The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is proposing new accessibility requirements for movie theaters. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act contains broad language prohibiting public businesses from discriminating against people with disabilities. In many cases, public businesses are required to provide or use “auxiliary aids and services” to effectively communicate with people with disabilities, which might include sign language interpreters, large print text, Braille, or other services. These general ADA requirements already apply to movie theaters, but the amount of movies available with closed captioning and audio description varies depending on the location and ownership of the theater. The proposal is an attempt to solve this issue by specifically requiring movie theaters to provide closed captioning and audio description whenever those features are included in the movies made by film studios. The DOJ proposal would require movie theaters to do two things:
1. To show movies with closed captioning and audio description at all times and for all showings, as long as the movies are produced with those features.
2. To have a set number of individual closed captioning and audio description devices on hand, and staff who know how to operate the devices and are able to demonstrate how to use them.
The number of closed captioning and audio description devices movie theaters would be required to have on hand depends on the number of seats, but would be at least one of each device. For theaters that have digital screens, the new rules would take effect six months after the final rule is published in the Federal Register. DOJ is currently debating if theaters with analog screens should have extra time to buy closed captioning and audio description equipment, or if the new rules should even apply to them at all.
The full proposal is available at the Federal Register website. To share your thoughts on the proposal please visit https://federalregister.gov/a/2014-17863 and click “Submit a Formal Comment” at the top right of the page. Comments are due by September 30th, 2014.
We are posting this for information purposes as a courtesy to our readers. We are not affiliated in any way with this proposal. For more information please review the proposal on the Federal Register website and/or contact the DOJ Civil Rights Division at 202/307-2227.