The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has denied a request from major cinema chains for an exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act with regard to providing services for people with a hearing or vision impairment.
Hoyts Corporation, Greater Union Organisation, Village Cinemas and Reading Cinemas had requested the 30-month exemption from the AHRC last year. The exemption would have allowed the cinema chains to be exempt from discrimination complaints in relation to providing captions and audio description in cinemas while they embarked on a limited expansion of these services.
The Human Rights Commission is yet to publish its reasons for the decision but has indicated that it would reject the application.
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities Bill Shorten, who welcomed the decision by the AHRC, said, “People with a hearing or vision impairment have the same right to enjoy a trip to the movies as the rest of the population.”
“I am acutely aware of the difficulties faced by people with a hearing or vision impairment in getting access to a cinema. They often have to travel for long distances or are restricted to certain sessions at a cinema. Requiring patrons with a hearing impairment to attend a Wednesday matinee during work hours should not be considered meaningful access.”
Less than 0.3% of all cinema sessions in Australia were accessible to people who were deaf, hard of hearing or who have vision impairments.
“The cinema industry has made some progress in providing better services for both hearing and vision-impaired customers in recent years, but it needs to recognise that it has a responsibility to cater for the entire community,” Mr Shorten said.
“I believe that there is a market for captioned films and new technology that allows the entire community to enjoy films and that the cinema industry should be looking to capture these potential customers.”