chains announced the agreement today.

“This is an extremely important development for people who have always wanted to enjoy going to the movies, but were unable to because cinemas did not provide the necessary access,” said Commissioner Innes. “When fully implemented, this plan will mean that Australia will have one of the highest per capita rates of cinema access in the world.”

By 2014, Hoyts, Village Cinemas, Event Cinemas and Reading International have agreed to provide captioning and audio description at every session in each of the 132 cinema complexes they operate throughout Australia and in multiple screens in the larger complexes. This equates to 242 screens - one screen for every complex with six or less screens, two screens for every complex with seven to 12 screens, and three screens for every complex with 13 or more screens – where currently only 12 screens provide captioning at three sessions per week, nationwide.

The target is for 10 percent rollout (24 screens) by the end of 2010, 30 percent (73 screens) by the end of 2011, 60 percent (145 screens) by the end of 2012, 80 percent (194 screens) by the end of 2013, with the entire initiative completed by the end of 2014.

“This agreement means that captions and audio description will be available at every session of a movie where the screen is caption and audio description equipped,” Commissioner Innes said. “The really exciting news is that, by the end of 2010, 840 sessions of movies with closed captioning and audio description will screen around the country per week – that is 24 screens with 35 sessions per week – a fantastic improvement for people with sight and hearing loss.”

Organisations representing the views of Deaf people, people with a hearing impairment, blind people and people with low vision have been advocating for improvements in the availability of captions and audio description in cinemas for many years.

The agreement comes after the Australian Human Rights Commission recently declined an application from the cinema groups for protection from complaints while implementing a less extensive plan. As a result, Parliamentary Secretary, Bill Shorten, with the support of Minister Conroy, brought representatives together to negotiate a better outcome.

“I want to thank everyone involved in developing this plan for their willingness to work together through an Advisory Group to make its implementation a reality,” said Commissioner Innes.

Media contact: Brinsley Marlay 02 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529