Advocating for the deaf, blind

LIHUE — While the measure might not affect Kauai theaters in the immediate future, it was a topic close to the representative’s heart.

“Having a son who’s deaf I knew how difficult it was for the deaf community and the blind community to enjoy a movie at the movie theater,” said Rep. James Tokioka, who introduced HB 1272, which was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. David Ige.

Set to begin Jan. 1, 2016, the new law will require public accommodations that own, lease or operate a motion picture theater in more than two locations within the state to provide open movie captioning during two showings per week for each movie that offers it.

It also requires them to provide audio descriptions of any motion picture that offers audio descriptions, upon request.

Not all movies offer captioning or audio descriptions when they’re made. Kauai theaters won’t be subject to Tokioka’s law as none of the operators run two or more locations, so The Kukui Grove Cinema and the Waimea Theater shouldn’t change.

Tokioka said that he hopes that all theater companies will be able to caption their movies in the future.

“I know it’s going to make the lives of the people who are deaf and blind a lot easier when they go to watch a movie at the theater,” said Tokioka, D- Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town, Omao. “It’s just something that I’ve been an advocate for on their behalf.”

Hawaii will be the first state in the nation to mandate accommodations for the hearing and visually impaired at movie theaters statewide, according to a press release issued by the Hawaii House of Representatives.

“In addition, it will bring Hawaii closer to achieving full inclusion for our deaf and blind communities that was first initiated with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,” Tokioka said in the release.

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