Imagine you’ve spent the better part of a day out-and-about in Hawaii. .
Now imagine you’ve returned from your adventure, and you’re tired. But, not tired enough to call it a night. What’s better than cooling-off with a good movie? From one beach bum to another, the answer is: NOT MUCH!
But, for many hearing-impaired residents and visitors in Hawaii, seeing a movie was usually more trouble than it was worth. That’s because, until now, people who are deaf had to wear special “closed captioning” glasses to see the words on the movie screen.
Some, like Billy Kekua, felt the closed captioning was unreliable and the eyelgasses were uncomfortable. Through an interpreter, he told Hawaii News Now, “I had to wear the glasses on top of my eyeglasses. It was never a good experience for me as a deaf person.”
State Rep. James Tokioka, whose son is deaf, said certain theatres tried, but just couldn’t accommodate the needs of the hearing impaired community.
State Representative James Tokioka told Hawaii News Now, “At this particular theater they had a captioning box that went in the cup, but a lot of times, you know, you have to look down, look up, look down, look up. And I know they tried to accommodate deaf people as much as they could, but it was very, very difficult.”
But, now, things are different.
A new law, which took effect Friday, mandates that Hawaii movie theaters show at least two showings per week of each movie produced with open captioning. It’s the first of it’s kind in the nation.
What’s open captioning? When a movie uses open captioning, everyone can see the words on the screen. That means those with hearing impairments won’t have to use special glasses to understand what’s happening on-screen.
“The movies will have the sentences there, and it’s open for everyone,” Kekua told Hawaii News Now.
“It’s every movie that has the captioning and the descriptive audio in there too because there’s also descriptive audio for the blind,” said Tokioka.
So far, the new law is a success. In fact, Consolidated Ward Theaters held a showing of “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” with open captions on the screen for all to see.
“I have a son who’s deaf. He didn’t want to come to the movies with his sister and I because it was like, ‘Dad, what do I want to go to the movies for? I don’t understand what’s happening. You guys go’”, Tokioka told Hawaii News Now.
Supporters say the open captioning helps many others. Billy Kekui conveyed via sign language to Hawaii News Now, “Not only deaf people. People who are hard of hearing as well will benefit from it because sometimes they don’t hear all the dialogue, and they can see the picture as well as the captions”.
As for Tokioka’s son, Pono, he’s now a movie buff. He signed to Hawaii News Now, “I’ll come with my friends. My friends love going to the movies so now I will be able to join them and have a good time as well.”
The state law expires on January 1, 2018. But, Tokioka believes a federal mandate will be in place by then.