Deaf people would like subtitles to be introduced in cinemas so they too can follow the dialogue in films, according to a survey carried out by a Lithuanian student.

“They would be very happy if the cinema would show at least just one subtitled film a week,” 21-year-old student Ieva Lolat said.

However, three of the five main cinemas on the island said they were not willing to provide such a service in their auditoriums, according to Charles Pace, managing director of KRS Film Distributors that supplies the cinemas with films.

Ms Lolat was in Malta for three months as an Erasmus student during which she carried out a study on the use of subtitles on behalf of the Deaf People Association.

She found that all the 30 deaf people she interviewed craved the need for more subtitles on local TV stations and cinemas. This point had been raised in a letter to The Times in which a reader, Nicolette Aquilina, pointed out that no cinema on the island provided subtitles for films.

“Deaf people should be given equal access to entertainment and the opportunity to participate in the social activities that other (hearing) people are used to enjoying without any difficulty,” Ms Aquilina wrote, noting she had also sent a letter to KRS.

Contacted yesterday, Mr Pace said he had spoken to suppliers to ask about the possibility of purchasing subtitled films. The suppliers had assured KRS this was possible. Consequently, Mr Pace said, he contacted the five main cinemas – Eden in St Julians, Embassy in Valletta, Empire in Buġibba, Tal-Lira cinema in Fgura and the Citadel cinema in Gozo. Only one cinema said it would look into the matter. Three said they would not introduce subtitled films and the other cinema did not reply, he said, without identifying the cinemas.

There are about 400 deaf people in Malta, 60 of who form part of the association.

Mr Lolat’s study was not limited to deaf people as she also interviewed 500 other individuals. She was surprised to find that almost 80 per cent would like to see more subtitles, with the majority wanting to see them on films, documentaries and television series.

About 58 per cent said they would have liked to see subtitles in cinemas. Of these, 66 per cent wanted the subtitles in English.

Ms Lolat is reading for a Bachelor’s Degree in management and learning services at Lithuania’s Vytautas Magnus University. When she graduates, in 2012, she wishes to work with an organisation for deaf people.

When she set off for Malta, three months ago, she did not know what to expect but was surprised with the support she received. Since she has a disability and walks with the help of crutches, she had a problem making her way up the three flights of steps to get to her St Paul’s Bay apartment. A friend from the deaf association came up with an idea and made her a metal clasp he fixed in her apartment block’s landing. This allowed her to lock her crutches on the ground floor and free her arms to make her way up the stairs.

“Another problem I faced was that the very last step was very high and I struggled to make it. One day, I returned home and found that my neighbour had turned the high step into two steps... And another time, when I was handing out the questionnaire, one man in a shop gave me a rose. Where else does that happen?” she giggled.

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