kate bohdanowicz writer

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Come on Empire Cinemas, do more for deaf viewers

Have you seen the film Birdman? Did you enjoy it? I hear it was good. I say hear because I never got to see it. That’s because I wanted to go with my other half who’s deaf but my local Empire Cinemas in Walthamstow didn’t show any subtitled screenings.

The reason? They said it wasn’t popular enough. Yes, the film that made it onto every movie critic’s top 10 list in 2014, the film that's received nine nominations at next month’s Oscars (including Best Picture), the film that everyone I know has seen, that film isn’t popular enough for Empire cinemas to show one paltry subtitled screening.

I’ve ranted on before about Empire Cinemas and their refusal to cater more for deaf and hard of hearing viewers. They assure me they do their bit by showing two subtitled screenings a week. Not two screenings a week of every film but the one film they say was most popular the week before. How they work that out is beyond me as Birdman never made the grade.

Of course, this means it is impossible to give any advance warning of what subtitled films will be shown. We check their website Tuesday morning to see the meagre pickings. American Sniper won the golden ticket last week, so even though this kind of gun-toting American jingoism isn’t my idea of entertainment*, we went because we wanted to watch a film together on the big screen. And guess what? There were a lot of people in there with us and none I could see were deaf. They didn’t mind watching it with subtitles. It’s not a big deal, Empire. Put more subtitled screenings on and you won’t suddenly lose all your customers.

Until I met my partner I had little awareness of accessibility for disabled people. Put a ramp outside and you’re done right?

Now I know that’s wrong. I’ve seen how badly deaf people (and presumably blind people and those with any disability) are treated. I could bore you ALL DAY with the terrible injustices my other half as endured. Like the well-known recruitment agency who, in over two years, failed to get him even half a day’s work despite assurances from head office that he was a “priority” following an unfortunate “misunderstanding” when he was ejected from their offices. Why? For speaking a little differently? He never did get to the bottom of that.

So, Empire Cinemas, please reconsider your policy for deaf and hard of hearing viewers. There are two little kids desperate to see the Shaun the Sheep film with me and my other half next week. Don’t let us down.


*It was quite a good film actually. 

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