Throughout this campaign, it has felt a little like running an obstacle course.
The first obstacle, right at the beginning before it was even a campaign and when it was just a cinema trip gone bad, was the total lack of deaf awareness displayed by the management staff.
“You’re welcome to stay and watch the film anyway if you like. No charge.”
Well, gee thanks, but would you stay and watch a film in Martian if it was free? No. You wouldn’t. If this campaign doesn’t, at the very least, change the levels of deaf awareness in the cinema industry I’ll feel crazy.
This obstacle is like a water obstacle. It bogs you down, you know its going to come up time and time again, there’s no getting away from it. Sometimes you’ll feel as though you’re drowning in it and sometimes it’ll just be a splash. But its always there. This whole experience has been saturated in it.
The next obstacle has been all the people who insist that actually the situation is pretty good. They’re the people like Cineworld who assure me that “Concerning the number of subtitled performances available across our cinemas, our expectations are that each cinema should have at least one current mainstream film screened with subtitles twice a week (that’s a minimum of 172 screenings across the UK each week)” but won’t tell me how many screenings they have in total. So I counted all the screenings at the Cineworld in Basildon between today and next Wednesday; there are just over 550. They have 5 subtitled screenings. You may think “WELL DONE CINEWORLD BASILDON!” but hold your horses. If you happen to work 9-5, like many people with and without hearing loss, you can only go to two of the screenings. The two you can go to are children’s films. You’ll need to take the day off work to go and see 50 Shades Darker, because even though there are 123 screenings of it in the next 7 days, Cineworld Basildon are only subtitling one of them. At 10.30am on Monday. Perfect for a night out with the girls. Oh. Wait. No it isn’t.
This obstacle is the high one. It’s the biggie. If we continue to settle for the status quo that is being sold to us, we’ll be climbing over this obstacle forevermore.
The last obstacle is the sheer obstructive nature of some of the organisations we have come into contact with. Cineworld, for example, will now no longer engage with us via email. We have to write an actual letter to them; find a printer, an envelope, a stamp, a postbox. The UK Cinema Association will not give us access to their Disability Working Group, not even to address them.
I like to think of this obstacle as the mean one. That net thing that you have to crawl under, the one with the electric shocks. It’s designed to beat you down, to make you drop out, to make you go away. But, I have a printer, an envelope, a stamp. There’s a postbox just outside my house.
And as with all obstacle courses, there are the exhilarating moments. The people that cheer you on (thanks Hearing Loss Cornwall and Limping Chicken!), the meetings that were much easier than you anticipated, the sense of progress. I don’t know what we will win at the end of this, but at the very least we’re definitely competing.