Deaf celebrities put 'in separate screening room' during UK premiere of Dungeons & Dragons film

Rose Ayling-Ellis pictured at the National Television Awards 2022. Credit: PA

Strictly Come Dancing champion Rose Ayling-Ellis has described how she and other deaf celebrities had to watch the premiere of Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves in a separate room on Thursday night.

Ayling-Ellis, a former Eastenders actress and Strictly's first deaf contestant, was among many deaf guests invited to the Cineworld screening in Leicester Square - including twin fashion bloggers Hermon and Heroda, and Call The Midwife star Samantha Baines.

Alongside a picture of her outfit, Ayling-Ellis posted on Instagram: "It is my first time to [a] film premiere because they provided subtitles and BSL interpreter, kudos to them!

"But they put me and all the other deaf guests in a separate screening room.

"It's a slow process, we still have a long way to go. Deaf cinema goers should be able to have the same experience as hearing fans all over the country."

Under her post Hermon and Heroda commented: "Yep you got that right, we gave them feedback last time."

Another of Rose's followers replied: "What?! One of the things you said in your Alternative MacTaggart lecture rings so true here... 'nothing about us without us'. Why didn't they consult the deaf community on the best way to provide inclusivity?"

A third said: "As a hearing person I am beyond sad and frustrated for the deaf community at your experience last night. Did the cinema think you were going to spoil the night for hearing people with subtitles and you needed to be placed somewhere else separated?

"I've got an idea for cinema heads - at the next premiere make the film fully accessible for the deaf community and there's a separate room for people who don't want subtitles."

Deaf actress and author Samantha Baines, who was also directed to the separate room to watch the film, posted on Instagram: "It was a shame we were put in a separate room from everyone else - 'the deaf room' (I've named it) instead of the film being subtitled in the main screening room but SOME accessibility was a start."

Speaking to ITV News today, Ms Baines said: "It would have been nice to have watched the film with everyone else and because the film is so fast-paced I think subtitles would have been useful for everyone.

"It's really good if you can be accessible but make sure it's a nice experience for deaf people. We were included but it didn't feel inclusive."

Another deaf guest who didn't want to be named said they were asked on arrival: "Are you here for the deaf screening?"

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Earlier this month, it was announced that deaf film fanatics would be able to preview the movie with captions in cinemas across the UK before the film was officially released.

At the time of that announcement Kezia Williams from film production and distribution company eOne said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with the charity Chloe and Sophie's Special Ears (CSSEF), Picturehouse and The Light to give deaf cinemagoers the chance to be some of the very first audiences in the UK to see Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves.

“The film celebrates how it’s only a diverse group of adventures that can overcome the many challenges thrown at them.

"In the same spirit, we’re excited to be playing our part in making the movie’s release in cinemas as welcoming and inclusive as possible.”

Justice Smith, Hugh Grant, Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Rege-Jean Page, Sophia Lillis, and Daisy Head, pictured at the film's UK premiere Credit: PA

She also said that front of house staff from both chains would also be offered basic training in British Sign Language from a qualified tutor at Chloe's and Sophie's Special Ears Fund (CSSEF).

Karen Jackson from the charity said at the time: “It’s 2023, we need to wake up and realise that with over 11 million deaf people in the UK, cinema just hasn’t been accessible. “Change needs to happen, eOne have taken a bold step.”

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) is campaigning for better access to subtitles and BSL interpretation and has launched a survey to gather viewers' opinions on subtitles and British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation on on-demand TV services.

Teri Devine, Associate Director of Inclusion at RNID said: “Subtitles allow people with hearing loss and people who are deaf to enjoy TV programmes and films together, without the need to watch separately.

"It’s disappointing that Dungeons and Dragons didn’t caption their main screening on this occasion, especially as they had made the effort to invite members of the deaf community."

ITV News has contacted eOne for comment.

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