The problem

The aim of the Technology Challenge Fund is to stimulate innovation in technology that will allow people with hearing loss to have access to an inclusive cinema experience.

The ideal solution must:

  • Allow deaf and hearing-impaired people to have an integrated cinema experience with the wider audience;
  • Be easy to use for both the cinema and audience member. It must be robust enough to withstand repeated use, and capable of straightforward maintenance and/or be suitable for single use;
  • Be financially viable for venues to install and use; the solution cannot be prohibitively expensive;
  • Utilise subtitling files that align with current workstreams and are affordable for film distribution companies; and
  • Be compatible with existing cinema infrastructure and technology.

Potential audience reach


admissions to UK cinemas in 2017


of adults in the UK visit the cinema each year


of adult cinema-goers will visit the cinema at least three times per annum


of the cinema-going audience are disabled


cinema visits from disabled customers to UK cinemas per year


estimated annual spending power of disabled adults in the UK – potentially major spenders in the entertainment sector

1 in 6

16% (11m) of the UK population have some form of hearing loss


it is estimated that this will rise to one in five (15.6m people) by 2035


children with hearing loss in the UK. Around half are born with hearing loss; the other half lose their hearing during childhood


people in the UK have severe or profound hearing loss


of 50+ year olds have hearing loss


of 70+ year olds will develop hearing loss

While UK legislation requires that cinemas make what are called ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable disabled customers to attend the cinema, it is the application of best practice that underpins all of the work undertaken by the UK Cinema Association and its members in ensuring that the UK sector does all it can to meet the needs of disabled customers.

Given the number of deaf and hearing impaired people in the UK, the Fund’s objective is not just about what the law requires, it also makes good business sense.

Market opportunity

The UK Cinema Association represents over 93 per cent of the UK cinema market, including the three largest cinema chains, Cineworld, Odeon and Vue.

  • There are currently over 4,300 cinema screens across 800+ sites that could be enabled with new technology for subtitling.
  • The Association has commitment from the three largest UK cinema chains (Odeon, Cineworld and Vue) to trial any viable solutions arising from this process.
  • While there is a finite UK market for any new technology created, the challenge being addressed is a Worldwide one. Assistive technology is in use in some international markets, but none of the systems in existence fully meet the criteria set out in our key objectives. The UK Cinema Association has potential routes to European and International markets.
  • The development of a viable and inclusive closed captioning solution will not only serve the deaf and hard of hearing community but could easily provide a solution for the provision of foreign language tracks – a vast and currently untapped market.

“I love going to the cinema to see the latest films and blockbusters with my friends and family. But as a person with profound deafness, I need subtitles, which are few and far between, to understand what is happening. This means a lot of planning is involved with my friends and family to have an inclusive experience. If there was a possibility of a easy to use technological solution in cinemas across the UK, I would be able to go to any screening I want, when I want and have a cracking good time with my friends and family whilst leading the independent life I want to choose.” Deaf cinema-goer