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DOJ: Cinemas must offer tech for blind and deaf customers

Cinemas need to advertise and offer closed captioning glasses and audio description headsets to disabled patrons.
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Digital distribution means that it's no longer a chore to distribute movies with audio description and closed captioning. Despite this, some theaters have resisted offering the service, cutting out people with disabilities from enjoying the full cinema experience. That's what's prompted Attorney General Loretta Lynch to sign a final rule affirming that theaters must own, maintain and advertise disability aids for patrons.

The technology to offer such assistance isn't obscure, with Sony producing a set of "subtitle glasses" that many businesses already own. The technology displays closed captions across the individual's eyes, and Regal outfitted almost 6,000 of its locations with the gear. Audio description hardware, meanwhile, involves a specialized FM radio that plays a secondary audio feed to people with visual impairment or blindness.

The regulations aren't onerous or overbearing and it's not as if businesses need to spend a small fortune equipping their premises out. A single-screen joint only needs to have 4 pairs of glasses and one audio receiver, while multiplexes with more than 16 screens need 12 and 8, respectively. There are plenty of exceptions, too, so cinemas showing analog prints and drive-in theaters are both excluded from the ruling. The move should go a long way to ensuring that everyone can enjoy their trip out to the movies.

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