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ACCESS  November 1997

ACCESS November 1997

Subject:

Moviegoing Devices for the Disabled Make Their Debut

From:

Joe Clark <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Mon, 24 Nov 1997 18:26:53 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (88 lines)


The following gobbeldygook is the URL for this story:

<http://www.latimes.com/sbin/my_iarecord.pl?NS-doc-path=/httpd/docs/HOME/NEWS/LE
ARNING/MONDAY/t000106459.html&NS-doc-offset=0&NS-collection=DailyNews&NS-search-
set=/var/tmp/347a0/aaaa000M77a0b4d&>

                                                    Monday, November 24, 1997

   Moviegoing Devices for the Disabled Make Their Debut
   Entertainment: The systems, on a trial run in Sherman Oaks, assist the
   deaf and blind.
   By SUSANNE GAYLE HARRIS, PHILLIP JACQUES, Special to The Times


   [5]PREV STORY
   [6]NEXT STORY
   W hen Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin goes to a movie
   premiere, she has to rely on a sign-language interpreter to convey the
   dialogue.
        When Mitch Pomerantz, past president of the California Council of the
   Blind, asked a friend to describe a movie's on-screen action, nearby
   viewers weren't too pleased.
        But the moviegoing experience for Americans with vision or hearing
   disabilities may soon change dramatically, thanks to two new technologies
   that debuted last week at the General Cinema Theatre in Sherman Oaks.
        The Rear Window Captioning System provides subtitles--via a
   seat-mounted acrylic panel--that appear to be superimposed on the movie
   screen. The Descriptive Video Service Theatrical system offers descriptive
   narration of on-screen action via wireless headsets.
        Both technologies were developed by the WGBH Educational Foundation
   in Boston with a grant from the Department of Education. They'll be
   available on a trial basis through Tuesday at the Sherman Oaks theater
   during regularly scheduled screenings of Universal Pictures' "The Jackal."
        "I believe we're making history here," said William J. Smith, the
   theater's general manager. Movie theaters have been under pressure to
   accommodate people with disabilities, and the new technologies have the
   potential to provide an effective, relatively low-cost solution.
        The Rear Window system uses a light-emitting diode display mounted on
   the rear wall of the theater. Words are reflected on the acrylic panels,
   which are attached to an adjustable wire stand that fits into the cup
   holder at each seat. The panel unit is portable, enabling the user to sit
   almost anywhere in the theater.
        For the vision-impaired, the DVS Theatrical system provides
   description of actions, settings and scene changes, using infrared or FM
   listening devices.
        Both systems operate in unison, using a CD-ROM player and a special
   reader attached to the film projector that keeps the caption and audio
   information in sync.
        The hardware costs about $15,000 for each theater, and Smith said
   there were no serious technical glitches with the trial installation.
        A key goal of the trial was to get feedback from deaf and blind
   moviegoers, project manager Judith Navoy said. Members of the Greater Los
   Angeles Council on Deafness and the California Council of the Blind were
   invited to try the new systems and complete a questionnaire.
        While written results have yet to be analyzed, the anecdotal comments
   have been favorable.
        Blind patron Mitch Pomerantz, an American With Disabilities Act
   compliance officer for the city of Los Angeles, tried the DVS Theatrical
   system Wednesday night.
        "It was a great experience," he said. "I have used descriptive video
   before, but not in a regular public theater." Pomerantz was accompanied by
   his friend and professional associate, Richard Ray, who is deaf. Ray tried
   out the Rear Window system, calling it "excellent, a brilliant idea."
        But such technology isn't favored by all activists. Many have been
   pressing for all films to have subtitles visible without special
   equipment--a solution opposed by the movie industry as intrusive for other
   patrons.
        Representatives from Sony, DreamWorks, Warner and Fox came to the
   theater and sampled both systems, and Navoy said the response was
   "overwhelmingly positive."
        It remains unclear how quickly the systems might be adopted. Movie
   studios have to agree to create the narratives for the DVS systems at an
   estimated cost of $12,000 per film. And, of course, theater owners have to
   install the gear.
        The subtitling system will work better in some theaters than in
   others, because it requires a direct line of sight from the rear screen to
   the seat-mounted panels.
        With an estimated 24 million Americans living with deafness or
   hearing loss, proponents hope that the industry will consider it in its
   economic interest to move quickly.

   Copyright Los Angeles Times




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