Making movies accessible

Thomas Banks
Many people like going to the movies. But some people with a disability cannot see or hear the movie, or get into a cinema. Village Cinemas says it is trying to make sure everyone can enjoy their films. Arts Access Victoria is also working to ensure people with a disability are not left out.
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Thomas Banks on 01/12/2009
A wheelchair access button on a brick wall
wheelchair access button on a brick wall

People with a disability want to go to the movies like anybody else

Going to the movies is one of those treats that many of us like to regularly enjoy. But some people with disabilities find they cannot always enjoy the cinema experience because their needs have not been catered to.

Village Roadshow, Australia’s largest cinema operator, says the company is committed to providing accessible cinemas. This includes features such as:

  • accessible toilets
  • lifts
  • ramps
  • wheelchair spaces with adjacent seating for carers and guests.

Village Cinemas works hard to provide a quality cinema experience for all patrons regardless of disability, says technical manager Victor Savannah. This is an ongoing process of development and improvement, in consultation with disability advisory services.

For those with a hearing impairment, Mr Savannah says all Village cinemas are fitted with a mixture of induction loops and infra-red systems. (We also have) open caption sessions run at the Jam Factory (South Yarra). We are currently looking into linking this into a system that also provides a similar service for the sight-impaired.  The open captions need to be different for hearing-impaired and sight-impaired patrons.

Fighting for accessible cinema

Arts Access Victoria advocates for people to have appropriate access to festivals, performances and events. It has also become a leading advocate fighting for accessible cinema.

Art Access Victoria runs The Other Film Festival, an arts festival for people with disabilities. It has also worked with the Melbourne International Film Festival to help improve their venue access for patrons with disabilities.

The film festival is about social change, says Rick Randall, director of The Other Film Festival. We can't exclude people with disabilities from their right to see performances.

Mr Randall said Arts Access Victoria hopes to build a long-term partnership with the Melbourne International Film Festival and to set standards for others to follow.

We're keen for film festivals and cinemas to know there are people with disabilities out there who want to go to the cinemas and events, Mr Randall says. (These people) can't right now with the current lack of access provided at these venues.

The Australian Humans Rights Commission has received an application on behalf of Hoyts, Greater Union, Village and Reading Cinemas for a temporary exemption to the Disability Discrimination Act. This exemption is from complaints in relation to the provision of captions and audio description in their cinemas.

Submissions about the exemption close December 7.

Update: The Australian Humans Rights Commission has decided not to grant the exemption. The commission website (opens new window) has further detail.

Readers comments (1)

That's great news that the exemption has got the thumbs down. Hopefully we will now soon see a lot more accessible screenings in Australia.

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