Justice Department Announces Proposed Amendment to Americans with Disabilities Act Regulations to Expand Access to Movie Theaters for Individuals with Hearing and Vision Disabilities
The Justice Department announced today that Attorney General Eric Holder has signed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the Title III regulation for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to require movie theaters to provide closed movie captioning and audio description in order to give persons with hearing and vision disabilities access to movies.
"This proposed rule will allow all Americans, including those with disabilities, to fully participate in the moviegoing experience. With this proposal, the Justice Department is taking an important step to ensure consistent access for people with vision and hearing disabilities," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "Twenty-four years after its passage, the Americans with Disabilities Act remains a critical tool for extending the promise of opportunity and inclusion for everyone in this country."
Closed movie captioning refers to captions that are delivered to the patron’s seat and are visible only to that patron. Audio description enables individuals who are blind or have low vision to enjoy movies by providing a spoken narration of key visual elements of a movie, such as actions, settings, facial expressions, costumes and scene changes. Audio description is transmitted to a user’s wireless headset. The department is proposing to provide a consistent nationwide standard for movie theaters to exhibit movies that are available with closed movie captioning and audio description for all showings. The department is also proposing to require theaters to provide a specific number of closed captioning and audio description devices. Theaters need not comply with the proposed rule if doing so would cause an undue burden or fundamental alteration. The department is not proposing to require movie theaters to add captions or audio description to movies that are not already produced and distributed with these features.
The department is proposing a six-month compliance date for movie theaters’ digital movie screens and is seeking public comment on whether it should adopt a four-year compliance date for movie theaters’ analog movie screens or should defer rulemaking on analog screens until a later date.
“As we celebrate the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Saturday, we are reminded that people with disabilities still do not have full access to all aspects of American cultural life,” said Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “Although some movie theaters are making strides towards meeting their ADA obligations, there is a good deal of inconsistency among theaters across the United States. This proposed rule is intended to ensure that, regardless of where a person with a hearing or vision disability lives, that person will be able to attend movies with their friends and family and fully enjoy this important social and cultural activity.”
On July 26, 2010, the department published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) asking how requirements for movie captions and audio description should be implemented. The ANPRM sought public comment regarding the type of accessibility requirements for captioning and video [audio] description the department should consider, particularly in light of the industry’s conversion to digital cinema technology. The department received more than a thousand comments in response to the ANPRM and these comments were taken into consideration when developing the proposed rule.
The department intends to publish the proposed rule in the Federal Register in the near future, and public comments on the NPRM will be due 60 days from the date the rule is published.
The NPRM is available for review on the ADA website .
Those interested in finding out more about the ADA may call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TTY 800-514-0383) or visit the ADA website.