Accessible Movie Theaters

Movie theater popcorn, credited to gennierobot from flickr
Movie theater popcorn, credited to gennierobot from flickr

Going to see a movie is a great way to spend an evening with friends, family, or a date.  The cushioned seats, dark surroundings, smell of popcorn, and in-your-face large movie screen have a way of capturing your undivided attention and exciting the senses.  Theaters across the nation have continually improved conditions to try and please a wide array of audiences by providing food and drink, a variety of different films available at one time, comfortable seating, and more.  Thanks to MoPix, now even deaf or blind audiences can enjoy the experience!

MoPix (Motion Picture Access Project) was formed in 1992 by Media Access Group at WGBH.  The goal was to provide a way for people with hearing or vision impairment the chance to enjoy movies in public theaters.  The developed The Rear Window Captioning System and the DVS Theatrical.

The Rear Window Captioning System isn’t like the standard captions you typically find on DVDs or on TV, where you can turn them on from the main menu and everyone sees them on the screen.  Instead, this system emits reversed captions from the back of the theater using LED text display.  Movie goers wanting captions are given clear panels to mount to their seats and position so that only they can see the text reflected.  So essentially you would have a mirror positioned so that the text projected from the back of the room is appearing at the bottom of the screen.  These devices are adjustable and do not obstruct anyone else’s view.  Check out this brief video demonstration to get a better idea how it works.

The DVS Theatrical is an audio description service.  People who are visually impaired are given a headset to wear, and during the movie a descriptive transcript is sent to them via FM transmission.  Several visual elements are described to the patron, such as actions, facial expressions, costumes, and more.  The describer waits for breaks in conversation and music so no sounds are overlapping.

These are free services that are available in many theaters throughout the United States and Canada.  If you would like to learn more, I suggest visiting MoPix’s Frequently Asked Questions page.  If you would like to see these services offered in a theater near you, find out how you can be an advocate.

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