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Open captioning coming to Delaware movie theaters

Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
From left to right: Carol Shrader, policy director for the state council for persons with disabilities, Mindi Failing, Delaware Statewide Programs coordinator for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Daphne Werner, language arts teacher at the Delaware School for the Deaf, and 24th State District Representative Ed Osienski (D-Newark.)

Coming soon to a movie theater near you – open captioning. And it is not just for the hard-of-hearing.

Delaware movie theaters will increase access for deaf and hard-of-hearing moviegoers by offering regular showing of first-run movies using open captions on the screen.

Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. that currently has a law requiring a certain number of showtimes to have open captioning. But before introducing legislation here, State Rep. Ed Osienski (D-Newark) is launching a statewide pilot-program in partnership with advocates and movie theaters to offer open captions.

“Imagine being in the middle of a movie, and having your device stop, they don’t stop the movie for you," Osienski said. "You have to get up and find somebody, get the service, get a new device, get back, and you’ve missed a bunch of the movie.”

Daphne Werner teaches at the Delaware School for the Deaf, and brought the issue to Osienski’s attention. They and others gathered at the Penn Cinema on the Riverfront Monday for an open captioning demonstration.

“Open captions benefit everyone, not just the deaf and hard-of hearing," she said. "Whether it’s deaf or hard-of-hearing residents, children, individuals with learning disabilities, English language learners, or there are people who just enjoy captions to better understand the dialogue.”

Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
The movie "Uncharted" will be played in the theater with open captions to illustrate the feature.

Werner and her family all have varying degrees of hearing loss, and were fed up with defective and defunct closed captioning devices.

“As I mentioned in my very passionate email to Representative Osienski, they do not always work," Werner said. "Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they don’t work at the beginning of the movie, you can get it squared away right away, but sometimes they will fail in the middle of a movie and you would have to go and get someone to give you another one or fix it or whatever. And many times, it’s as simple as they aren’t charged. Which was my original frustration.”

The National Association of Theatre Owners will collect data on the impact on theater operations and collect customer feedback. NATO members will display online and at the box office which showtimes offer open captioning.

Participants include AMC in Dover, Cinemark at Christiana, Regal and Penn Cinemas, Westown Movies in Middletown, Milford Movies 9, the Clayton Theatre in Dagsboro, and Movies at the Midway in Rehoboth.