CAPTIONED Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
Bryant Park 2016 (1)

Bryant Park 2016 (2)

On February 28, 2009, a member of HLAA-NYC wrote to the Bryant Park Corporation requesting open captioning for the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival. Fast-forward to July 4, 2016, when Top Gun became the first open-captioned film on the park's main screen. After years of persistent advocacy, people with hearing loss attending the Festival can now experience "full and equal enjoyment" of the films, as per Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As reported by HLAA Board of Trustees member Toni Iacolucci, the HBO Film Festival at first showed films via 35mm projection, which could not accommodate captions. HLAA-NYC, working with Commissioner Victor Calise of the NYC Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities and Ted Finkelstein of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, researched captioning alternatives, and passed this information along to Bryant Park and HBO officials. For a season and a half, Festival administrators streamed captions to smartphones, and for the next three seasons they arranged for live CART captioning. Although helpful, these required looking back and forth from the captions to the screen. And in the case of CART, viewers had to sit in designated areas at distances that obscured speech-reading and other visual cues.
In 2015 the Festival switched to digital projection but continued to provide CART. Rather than settling for less than optimum access, HLAA-NYC continued to advocate. For the first two screenings of 2016, the Festival projected captions on a screen below the main screen. However, those captions were too low and sightlines were blocked by viewers in the front rows. HLAA's advocacy efforts bore fruit on July 4, 2016 when, for the first time since the Festival began over 20 years ago, onscreen captions provided clear, effective access for all spectators.
HLAA-NYC would like to thank its members for attending Festival screenings to evaluate and support captioning. Thanks, also, to Commissioner Victor Calise and Ted Finkelstein for their support in working to provide equal access to the Festival; to Lauren Schechter (CART provider) and Matt Kaplan (Globetitles) for providing interim access; and to HLAA member Marjorie Weiss for helping to initiate this project and for researching captioning options. Special thanks to HBO and the Bryant Park Corporation for their commitment to provide the most effective accessibility to people who have hearing loss or are deaf.

Upcoming films include The Big Chill, High Plains Drifter, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. To see dates and times, click here.
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