When English is not your first language –and it isn’t for me, despite having lived immersed in the language for longer than I lived in my primary language– you are bound to miss some dialogue when you’re at the movies. The English language is downright devilish to understand sometimes; add in dialectical differences and two children who like to talk or watch YouTube videos through whatever you’re trying to watch, and I cannot conceive of watching anything on TV without the captions on. This is why the latest public hearing on open captioning at select theaters has me so incredibly excited: I’m not deaf or hard of hearing, but I AM HERE FOR A CAPTIONED WORLD.
All kidding aside (although I really am not kidding about my love for captioning), we have a large deaf population in the District, specifically just north of us thanks to Gallaudet University. It’s been great seeing such a large corporation as Starbucks pick up on the need for a coffeeshop that caters specifically to the deaf community. However, when it comes to something as simple watching a movie in theaters, the deaf community can expect inaccessible movies or faulty equipment. This is the kind of sloppy oversight that makes me realize how much we take hearing for granted, and how when people have challenges that are not evident to the naked eye, we ignore their daily inconveniences out of ignorance. Not being able to watch a movie in a theater because there are no captions is one such inconvenience, and it’s inexcusable.
This is why it’s so meaningful that Charles Allen held a hearing yesterday to ensure that local theaters provide a certain number of screenings with captions. He also introduced an amendment act earlier in November, together with Councilmember Grosso, establishing the Office on Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which is still under council review.