NEW ORLEANS — The deaf and hard of hearing community say they keep running into a problem at movie theaters across the Greater New Orleans Area.
They go to a theater a day in advance to make sure there are working closed-captioning devices, so they can enjoy the movie. However, the next day, after they have paid and the movie has started, it's an interruption to everyone because it's broken.
"We are going to the theater and we are being short changed. We are being disappointed," Deputy Susie Cambre of the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office said.
A recent trip to a Covington movie theater prompted them to contact us in the newsroom, but they say it's a chronic problem all over the entire metro area. Deaf and hard of hearing people go to movie, buy a ticket and are silenced.
"The captioning device was broken, so I told the manager, 'You need to order a new one because we all need it,'" Lori O'Neil said.
"I saw a movie last week that I wanted to see and I went over there and I said, 'Is it captioned?' And they said, 'What? What's captioned?'" Henry Brinkmann, Jr. said.
"You get the equipment. You go sit down. You have to wait for it to start to realize it's not working. You have to get up, go find the manager, go find the staff, show them it's not working," Cambre explained.
Cambre has been a voice for education for decades. Because her dad recognized her deafness very young, her early education lead her to be one of the top lip readers in the world. She was International Deaf Woman in the 1980s and is proficient in speech, even though she has never heard a world in her life.
"The theaters feel complacent that they have the signs and that's good enough, and they are not maintaining the equipment. They are not cleaning the equipment. They are not learning how to operate the equipment. They are not teaching their staff," Cambre said.
"Captioning is for everyone, for people who have low English skills, for international people who come here learning English that would help them a lot, for elderly people who are losing their hearing," said Jimmy Challis Gore, President of the Louisiana Association of the Deaf.
Ideally, they say the chair devices are cumbersome. It's hard to watch up at the screen while looking down to read. The batteries die too. They want what Hawaii has, a law passed for open captioning on the screen, just like televisions that all now have to have a built-in chip for closed captioning. But for now they will settle for equipment that just works.
"All we're asking for is just the basic equipment that is promised to us," Cambre emphasized
We asked the people at Movie Tavern in Covington to respond to our story, but have not heard back.
Editor's Note: Thank you to Wendy Brinkmann Director of Deaf Resources Center of Greater Baton Rouge for interpreting for us.