Who can forget the excitement of seeing a film in the cinema for the first time? The huge screen, comfy seats and powerful speakers make for a thrilling experience. But imagine if you couldn’t hear and therefore couldn’t understand what was happening on screen.
Seven in 10 cinemas are failing to include deaf children in this thrilling, childhood experience because they do not offer subtitled screening of children’s films, such as Ugly Dolls, The Queen’s Corgi and Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans.
The new research by the National Deaf Children’s Society has shown that of the top 11 children’s films shown in 581 cinemas across the UK between May and August this year, only 171 provided at least one subtitled showing.
Ugly Dolls, starring singers Lizzo, Bebe Rexha and Nick Jonas, was the least accessible film, with just one in 20 cinemas putting on a subtitled performance. Only 10 per cent of showings of The Queen’s Corgiand 17 per cent of Horrible Histories performances had subtitles.
The most inclusive film of the summer was The Lion King, although only 48 per cent of cinemas put on a single subtitled performance.
The charity is calling on cinema companies to increase the number of subtitled performances at times that are suitable for families. It is also highlighting the need to invest in new technologies, which will allow cinemagoers to have individual subtitles during screenings.
Helen Cable, who leads the National Deaf Children’s Society’s work with children and young people, said: ‘This research couldn’t be clearer – deaf children across the UK are being denied a key part of their childhood because cinemas are refusing to put on subtitled performances.
“The magic of the cinema is such an important part of growing up. Everyone remembers those big moments - watching ET disappear into space, singing along to The Lion King, or getting emotional during Bambior The Notebook. Deaf young people are no different, and it’s disgraceful that cinemas are failing them so completely.
Rachel Shenton, who starred in Oscar-winning film The Silent Child, said: ‘It’s unacceptable that deaf children across the country struggle to access the cinema.
‘This is yet another unnecessary obstacle facing deaf children. We need managers and cinema owners across the UK to think about inclusivity and what that means.’
Ellie Parfitt, a deaf blogger and campaigner, added: ‘Going to the cinema was never really a social outing option for me due to the lack of subtitled cinema showings. Mostly due to the limited options available, usually at unsuitable times and days. Hearing people have 100 per cent choice of which film they get to see. We don't have that choice.
‘All we're asking for is at least one subtitled showing of each film a week, including the opening week, at a suitable time. We're not asking for them all to be subtitled, we just want equal access to a fun, enjoyable activity. Cinemas wouldn't refuse wheelchair access or remove a disabled toilet, so why refuse subtitles?’