There are more than 12-hundred bills still alive at the State Legislature, half-way through the session. But, as HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, not all of the measures are sweeping, high-impact legislation.
Less than a dozen supporters for Senate Bills 1156 and 2650 sat in the back of the House of Representatives committee room. The bills would require larger movie theaters in Hawai’i to provide showings with open captioning and audio encoding for the deaf and blind, instead of the current eyewear device being used. Francine Wai is the executive director of the State’s Disability and Communication Access Board.
“The deaf community strongly prefers open captioning to any type of eyewear or other device. When you use eyewear, it also tells everybody in the theater that you’re deaf and hard of hearing. Whereas, if you go to open captioning you just blend in with everybody else.”
The Senate Bills would be combined to remove the prescribed eyewear device and make the movie showings for the deaf and blind permanent. Peggy Liang testified through a sign language interpreter and said using the eyewear device is frustrating.
“With the glasses, in the past, I’ve had lots of problems with them. The battery, maybe runs out, so that during the movie, I have to go out and find somebody, get a replacement, maybe they don’t have a replacement and then I miss part of the movie.”
House Economic Development and Business Committee chair, Cindy Evans, recommended the number of showings be increased from the current one to 2 showings per week in specific time slots.
“An amendment that I’m proposing of at least one showing per week, featuring open captioning; that it shall have a scheduled start time no later than 4:30, and one showing per week shall be on a weekend. And the weekend will be on a Saturday and a Sunday.”
The supporters waved with elation at the unexpected changes increasing their access to movies, especially on the weekends. The amended SB 1156…now goes to the Finance Committee for consideration. Lou Erteschik is executive director of the Hawai’I Disability Rights Center.
“This is not necessarily a bill that’s gonna affect a very large segment of the population, although, even as you get a little older and your hearing is not quite as good. Sometimes you find that maybe watching the captions help you actually see a regular show.”
According to the U-S Census Bureau less than 2 percent of Hawai’i residents are deaf or hard of hearing. Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.