Traverse City’s State Theatre seeks to improve the movie-going experience for the visually and hearing impaired
This week I attended a special demonstration at the Traverse City State Theatre to learn about the Sony Entertainment Access Glasses. These devices provide closed-captioning for the hearing impaired, as well as audio assistive technology for the visually impaired. The State Theatre is considering a purchase and sought input from the public.
Nearly 50 people turned out to test the devices. Annie Campbell from the Disability Network helped organized the event which drew members of the community with a wide range of accessibility challenges, including a large group from the TC West ASL class along with a sign language instructor.
A representative from Sony brought a few devices for members of the audience to test. The glasses project captions 10 feet in front of the lenses, but are only visible to the wearer. The text can be adjusted for brightness and distance from the lens, and can be worn over other types of eyewear. Since the captions are projected on the lens instead of appearing on the screen, they fill follow when you move your head, and are not a distraction to other audience members.
"This is as close to open captions as you can get," explained Tyler, the Sony representative who came from California to demonstrate the devices.
An audio assistive part of the device is included in the glasses. The headsets aid the visually and hearing impaired with a description of what’s happening on screen in between the dialog. Imagine a narrator reading scene descriptions from a screenplan.
Deb Lake from the State Theatre was in the house to get feedback from attendees. "We really want the theater to be accessible to everyone," she said. In fact some assisitive technology is already in place. An induction loop system is available to feed sound directly into cochlear implants in the form of a headset. The theatre previous pursued the MOPIX system and decided not to dedicate their fundraising dollars there after discovering they were somewhat cumbersome and distracting to other theater patrons. The good news nearly $7000 was raised to purchase MOPIX, which could be reallocated to the Sony glasses.
Based on feedback from the attendees the Sony glasses are a good solution. The State Theatre plans to negotiate a price with Sony, who previously had only sold these systems to major multiplexes in larger cities. Just another example of why our little community theatre deserves recogintion as the Best Theatre in America!