Justice Department Revises Regulations to Require Closed Captioning and Audio Description for People with Disabilities
Americas, November 26 2016
The Justice Department 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 on November 22. 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 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 rulemaking 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 to 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.
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).