Catherine Hetherington, who is hearing and has Deaf parents, has recently started campaigning for better cinema subtitles, setting up her own website, Causing a Scene. We asked her how it all came about…
What led you to start doing this?
In in August my Mum came to visit me in Cornwall. My Dad’s not really one for the cinema, so when it’s just me and my Mum we tend to try and catch something.
The night we wanted to go, there was only one film in the whole county and it was in a town half an hour away at 9pm. Not ideal but we didn’t really have a choice. When we arrived, the subtitles weren’t shown, despite me checking youlocalcinema.com, the cinema website and checking at the cinema. I was really mad.
Why are you so passionate about it?
I’m really passionate about it because it’s 2016. This situation is ridiculous. Access for people with disabilities and different needs is better than it ever has been, but so it’s still so far away from where it could and should be.
And, to be honest, I’m passionate about it because I really love my Mum. She’s a really strong woman and a real inspiration; I hate that she could be made to feel like she is less important just because she can’t hear.
What progress have you made?
So far I’ve been in touch with a lot of cinema distributors (who have all said that they support an increase in subtitled showings), had some meetings with local cinemas and hearing loss charities. I’ve also run a small survey, the results of which I’ll be publishing on my website soon!
What barriers have you found?
Sadly, there’s been so many more barriers than anything else. I’ve found lots of organisations obstructive and closed.
Cinemas say things like “we don’t have enough demand for subtitled films” without taking into account why that’s the case. The UK Cinema Association wouldn’t let me address their disabilities working group.
A leading hearing loss charity declined to support the campaign, saying that it doesn’t fit in with their focuses for this year. At times it’s felt like I am banging my head on a brick wall!
What’s your aim?
My ultimate aim is that my Mum and I would be able to go to any cinema showing without checking two websites beforehand and keeping our fingers crossed that the subtitles will be shown.
I want full access for people with hearing loss or deafness. Until we get there, I want cinemas to actually meet the standards set out by the Equality Act and make the reasonable adjustments that it sets out. Dreaming big!
Catherine Hetherington is the child of two deaf parents who have taught her that you speak up when you see something that is wrong. She works as a healthcare assistant in Cornwall and when she’s not bothering cinemas she can be found on the beach. Check out Catherine’s website by clicking here, and Like the Facebook page here.
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
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