It’s usually only foreign-language movies that have subtitles, leaving the hard of hearing with little choice but to wait for the DVD release of other movies they want to see. And even then, who wants to watch a blockbuster on a small TV screen?
In a short film on the BBC website, reporter Graham Satchell talked to Brit Charlie Swinbourne, who is hard of hearing, about the problem.
“One in six people have some level of deafness and currently that audience isn’t being served well,” he said, adding: ”If you did serve them well, you could well be making more money out of them so there’s good reason for improving the service.”
The solution could come in the form of a special pair of glasses being developed by Sony in the UK. Sony’s Tim Potter, who is helping with the design of the ‘subtitle glasses’, explained what they’re about.
“What we do is put the closed captions or the subtitles onto the screen of the glasses so it’s super-imposed on the cinema screen, [making it look] like the actual subtitles are on the cinema screen,” he said.
After trying them out, Charlie Swinbourne seemed pretty pleased with the effectiveness of the special specs. “The good thing about them is that you’re not refocusing. It doesn’t feel like the words are really near and the screen is far away. It feels like they’re together.”
He continued: “It was a great experience. I think it’s a massive opportunity to improve deaf people’s lives and I think there’s great hope that this would give us a cinema-going future.”
According to the BBC report, the glasses should become available in UK movie theaters next year, with presumably wider availability in the near future if they prove popular.