VSA ARTs of Texas and AMC theatres team up to make theatres accessible for the deaf and blind community

Illustration By Jason Stout

VSA Arts of Texas commenced efforts recently to raise money for the installation of Rear Window Captioning and Descriptive Video Service equipment in the AMC Barton Creek 14 Cinema. The equipment would allow deaf, hard-of-hearing, and blind patrons increased access to first-run movies at a variety of dates and times.

Though AMC had intended to install a theatre that would fill the needs of deaf and blind audiences within the next two years, VSA decided to expedite the process by offering to raise $8,000 -- half of the money necessary -- for the cause, which AMC will then match. (VSA has already raised $1,000 from the Austin Council of the Blind.) With the exception of the Bob Bullock Museum's IMAX theatre -- which features the technology that VSA is seeking to install -- the Regal Westgate is the only Austin theatre that provides accessibility to deaf patrons, although its open-captioned movies are restricted to certain dates and often inconvenient times for deaf audiences.

It was this lack of theatrical venues for deaf and blind patrons that led VSA intern Lauren Kinsler to propose raising funds for more Motion Picture Access technology in local cineplexes. Kinsler has modeled her efforts on those of Bob Burns, a blind Omaha attorney who offered to raise half the money for the installation of description tracks and captioning for first-run films in his hometown. Within four months, Burns and the larger Omaha community had managed to raise the necessary $8,000, and the technology was installed.

Kinsler believes VSA's current project is one the Austin community will embrace, especially with the Texas School for the Deaf and the Texas School for the Blind located within the city limits. She said that once the equipment is installed in the Barton Creek 14, the theatre would average one new accessible movie per week, which would show several times a day.

"A hearing person or a seeing person can go to a movie any time they want," Kinsler said. "That makes it very important for equipment to be out there for deaf and blind patrons, so that they can go to see movies more often and at convenient times. We should definitely have that in Austin, especially with the large deaf and blind populations we have here. I knew that if we raised this money, it would benefit a lot of people."

VSA approached AMC about promoting accessibility to deaf and blind patrons because the theatre chain has installed the most Motion Picture Access equipment in cities around the United States. The technology -- known as MoPix -- was first developed by WGBH, Boston's public broadcasting station, in 1992 and made its debut at the General Cinema Theatre in Sherman Oaks, Calif., during a showing of The Jackal.

The group held a call-to-action meeting within the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities on June 30 to develop ideas for fundraising. In addition, VSA is reaching out to larger groups, such as the Lions Club and National Association of the Blind, for support and plans to hold fundraising parties in the future, although no dates have been set. end story

VSA is currently accepting donations until the remaining $7,000 is raised. To contribute, send donations to: VSA Arts of Texas, 3710 Cedar St. #7, Austin, TX 78705. For more information, contact Lauren Kinsler at or 454-9912.

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VSA Arts of Texas, AMC Theatres, Barton Creek 14, MoPix®

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