Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced in Chicago on April 4, 2012 a “landmark settlement with Illinois’ largest movie theater operator that will provide unprecedented access for people with hearing and vision disabilities.”
Madigan said the settlement with AMC Theaters will provide personal captioning services and audio-description technology in all of its theaters and its 460 movie screens in Illinois.
Madigan was joined by AMC representatives and disability rights supporters, including HLAA, to announce the settlement. HLAA members filed a complaint several years ago with the AG’s office and were instrumental the pursuit of this settlement.
“I have been around hearing loss all of my life,” said Chris Artinian, HLAA National Spokesperson and National Business Walk Chair. “I have a 14 year old son who was born deaf, older siblings, niece, nephews, in laws, and many, many friends with hearing loss. At a young age I remember how the hearing loss community began a grass roots effort to ensure captioning was made available for television and movies. That was over 25-30 years ago. Although, very significant progress has been made through the efforts of HLAA and other great organizations, there still is much work to be done in educating our society and business community on some basic needs so people with hearing loss can continue to enhance their quality of life at work, school, experiencing the arts and the many other things that life has to offer.”
“The Hearing Loss Association of America applauds the Illinois Office of Attorney General and AMC for this historic settlement agreement that will result in more people with hearing loss getting greater access to movies than ever before,” said HLAA’s director of public policy, Lise Hamlin. “HLAA has long advocated for the day when all people with hearing loss will be able to watch movies in the theater any day any time. With this settlement agreement in place, that day is only two short years away for people in Illinois. We look forward to working with AMC and other movie theater owners to ensure that theaters provide captioning in all their screens all the time all across the county.”
Disability representatives Amy Peterson, senior attorney with Chicago-based Equip for Equality, Amber Smock, program director of Access Living, and Marsha Kopp, president of ALDA Chicago, the local chapter of the Association of Late-Deafened Adults all agreed the settlement was a great step forward.
“AMC is committed to providing the best possible moviegoing experience for all of our guests, which includes the conversion to digital presentation,” said Noel MacDonald, vice president of Operations at AMC Theatres. “For the past several years we’ve worked with suppliers to develop digital assistive technologies that can be implemented on a broad scale. We’re excited that this technology allows everyone to join us at an AMC theatre.”
Madigan noted one of the reasons she is pleased with the agreement is that it was reached without litigation, although there is a decade-long history of legal action in other states by advocates attempting to push theater chains, including AMC, to provide equal access to the movies for people with hearing and vision impairments.
Some of the key provisions of the settlement:
- AMC agrees to provide captioning and audio description in 100% of auditoriums in Illinois that AMC converts to digital (all but 4 theaters; no IMAX; no 35 mm theaters).
AMC will roll out captioning and audio description:
- AMC River East by April 1, 2012
- 25% by June 1, 2012
- 50% by Dec. 1, 2012
- 100% by April 1, 2014
- AMC “shall provide sufficient captioning and audio description receivers to meet the ordinary course local market needs at each theater.” OAG will review the data on requests to determine if a sufficient number of receivers have been provided.
- AMC “agrees to make available captioning and AD technology at every screening of every movie in each digital auditorium that is equipped.”
- AMC agrees to keep the equipment in good working order.
- AMC agrees to provide appropriate training for Illinois employees: all new employees, and once a year retraining for all theater employees.
- AMC agrees to advertize the availability of captioning and audio description for each movie at its locations, including showtimes in print, Internet and on the movie phone.
- AMC agrees to report to the Office of Attorney General in writing every 6 months.
For the news release from the Illinois Attorney General’s office: