Magazine article The Small Business Advocate

Small Movie Theater Owners Discuss Proposed DOJ Accessibility Rules

Magazine article The Small Business Advocate

Small Movie Theater Owners Discuss Proposed DOJ Accessibility Rules

Article excerpt

The Office of Advocacy hosted a regulatory roundtable on September 15, 2014, to gather feedback from small movie theater owners on proposed rules that would require them to provide special accessibility equipment for guests with visual and hearing disabilities.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) released proposed rules on August 1, 2014, which would amend the Americans with Disabilities Act to require movie theaters to exhibit all of showings with closed captioning and audio description if the films are produced with this capability. This would require movie theaters to have a certain number of assistive devices available, such as individual captioning devices for hearing-disabled patrons and audio description devices for visually disabled patrons.

DOJ staff members, including Rebecca Bond, chief of the disability rights section, were on hand at the roundtable to give an overview of the proposed rules. Eve Hill, deputy assistant attorney general of the civil rights division at DOJ, explained the three main requirements of the rule: theaters must provide assistive devices for theatergoers, inform the public that they offer the services and have employees on staff who can operate and assist with the equipment.

Hill said that new technology has allowed for better standards for captioning, and while some theaters have already implemented the technology voluntarily, it should be consistently available at all theaters across the country. Under the proposed rules, a theater would be required to have captioning devices based on two percent of seats, and at least one audio description device per screen (and if a theater only has one screen, it would need two audio devices).

Hill explained that under the rules, theaters with digital screens would have six months to comply after the final rule publication. DOJ is seeking public comment on the compliance date for theaters with analog screens. It is contemplating whether it should adopt a four-year compliance date or defer rulemaking until a later date. DOJ estimates that this rule will cost anywhere from $3,000 to $265,000 per small business to implement.

After Hill summarized the proposal, some two dozen small theater owners from around the country had the floor to express their concerns. The overarching consensus among these small business owners was that having to purchase the required amount of devices presented a steep financial burden for them. …

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