Friday, July 25, 2014

Department of Justice Proposes Movie Theater Accessibility

Movie theaters might be getting an accessibility facelift in the near future!

According to officials at the U.S. Department of Justice, new rules regarding captioning and audio description in theaters have been proposed in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many theaters currently have captioning and audio description devices already available for those who request them, but the new rules would set a national standard for accessibility.

At the moment, the proposal would apply to digital screens (these movies are produced with captioning and narration features), requiring theaters to provide a certain number of accessibility devices. However, officials are considering whether or not to apply these rules to analog screens as well.

Assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department, Jocelyn Samuels, says that even as the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act approaches, many people within the disability community to not have full access to all aspects of American life.

“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.” Samuels says. “This proposed rules 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.”

There are exceptions to the new proposal, like for drive-in theaters that would require considerable alteration for compliance.

Officials say the proposal will soon be published in the Federal Register, at which time there will be a 60-day public comment period.

What do you think? Have you ever been to a theater that didn't offer accessibility devices? (The first time I learned about accessibility devices was a couple years ago here at the Portland Art Museum during Kinofest Northwest, a German film festival. Before that time, I never knew!)

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