Open Caption Movie

Action Alert: City Council Legislation

Dear Community Members,  

D.E.A.F. has partnered with HLAA in garnering support for Bill (Int. No. 2020). This bill benefits Deaf/HOH  movie patrons to enjoy their open caption movie going experience by getting theaters to provide open  captions. Your help is needed by clicking on the links provided below and calling your local council  members that serve your district.  

Please ask your members to call or email City Council members. If they don’t live in NYC, it would still be  very helpful if they would contact City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to express support for the bill; if  NYC adopts an open caption movie ordinance such a requirement will follow at the state level and in other cities. Corey Johnson’s contact info is: 212-788-7210 or 212-564-7757; 

Press Release 

City Council Member Helen Rosenthal (District 6, Upper West Side) believes, “Closed caption devices fail to provide  equal enjoyment for deaf and hard of hearing movie patrons. The devices must be requested before a movie be gins and returned afterwards, posing a risk of viral transmission. The technology often fails. The devices often do  not fit snugly in cupholders. And even when they do, users must constantly shift focus from the big screen to the  small captions displayed. The alternative of open, on-screen captions, like subtitles, is easy and inexpensive for  cinema operators to provide on a sustained basis.” 

Council Members Gjonaj and Chin are current co-sponsors of Int. No. 2020. It would be strategic to start by asking  members of the Council’s Progressive Caucus (whom you can see at caucus/) to join them. Please use the link below to see if your Council member is a Caucus member and send him/ her an email, such as the one attached. A follow-up by telephone will be additionally helpful to demonstrate your  preference for open-captioned movie showings as the bill would require.  

A background paper documenting the need for open captioning in cinemas is attached.  You can view the draft bill at:

To easily confirm your District’s Council member and send an email with one click. Just go to gov/districts/.

Council Member Rosenthal’s term limit will expire on 12/31. Let’s all show our support for her initiative and press  the City Council to make moviegoing more enjoyable.

Fact Sheet  

Fairness and Equality at the Movie Theater 

Through a NYC Open- Caption Ordinance 


The roughly 20% or more of people in the general population who suffer from some degree of deafness seek an ordinance requiring a fair opportunity to see  movies with open (on-screen) captions without diminishing the ability of others to see movies without visible captions. Int. #2020, currently before the New York City Council would achieve this. 


  • Because closed-caption viewing devices must be maintained and kept charged and reports of failed maintenance are frequent.  
  • Because theaters have a check-out and return policy and sometimes require  patrons to leave a driver’s license.  
  • Because some people resist self-identifying as deafened and many are self-conscious about explaining the device they are carrying. 
  • Because closed-caption devices are bulky and often don’t fit in cupholders or  enable patrons to read captions without looking away from the movie screen. 


  • If more City Council members sign on as co-sponsors of Int. #2020, the bill can be given a hearing.  


  • Virtually none.  
  • The advent of digital movie projection enabled theaters to receive digital movie packages with open  captions, closed captions or both at no additional cost. 
  • Contrary to the claims of exhibitors, there is absolutely no evidence at all that  scheduling open-caption showings diminishes movie attendance. 


  • Deafened individuals have never stopped pushing for open captions.  
  • Open captions enable seniors to more comfortably enjoy movies in cinemas. 
  • OC’S help young children to improve their reading ability and those for whom English is a  second language to more readily adapt to our culture.  


  • In 2015, Hawaii passed a law requiring some OC showings in addition to CC. 
  • A measure is pending in Washington, DC requiring a minimum of 12% of all  movie showings to be OC.  
  • An experiment in Rhode Island in 2017-18 demonstrated a significant audience  for OC showings — a full 15% of tickets sold. 
  • A Change.Org petition asking for OC has over 22,700 signatures as of 8/31/21.