Three pieces of good news this week. Two of them out of the New York metropolitan area, because that's where I live and that's what I hear about. I'm sure there are local successes in other areas as well, so please do write in if you know of them.

First and maybe the most encouraging, the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, a five-screen independent theater across Broadway from Lincoln Center, has announced that it will install closed captioning systems in its two largest auditoriums early next year. Lincoln Plaza, owned by the eminent and venerable Dan Talbot, responded to a request by members of the New York chapter of HLAA to consider captioning for its English language films. Lincoln Plaza often shows first run movies not seen elsewhere, often independent films, and is a tremendous resource for movie loving New Yorkers. 

Ewnetu Admassu, the manager of the Lincoln Plaza cinemas, first showed a small group a film with open captioning, that is the captions were on the film itself, as they would be with a foreign film. Realizing that hearing audiences might object to the captions, Mr. Admassu, after discusions with Jerry Bergman about costs, agreed to install closed captioning. Closed captioning is visible only to the viewer who has the captioning device. Mr. Admassu, in his note to HLAA representatives, added that the theater "hoped to shoot for more later." 

Lincoln Plaza's example should interest and inspire independent cinemas everywhere. The theater was pleasantly surprised to find that the captioning system was less expensive than thought. If any theater owners or theater goers would like more information please post a comment here and Jerry Bergman or I will get back to you.

In related news, Jerry Bergman and others have been working with AMC theaters in New York. AMC has committed to installing closed captioning systems in each of its 24 theaters in New York State by August 31, 2014. Some Manhattan AMC theaters are already providing closed captioning devices. Advertisements should include the notation "CC" to indicate the availability of captioning. 

Finally, Southwest Airlines will be among the first carriers in the United States to offer closed captioning with its wireless video entertainment, beginning in 2014. A press release announcing the initiative cited the many deaf and hard of hearing passengers who have been requesting such a system. Other airlines that have been slow to offer captioning may, thanks to Southwest's decision, feel further pressure to comply. United Airlines announced closed captioning on the live television systems installed on its Continental Airlines Boeing fleet. 

Southwest noted that Major League Baseball Advanced Media had played an important role in the decision, which will implement the captioning on its end. 

John Waldo, an attorney in Washington State whose practice focuses on the legal needs of those with hearing loss, as well as access and advocacy issues through the Washington Communications Access Project (Wash-CAP), welcomed the news. In the wake of lawsuits brought in Washington State and California, AMC, Regal and Cinemark committed to captioning at all of their first-run theaters nationwide.

"We have been getting close to the tipping point where people start to understand the importance of captioning," John Waldo commented. "I've said for some time that 50 years ago, nobody thought about wheelchair ramps, it just didn't happen." 

Next on the agenda for New York advocates is Bow Tie Cinemas, which owns the Chelsea Cinemas and the Ziegfeld Theater. The pro bono law firm Dickstein Shapiro has formally requested Bow Tie to provide closed captioning in its two Manhattan theaters. Bow Tie also owns the 20 Clearview multiplex theaters, and advocates hope they too will be offering closed captions. 

Please let us know if your local cinemas are offering captioning. Many people with hearing loss simply don't go to the movies, thinking they won't be able to hear them. Publicizing the accessibility will benefit both movie goers and the theaters. 

About the Author

Katherine Bouton

Katherine Bouton, a former editor at The New York Times, is the author of Shouting Won't Help: Why I—and 50 Million Other Americans—Can't Hear You.

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