U.S. Department of Justice Invites Public Comments on Movie Captioning and Audio Descriptions

By Renee Dopplick, ACM Director of Public Policy
August 29, 2014

The U.S. Department of Justice is accepting comments on proposed changes to its regulations for captioning and audio descriptions in movie theaters under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title III covers public accommodations and commercial facilities, including movie theaters. The proposed rule provides specific requirements for movie theaters to provide effective communications for patrons with hearing and vision disabilities through access to text-based captions and audio descriptions. Comments are due September 30.

The U.S. Department of Justice proposes to require movie theaters to:

  • Provide closed or open captions and audio descriptions for movies shown with digital cinema systems unless it would result in an “undue burden” of significant difficulty or expense;
  • Make a certain number of captioning and audio devices available for patrons based on a sufficient amount for the number of seats;
  • Train staff on how operate the equipment;
  • Train staff on how to show patrons how to use those devices; and
  • Inform the public about caption and audio availability.

Movie theaters would still be allowed to show movies without captions or audio descriptions if the movies are produced without captions or audio descriptions.

The U.S. Department of Justice also seeks input on setting a compliance date for the few remaining analog screens. In a “Questions and Answers” posting about the proposed rule, the U.S. Department of Justice reports that nearly 94% of movie screens nationwide have converted to digital. One option is to require analog theaters to comply fully within four years from publication of the final rule. Another option is to defer that decision and rulemaking until a later date.

For additional information, read the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations-Movie Theaters; Movie Captioning and Audio Description.”