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Deaf Awareness Week 2020 - Watching Films when Deaf

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

CN: lockdown, cinema, captioning, listening devices, accessible viewings, CEA card


Wishing you a happy deaf awareness week and a safe lockdown!

Here are my previous blogs this week:

Outside of lockdown one of my favourite things is going to see a cinema production with my fiancé. Now, the downside is often these are far and few between, and either ridiculously early or late, but if you plan ahead and know the options out there, you should be able to at least catch a few performances.

So, I thought I would offer some top tips on booking and seeing accessible performances!

Subtitled performances

When it comes to the cinema, I know that many Deaf and hard of hearing favour subtitled cinema viewings. Outside of lockdown, this website [link] will show you where in your area is showing subtitled viewings. If the screening times at your local cinema are unsuitable or doesn’t yet show captioned performances, email them and ask them to!

Types of Accessible performances

Most cinemas offer accessible viewings, including relaxed, dementia friendly, audio described, and captioned screenings – so do check your local cinema's website to find out what they provide. This will either be on a specific page under accessibility, or they may have certain filters when looking to see what’s on.

Relaxed - for people of all ages who are autistic, have learning difficulties and/or other sensory needs, as well as their PA/carers, partners, and family. These are usually every month, although it does vary from each cinema, and they take place in a relaxed environment, which means that the sound is lower than usual and the lights are up. You are also able to move around and make noise, as well as there being no adverts.

Dementia-friendly – these are for people with dementia, as well as their PA/carers, partners and family. They tend to be under 90 minutes and length with a positive theme, usually a musical; and sometimes there is a break halfway through! The lighting stays on low and the volume is lower. Tea and cake are often offered either before or after the screening.

Audio-described – these screenings are usually each week and are notified as ‘AD’ or audio described; during gaps in the film’s dialogue, a narrator’s voice will explain all the action on screen. This is accessed through specific headphones, which means it doesn't affect others watching the film.

Captioned – the screening means you can follow the dialogue and background soundtrack to a film but tend to be limited in number. The screenings will normally be listed as ‘ST’, ‘subtitled’ or ‘CC’, ‘captioned’ on the cinema's website.

Listening equipment

An alternative option to captions that you might find helpful is listening equipment. There are two main types of listening equipment available at cinemas: hearing loops and infrared systems.

Hearing loops are usually in the public areas of the cinema where interaction happens, such as the ticket office, as well as in some cinema screens. A hearing loop sends sound from a source such as a microphone, straight to hearing aids on the hearing loop setting (this used to be called the 'T' setting) – make sure first that your hearing aid has this setting!

Infrared systems are a better option when watching a film as hearing loop systems pick up a lot of interference from other screens. The cinema provides an infrared neckloop receiver and you turn on the hearing loop setting on your hearing aids. If you haven’t used one before, I recommend asking a member of the cinema staff who should be able to explain it to you.

If any of the equipment doesn’t work, let a member of staff know who can either resolve the issue or give you an alternative one.

Any issues

Letting staff know – staff should have been given disability awareness training as well as briefing on how to use all equipment. If you face any issues during your time at the cinema (I know I’ve had my fair share), make sure you speak to a member of staff or their manager about this. If you are uncomfortable raising issues face to face (understandably!), contact the cinema when you're back home by email. It’s important to make the cinema staff aware of any issues you have experienced so that they can resolve them.

Booking online

Different cinemas have different methods of booking, but the majority of places now give you the ability to book online! This means you simply need to choose the cinema, film, seat and pay, and you’re all sorted! Check with your cinema if there’s an alternative method to book if they don’t offer booking online.

CEA card and concessions

If you require a PA/carer, friend, partner or family member to visit the cinema, many cinemas (such as Cineworld, Vue and Odeon) are involved in a scheme where disabled people (including those who are Deaf or hard of hearing) can get a +1 free ticket for someone helping them when at the cinema.

Many cinemas may ask you to present a CEA card (The Cinema Exhibitors' Association Card scheme), which is a UK national concessionary card developed for cinemas. If you have a CEA Card, you have to pay, but your +1 does not!

To be eligible for a CEA card, they ask for evidence that you are in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Attendance Allowance (AA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP) or hold either Severely Sight Impaired Registration (formerly Registered Blind) or Sight Impaired Registration (formerly Partially Sighted). If you do not meet this criteria but believe that as a result of your deafness or disability you still need someone to accompany you to the cinema, CEA asks you to contact them at For more info go to their website [link].

If you do not have a CEA card, or also fit into another group, there are other concessions. These usually are (but not limited to):

  • Full-time Student (usually require NUS or Student ID card)

  • Senior (Aged 60+)

  • Family ticket (1 adult, 3 children or 2 adults, 2 children)

  • Teen (13 – 17)

  • Child (under 12)


As it’s currently lockdown, most of us are having our own cinema experience from the comfort of our living room, so if you need subtitles, these can be accessed by clicking the CC button (or equivalent) at the bottom of each video. Here are some TV shows and films with and by deaf actors and filmmakers:

TV shows

- Switched at Birth [link] (although it is somewhat problematic… a point I will be coming back to in another blog, so I do not end up writing an essay here!) – Marlee Matlin, Sean Berd, Ryan Lane & others

- The Society [link] - Sean Berdy

- You (season 3) [link] - Daniel Durant

- Tales of the City [link] - Dickie Hearts

- This close [link] (the first Hollywood TV series to have deaf writers, producers, and creators!) - Millicent Simmonds, Nyle Di Marco, Marlee Matlin, & others

- Grey’s Anatomy [link] - Shoshannah Stern

- Titans (season 2) [link] - Chella Man

- The Walking Dead (season 9) [link] - Lauren Ridloff

- Black Summer [link] - Mustafa Alabssi


- A Quiet Place [link] - Millicent Simmonds

- The Sound of Metal [link] – Riz Ahmed & Lauren Ridloff [link]

- Child of a Lesser God [link] – Marlee Matlin

- A Silent Voice [link] - Lexi Cowden

- The silent child [link] - Maisie Sly

Happy binge-watching!

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