WGBH’s Accessible Media center waives theater captioning fees

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The Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH in Boston is permanently waiving license fees for its patented movie-theater captioning system, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its work to improve media for users with disabilities.

Larry Goldberg, WGBH’s director of media access and head of NCAM, told Current that most theaters have made a one-time payment of around $2,000 for the license.

The center hopes the waiver will encourage more theaters to offer Rear Window Captioning, one of several systems available for viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. More than 400 theaters nationwide have installed the technology since it was first available in 1996, WGBH said in a statement.

To use Rear Window, viewers look into clear panels in front of their seats that reflect a large LED screen on the theater’s back wall displaying captions in mirror image. By adjusting the angle of the panel, they can read the words as they watch the film.

Congress is considering legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) that would require most movie theaters to offer such captioning services as well as descriptive narration for patrons with vision problems.

NCAM was founded in 1993 with a major grant from CPB. In addition to Rear Window, the center’s DVS Theatrical system offers narration via wireless headsets for moviegoers who are blind or visually impaired.

This item was first published in Current, April 1, 2013

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