Several leading UK cinema companies – including Odeon, Cineworld and Apollo – are this year showing their support for National Deaf Awareness Week 2012 by increasing their offer of subtitled screenings to deaf or hearing impaired customers.

The national event, which this year runs from 7 – 13 May, is a chance for organisations across the UK to raise awareness and show their support for people with hearing loss.

The Cinema Exhibitors’ Association (CEA), the trade association representing the vast majority of UK cinema companies, has worked with a number of key operators to explore what they might do to contribute to the event. As a result, the three companies named above, plus a number of other smaller operators are either doubling the number of subtitled screenings they normally run, or running subtitled screenings on every day during this week.

The CEA and its members are also working with Action on Hearing Loss to raise awareness amongst cinema staff about hearing loss, offering additional information and advice around the issue and the particular facilities available in many cinemas to support access.

Commenting on the cinemas’ contribution, CEA Senior Policy Executive Dee Davison said:

“We want to make sure that everyone can enjoy the big screen experience and hope that by promoting subtitled films and raising awareness in cinemas during National Deaf Awareness week, we will encourage not only those hard of hearing customers, but also general audiences to experience subtitled films.

We are proud of the progress that the industry has made in providing access to subtitling in cinemas. From a standing start less than 10 years ago, UK cinemas together now show over 1000 subtitled screenings each week. Cinemas, film distributors and technical partners have worked together to make huge inroads into the provision of subtitled films, with most major film distributors now routinely subtitling their films.

We are delighted to be supporting National Deaf Awareness week as part of our ongoing commitment to improving access for all at the cinema.”

Welcoming these moves, Emma Harrison, Action on Hearing Loss’s Director of Public Engagement said:

“Action on Hearing Loss welcomes this initiative from the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association and those cinemas that are helping to raise awareness of the barriers that prevent people who are deaf and hard of hearing from enjoying films. Many of the 10 million people with hearing loss in the UK rely on subtitles to follow films and an increase in this provision is vital in making the cinema experience accessible to everyone.”