This weekend sees a cinema milestone with the UK release of a subtitled version of Disney’s A Christmas Carol – the first ever 3D film accessible to people with hearing or sight loss.

Only now has the technology developed to a stage where subtitles can be overlaid on a 3D image, so that people with hearing loss can enjoy the experience of a 3D film. The problem previously has always been where to place subtitles in the 3D space. Placed incorrectly, these can cause nausea or headache.

Commenting on tes announcement, Disney Studio’s Technical Executive Director, Saul Mahoney, said:

“The Walt Disney Company has worked with the UK film industry and charities representing people with hearing or sight loss to ensure that the 3D cinema experience can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.”

“Disney recognises the fact that as we age, loss of some hearing or sight is inevitable. Access to film via subtitles and audio description is something that we all may appreciate, eventually. So we are working to ensure that every future Disney film is accessible to people with hearing or sight loss.”

The Walt Disney Company UK is a member of the UK film industry’s Disability Working Group (DWG). Chaired by the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, the group aims to ensure that people with hearing or sight loss can enjoy the cinema experience.

Since 2000 it has worked to ensure that the UK leads the world in ‘accessible’ cinema. Most major cinemas now have facilities to screen the latest films with subtitles and audio description (narration) for people with hearing or sight loss. Most popular films are available with these ‘access’ features and ‘accessible’ shows are now a regular feature in cinemas nationwide.

Phil Clapp, CEO of the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association and Chair of the DWG, commented:

“I am absolutely delighted by the news that hearing-impaired cinema-goers across the UK will soon have the opportunity to experience A Christmas Carol in 3D with subtitles. The UK cinema has, I think, a justifiable reputation as the world-leader in the provision of accessible cinema to those with hearing or sight difficulties. Given the importance we all attach to digital 3D cinema going forward, this new development could not be more timely or welcome. I would like to thank all at Disney for their hard work in making this happen. “