Movie Theaters Target Of New ADA Mandate
The Obama administration is implementing a new regulation that will require the nation’s movie theaters to do more to accommodate people with disabilities.
Under a final rule published in the Federal Register this month, theaters will be required to provide closed captioning and audio description for any digital movie that is distributed with such accessibility features.
Though the Americans with Disabilities Act has long mandated auxiliary aids and similar accommodations at public facilities, the U.S. Department of Justice said it moved to clarify the obligations of movie theaters in response to widespread complaints from the disability community about the lack of captioning and audio description at cinemas across the country.
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The new regulation is more than six years in the making and since the Justice Department first signaled in 2010 that a rule would be forthcoming, the agency said it has received more than 1,500 comments on the issue.
“The disability community and movie theater industry provided comprehensive insight on this important regulation,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the agency’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.”
To comply, theaters must make equipment available at a person’s seat so that captioning or audio description is only available to the individual who requests it. In addition, movie theaters are required to notify the public of the availability of such technology and have staff on hand to assist with the equipment.
Theaters that show only analog movies are exempt from the new mandate. There are also exceptions for circumstances in which complying with the regulation “would result in an undue burden or a fundamental alteration.”
The new rule will take effect Jan. 17, 2017 and movie theaters must be in compliance by June 2, 2018.