Deaf Activist Partners with App to Make Movies More Accessible

Photo Credit: Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock
February 26, 2019

By Kate Gill

When Disney's "The Lion King" debuted in movie theaters in 1994, Nyle Dimarco was desperate to see it. But closed captioning wasn't available in cinemas at the time, so Dimarco, along with other hearing-impaired young moviegoers, would have to wait.

"I had to wait months and months and months ー and we really missed out on that American cultural experience of enjoying films in a movie theater, or even being able to have an opinion about a movie that's coming out," Dimarco, a former contestant on "America's Next Top Model," actor, and deaf activist told Cheddar via an ASL interpreter.

Movie studios and production companies would do well to directly engage the 466 million Americans who suffer from some form of hearing loss, Dimarco said. This demographic has been widely neglected by the film industry ー and they also comprise a major, wide-open market.

Serving that neglected audience is the idea behind Dimarco's latest venture, Actiview, a new app that allows the hearing-impaired to experience movies through closed-captioning, audio descriptions for the blind, and amplified sound for the hard of hearing.

This month, Dimarco and Actiview announced they are partnering with Lionsgate to offer a version of the studio's film "Wonder" with live American Sign Language interpretation ー featuring Dimarco ー only the second U.S. live-action film to have an ASL iteration. (The first was "Ice Age: Continental Drift.")

According to Dimarco, the app also plans to offer the same option for "The Hunger Games" trilogy. He added it's a major milestone, given the film's popularity and cultural clout.

"I really hope for a lot more film studios to pick up on this idea, because they might not realize there's 466 million people with some type of hearing loss and deaf people, as well ー and there's a huge market out there."

He said ASL translations are particularly helpful for hearing-impaired children who are too young to read closed-captions.

"It's really important for the deaf community," he said, "because it's so important for us to have options."

For full interview click here.