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For hearing impaired, Clayton Theatre improves experience

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(AP) β€” In a major step toward accessibility, the Clayton Theatre will offer open caption film screenings for members of the deaf and hearing impaired community.

The new feature will kick off 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14 with a screening of the biographical-drama “Only the Brave,” at 900 Main St. in Dagsboro.

For Joseph “Jay” Innes, a member of the Delaware Association of the Deaf and the Delaware Deaf Senior Citizens of Sussex County, screening films using open captioning is an important first step in making the whole experience of going to the movies available to everyone.

Innes explained in an interview over email that since moving to the Eastern Shore six years ago, he’s only had the opportunity to attend the movies a handful of times.

In Salisbury, he said, a few screenings featured rear view or rear window captioning.

“That approach requires the user to wear special glasses and constantly adjust their sitting position in order to catch captions appearing on a mirror in the back of the theater,” he said. “It’s uncomfortable for many people.”

With open captioning, the text is right on the screen, without any change to the audio of the film.

“They simply add captions in the lower portion of the screen for those who need or desire them,” Innes said.

Realizing a change needed to be made, Innes and friend Barbara White, who is also a member of the Delaware Association of the Deaf and the Delaware and Deaf Senior Citizens of Sussex County, decided to approach the Clayton Theatre.

Innes said that the theater’s owner, Joanne Howe, was enthusiastic about their pitch to run frequent screenings of films featuring open captioning.

Things moved quickly from that point, Innes said, and soon led to Tuesday’s screening.

By implementing open captioning, Innes said the Clayton Theatre should see a boost in ticket sales now that a wider audience can enjoy a film, Innes said.

“(Open captions) benefit not only deaf and hard of hearing individuals but also those who have age-related hearing challenges, speakers of other languages and any individual that will benefit from or desires visual coding of the auditory component,” he said.

A pre-screening dinner for members and leaders of the deaf and hearing impaired community will be held before the screening at 5:15 p.m. at Porto Restaurant in Dagsboro, Innes said.

“I’m looking forward to the experience,” Innes said, noting Tuesday’s inaugural screening. “And enjoying the popcorn that everyone else raves about.”

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