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Deaf developers strive to make movies more accessible

Note: Captionfish.com available nationwide including Texas. Check it out!

Deaf developers strive to make movies more accessible

John Cook
Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finding movie listings these days is a relatively simple process, with
multiple outlets publishing show times on the Web and via mobile
applications. But if you’re deaf, hard of hearing or visually impaired it
can be tough to find an accessible theater.

Chris Sano and Brendan Gramer are on a mission to change that with
Captionfish, an online directory which shows movie times for local theaters
that include captioning, subtitles and descriptive audio. Think of it kind
of like a Flixster for the deaf.

Sano, a 32-year-old software engineer at Microsoft, and Gramer, a
39-year-old user experience designer at Amazon.com, are both deaf technology
professionals who work on Captionfish in their spare time. The idea emerged
after Gramer moved to Seattle two years ago and struck up a friendship with
Sano, both of whom were of the belief that movies should be more accessible.

“We want all movies to be captioned everywhere, and in order for that to
happen, theaters need to see that the demand is there,” said Gramer via
email. “We believe the best way to create this demand is for people to go to
the showings that theaters make available today. The biggest issue is that
often people aren’t aware of those showings for a variety of reasons,
primarily because show times are difficult to find if you don’t know where
to look.”

Captionfish attempts to solve this problem by aggregating accessible show
times for theaters across the nation, Gramer said.

For example, a visitor to the site in Seattle can see that the Harvard Exit
is currently showing “The Girl Who Played With Fire” in Swedish with English
subtitles. If that’s not your cup of tea, Lincoln Square Cinemas in Bellevue
is showing Eat, Pray Love, Nancy McPhee Returns and Scott Pilgrim vs. the
World with open captions at select times throughout the week.

But the site — launched in May 2009 — doesn’t stop there. Captionfish also
shows movie trailers with captions, and the company just unveiled a free
iPhone app.

Gramer said the site is attracting about 1,000 unique visitors per day and
they’ve been thrilled with the reception so far. At this point, the former
Chicagoan said he hasn’t given a lot of thought to the business model.

“We like money, but money isn’t our motivation. It’s more about promoting
equal access in theaters,” he says.


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