The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it clear that movie theaters are a place of public accommodation and should provide the accommodations needed by people with disabilities, including people with hearing loss. Theaters are required to provide assistive listening devices and have worked to comply with that regulation for many years. However, until recently theater owners have successfully contended they were not required to provide captioned movies.
In April, 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act does require movie theaters to show closed-captioned movies unless doing so would constitute an "undue burden." Then in July, 2010, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that made it clear closed captioning of movies would be considered a reasonable accommodation. At the same time, theaters had begun the process of installing digital movie systems. With the installation of digital technology, providing closed captioning in the theater becomes more affordable as well as technically achievable. We expect to see more and more captioning of movies as digital technology is rolled out in theaters across the country.
On June 10, 2010 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations – Movie Theaters; Movie Captioning and Audio Description.” Six-and-a-half-years later, the DOJ has issued a Final Rule on the ANPRM.
In their Final Rule, the DOJ requires movie theaters to:
After years of persistent advocacy the HLAA New York City Chapter has succeeded in making the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival (in midtown Manhattan) fully accessible for people with hearing loss. On July 4, 2016 a screening of Top Gun became the first open-captioned movie since the Festival began more than 20 years ago.
If you missed our email about HLAA and other consumer groups’ agreement with the National Association of Theatre Owners to ensure greater access to captioned movies, read about it now.
HLAA and AG Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing filed additional comments with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide more input to the DOJ regarding movie captioning.
Panel at the table, from left: John Fithian (NATO, president & CEO); John Stanton (AG Bell, volunteer); I. King Jordan, Ph.D. (Gallaudet University, president emeritus, and ALDA); Anna Gilmore Hall (Hearing Loss Association of America, executive director); Andrew Phillips
(NAD, policy counsel); Randy Smith (Regal Entertainment Group, senior vice president,
chief administrative officer & counsel)
The proposed regulation was published in the Federal Register on August 1, 2014, and the comment period was to close on September 30, 2014; however, on September 2, 2014 the Attorney General granted a 60-day extension of the comment period and all comments are now due on December 1, 2014.
Hearing Loss Association of America and AMC Theatres®
Reach Landmark Agreement to Dramatically Improve Access to Movies
for Millions of Patrons with Hearing Loss in New York State
HLAA is thrilled to announce that Senator Tom Harkin, long time advocate for people with disabilities who was a sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act and is now chairman of Senate Committee Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) introduced two bills ensuring greater access to captioning at the movies and on airlines. According to the news release issued March 13 by the HELP Committee:
Regal Entertainment Group announced a milestone with 200 theatres nationwide now offering the Sony Entertainment Access System at theatres across the country.