Deaf and hard-of-hearing film fans abused by audience members at local cinema

Vue Cinema at Riverside North
Vue cinema at Riverside North

A hard-of-hearing Bedford woman has spoken out after audience members at a film screening shouted abuse when she asked for the advertised subtitles to be turned on.

Film lover Suzie Sampson, who is also a British Sign Language (BSL) user, booked to see a subtitled version of a film at Bedford’s Vue cinema last week with her son.

Suzie says there were a number of other deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the audience, but when the film started the subtitles didn’t appear.

She notified staff who told her that the subtitles had failed due to a corrupt file but they would try and fix it.

Staff came and explained to the audience why the film was stopped and that there would be a short delay.

It was then that some audience members shouted out that they didn’t need subtitles and that they should put the film on without them.

One man, said Suzie, was even abusive to staff about the delay and the fact subtitles would be on the screen.

“I felt so embarrassed, shocked and disappointed,” said Suzie. “It’s hard enough finding a subtitled film screening as it is and then people reacted that way.”

“Subtitles are not a luxury. People like me need them to enjoy a film like everyone else.”

Suzie says the staff at Bedford Vue were excellent and did all they could to help. She said they too were also very upset at the behaviour of some of the audience.

However, Suzie says more needs to be done by cinemas at a corporate level to cater for deaf and hard-of-hearing film lovers.

“I tweeted about the experience and Vue head office did get in touch, but it felt like they were just reading reading from a script. They just wanted to talk privately and no one actually asked how it made me feel.”

Suzie Sampson tweet to VUE
Suzie tweeted Vue about the experience but says their response seemed scripted

“I don’t want complimentary tickets to another film, I want someone to understand how important this issue is,” she added.

Suzie hopes that by speaking about this experience it will highlight the barriers deaf and hard-of-hearing people face in the day-to-day activities many of us take for granted.

“Deaf and hard-of-hearing people simply can’t go to the cinema when they want,” says Suzie.

“We have to plan ahead for a subtitled screening. We have to wait a week or two for the film we want to see. We don’t have the luxury to just decide to go and see a film at the last minute.

“We need more films with subtitles at times that are more convenient and we need understanding from other people that subtitles are not a luxury but a necessity.”

Suzie says she’s tried to build a working relationship between local staff at Vue and the group Hear Me Out which works to build confidence in young people with hearing difficulties.

“I work with a manager and seem to get somewhere but a high turn over of staff makes this difficult.

“There needs to be someone at head office working with people of all abilities to understand what is needed so everyone can enjoy the cinema.”

“A lot of young people in Bedford with hearing difficulties love cinema, love festivals, and love music, just like every young person.

“Local businesses like Bedford Park Concerts have been excellent at providing sign language interpreters, but big chains just don’t seem to treat it as a priority.”

A Vue spokesperson said: “Vue are committed to delivering subtitled screenings of all the latest releases and on average venues screen two subtitled films per week as well as a monthly Mini Mornings screening.

“Regrettably, on this occasion, the subtitle track was not available as expected initially and all customers in the screening were made aware of this at the time.

“We liaised with the customer directly at the time and offered tickets to an alternative screening.

“We would like to take this further opportunity to apologise to the customer for the disappointment caused and to reiterate our commitment to providing subtitled screenings on a regular basis so that everyone can enjoy the latest in big screen entertainment.”

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