Cinema chains branded a 'disgrace' for lack of subtitled screenings for deaf children

Group of children enjoying a movie at the cinema
(Credit: Getty)

British cinema chains are failing deaf children by 'refusing to put on subtitled performances', according to the leading deaf children's charity.

Research by the National Deaf Children's Society found that seven in 10 British cinemas offered no subtitled screenings for this summer's top movies.

It has also slammed chains for failing to adopt new technology like smart caption glasses and tablet systems which feature subtitles.

Out of 581 cinemas, only 171 offered subtitled screenings, the charity adding that the stats were 'deeply depressing'.

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“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,” said Helen Cable, director of children, young people and families at the NDCS.

“The remedy couldn’t be more straightforward: cinemas need to increase the number of subtitled films they show, and show them at times that are more convenient for families.

“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 Bambi or The Notebook.

“Deaf young people are no different, and it’s disgraceful that cinemas are failing them so completely.”

Over the summer, it was Disney’s The Lion King remake which was the most inclusive film for deaf children, with 48 percent of cinemas offering subtitled screenings.

The Lion King (Credit: Disney)
The Lion King (Credit: Disney)

The least subtitled screenings came from The Queen's Corgi at 10 percent, and the Ugly Dolls movie at five percent.

Rachel Shenton, the director of The Silent Child, about a young girl who learns sign language, which won the Oscar for the best short film last year, 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.

“In my home town of Stoke-on-Trent, all the staff at the local Odeon cinema have had basic sign language training and show regular signed and subtitled films - so it can be done.

“The people running these cinemas need to look deaf children in the eye and tell them why they can’t have a childhood like other kids. Things need to change, and it’s shameful that they haven’t already.”

Cable added: “While the research is clear, the remedy couldn’t be more straightforward. Cinemas need to increase the number of subtitled films they show, and show them at times that are more convenient for families.

“On top of this, they need to start seriously investing in the new technology that is being developed to make the cinema more accessible for deaf children. None of this is rocket science, but its impact would be enormous.”