The Department of Justice is set to mandate theaters provide full closed captioning and audio description technology to service the blind and deaf, the Hill reports.
The regulation, arriving 24 years after the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act, has been on the agenda for four years and is now finally moving towards appearing in the Federal Register, which will then start a 60-day comment period. All theaters are expected to comply with the newly proposed regulations within a six-month time frame.
How it works is that captions would be delivered directly to the requested theater seat. The captions would be viewable only to the patron. Additionally, wireless headsets would allow individuals with imperfect vision to follow along through spoken narration of movie scenes.
“This proposed rule will allow all Americans, including those with disabilities, to fully participate in the moviegoing experience. With this proposal, the Justice Department is taking an important step to ensure consistent access for people with vision and hearing disabilities,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.
However, for movies that do not come with these features embedded, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is not requiring theaters to supply those, since that would constitute hardship. Movies must come with closed captioning features for the regulations to apply.
The DOJ is open for comment on whether older, analog theaters should be given a compliance extension of up to four years, or whether the regulations should only apply to newer theaters with more updated technology. Current estimates hold that the costs associated with the regulation will total between $117.8 million and $225.9 million dollars over 15 years. The DOJ insists that the 1990 statue gives it the authority to mandate these new changes.
“Twenty-four years after its passage, the Americans with Disabilities Act remains a critical tool for extending the promise of opportunity and inclusion for everyone in this country,” Holder said.
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