KC drive-in makes history for hearing impaired, deaf

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — History is being made at a drive-in movie theater in Kansas City, Kan. The Boulevard Drive-In has become the first movie theater in the metro to offer “open captioning” for the hearing impaired.

The cars are parked, the screen is blaring, faces are smiling and people are laughing. Of course, that’s the typical sights and sounds at a drive-in.

The only difference: the words are on the screen.

“This is history,” said James “JJ.” “This has never happened before. To see the first outdoor captioning movie — it’s amazing.”

Some theaters offer closed captioning using a box device the hearing impaired have to hold while also trying to look at the screen.

But, on this night, the picture and words are together.

“I think it will help me and a bunch of other people who are hearing impaired or deaf because it will provide so much help while they’re watching the movie to hear it better and to understand what’s going on,” said Audrey Hartwell, who is hearing impaired.

Hartwell and her family gathered with dozens of others in the parking lot prior to the movie, some as early as 4 p.m. Movie goers gathered for a group photo and reveled in being able to take part in something they usually wouldn’t get to do.

“These are kids who have never had an opportunity to enjoy a movie under the stars just like everybody else can,” said Elizabeth Wheeler, Development Manager for The Whole Person.

Steven Fuller with Cinema KC agrees. “They can go back to their friends, who also have seen the movie in the theater and have that shared experience,” he said.

It’s estimated that 10 percent of Kansas City’s population has some form of hearing loss. So organizers hope this special night won’t be the last of its kind.

“We are hoping that people will see there’s a market for it and it will be something we can offer continuously.”

A portion of Thursday evening’s proceeds will go to Cinema KC, and The Whole Person, which is dedicated to helping people with disabilities. Both groups helped organize the event.

By the way, the crowd got to enjoy “Monsters University” on a pretty perfect summer night.

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