News from the Northwest ADA Center – Idaho
Closed Movie Captioning and Audio Description Required
The Justice Department today announced an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III regulation to further clarify a public accommodation’s obligation to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services for people with disabilities. The final rule provides that public accommodations that own, operate or lease movie theaters are required to provide closed movie captioning and audio description whenever showing a digital movie that is produced, distributed or otherwise made available with these features.
Title III of the ADA requires public accommodations to furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services, where necessary, to ensure effective communication with people with disabilities, and the department j has long held the position that captioning and audio description are auxiliary aids required by the ADA. Despite this obligation and the widespread availability of movies with these features, the department received numerous reports from the disability community indicating that neither closed movie captioning nor audio description is universally available at movie theaters across the United States.
The department initiated this rule making on June 10, 2010, with the publication of its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) and then published its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Aug. 1, 2014. In total, the department received over 1,500 comments on the ANPRM and the NPRM, including a comment on the NPRM that was jointly submitted by advocacy groups representing individuals with hearing disabilities and the movie theater industry. The department intends to publish the final rule in the Federal Register in the near future, and the rule will take effect 45 days after publication.
“The disability community and movie theater industry provided comprehensive insight on this important regulation,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department’s regulation establishes a nationally consistent standard and ensures that, in theaters across the country, people with hearing and vision disabilities can fully enjoy watching movies with their families and friends.”
The final rule requires movie theaters have available and maintain the equipment necessary to provide closed movie captioning and audio description so that it is delivered to a movie patron’s seat and available only to that patron. Movie theaters are also required to notify the public about the availability of these features and have staff available to assist movie patrons with the equipment.
The requirements of this rule do not apply to any movie theater that shows analog movies exclusively. Additionally, the compliance limitations under Title III of the ADA apply to this rulemaking, and thus, the rule makes clear that movie theaters do not have to comply with the rule’s requirements if compliance would result in an undue burden or a fundamental alteration.
This is a big moment for the deaf, many of whom haven’t been to the movies in a long time. Captioned screenings are few and far between. There are several options for movie theaters that have show a digital movie with the closed captioning features. A personal captioning device like the one from Captiveiw is available that fits inside the cup holder with a screen attached. This can be bulky, and the display of text is out of their line of vision to the screen. They can also distract other patrons.
Sony Entertainment Access Glasses are similar to 3-D glasses available at some theaters, but are designed for captioning. The captions are projected onto the glasses and appear to float about 10 feet in front of the user. They also come with audio tracks that describe the action on the screen for blind people, or they can boost audio levels of the movie for those who are hard of hearing.
For many years if a family enjoyed a movie with a deaf family member and then tried to discuss it afterwards, the comments would in no way relate to the plot of the movie. Deaf movie goers admitted that as they watch the screen they simply made up the story in their head. For more information about this rule or the ADA, please visit the department’s ADA website or call the ADA Information Line (1-800-514-0301, 1-800-514-3083, TTY). Once the final rule is published in the Federal Register, a copy will be available on the Federal Register’s website.
Dana Gover, MPA, and ACTCP Certification, ADA Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator
For more information about ADA Technical Assistance visit the NW ADA Center Idaho website: nwadacenter.org/idaho
Phone: Voice and Text 208-841-9422
Idaho Relay Service: 711