Complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act could have cost movie exhibitors as much as $275 million for equipment and services. That burden may lighten, however, as a result of a compromise proposed today by the National Association of Theatre Owners and five groups representing the hearing-impaired. The groups will urge the Department Of Justice to tweak its proposed rules to give theaters more flexibility to offer closed captioning and equipment.
The agreement “promises to yield results that will benefit our patrons expand access to movie theaters in a real, practical and measurable way,” says NATO chief John Fithian.
The proposals would require a megaplex theater (with 16 or more screens) to have at least 12 devices on hand for those who want to read a film’s dialogue via closed captioning. But theater owners would track average weekend demand for the units at least every six months. They will then have to have enough units to satisfy 150% of the demand. In addition, theaters would have to post on their websites or ticketing sites which movies have closed captioning. The information would also have to appear near box offices.
Advocates for the deaf “have been fighting for captioning access in movie theaters ever since 1927 when the first ‘talkie’ movies were released,” says John Stanton of The Alexander Graham Bell Association. “Today is truly a landmark day in captioning access history. As soon as these joint comments are effectuated, the days for deaf or hard of hearing consumers to wait for movie to come out on television, video, or DVD for the captions will be over.”