Anti-Discrimination NSW

​Audio description problems in cinema

​Conciliations - Disability discrimination in service provision

​Published: 6 September 2016

A man with vision impairment often goes to the cinema with his wife, using the audio description that is available for some films. They experienced a number of problems relating to these devices. 

On one occasion the assistant tried to give them a hearing loop (for hearing impaired people) instead. At other times, they had gone into the cinema with the playback device, waited through the ads for the film to start, and then found that the description was for the wrong film.

When they notified the staff that they had the wrong description, the staff were unable to help them. As they couldn’t enjoy the film without the correct description, they asked for a refund, which was refused. The man’s wife lodged a complaint of disability discrimination on their behalf about all these matters.

When they next visited the cinema after lodging the complaint, they were asked to fill in a form in advance to get the audio description. They felt this was victimising them for their complaint and also further discrimination, as the increased time involved would cause issues with parking (and filling in a form was difficult for a person with vision impairment to do). 

Also, the man thought it would be difficult for him to find his seat in the cinema because of the delay caused by having to fill in the form. This was complicated further by the fact that he uses a guide dog.

At conciliation, the cinema’s representative was keen to hear the complainants’ concerns and find better ways of providing services for people with a disability. He said that the playback devices were expensive and had to be checked and stored carefully, but people often didn’t return them as asked. He assured the man that the form had only been an attempt to make sure the devices came back and were available for customers who needed them.

The representative agreed that the cinema would consult the complainants about steps to improve the process by which the devices were allocated and other issues for people with a disability. He also explained that there is a specific row for people with a disability and any accompanying dogs, which was otherwise left vacant.

He said he would improve staff training on vision impairment and the use of audio description, and gave the complainants the number of the local manager to call directly if they had any further problems. The complainants felt that the respondent was genuinely keen to improve the service and settled the complaint.

What does the law​​ say about disability discrimination?​

  • It is generally against the law in NSW to treat you unfairly or harass you because you have a disability.​
  • The law states that people must not discriminate against you because you need a particular equipment or assistance from another person because of your disability. 
  • Disability discrimination applies when you get or try to get most types of goods or services - for example, entertainment venues, public transport, local councils, doctors, hospitals and other medical services, hotels, sporting venues and others.​
  • Anti-discrimination law covers a wide range of disabilities and health problems. These includes physical disabilities such as paraplegia, cerebral palsy, vision impairment or hemiplegia following a stroke​

  • You also have the right to get most goods or services on the same terms as people who don't have a disability. ​​

More information on Disability discrimination​​​

​Back to September 2016 - Equal Time Newsletter​​​​​

Related content:

Subscribe to e-newsletter​

Equal Time is the Anti-Discrimination Board’s FREE e-newsletter. 


​To subscribe please email:​​​

Copyright notice and disclaimer​

You may copy, distribute, display, download and otherwise freely deal with the content of Equal Time for personal, educational or government purposes, provided that you attribute the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW as the owner.  

However, you must obtain permission if you wish to (a) charge others for the use of any content of the Board's publications or materials, (b) include any content of the Board's publications or materials in advertising or a product for sale, or (c) modify any content of the Board's publications or materials when reproducing it.  

Equal Time has been prepared by the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW for general information purposes and is not legal advice. While every care has been taken in relation to its accuracy, no warranty is given or implied   Further, recipients should obtain their own independent advice before making any decisions that rely on this information.  ​​​​