Small Movie Theaters Brace for Rules on Accommodating Blind, Deaf Patrons

Small Movie Theaters Brace for Rules on Accommodating Blind, Deaf Patrons

The Obama Administration loves Hollywood and its cadre of supporters there, but they are considering a proposal that could be financially catastrophic for small movie theaters across the country–forcing them to install technology to aid blind and deaf viewers.

The measure may cost an average of $70,000 per screen.

The proposal, originated in the Justice Department’s civil rights division in 2010, is being reviewed by the White House and would require closed-captioning and audio narration technology in the theaters. In addition, headsets that narrate the film for the blind and glasses for closed-captioning for the deaf would be required. Joanne Howe, the owner of the Clayton Theatre, a movie house in the tiny southern Delaware town of Dagsboro, said, “It is expense after expense, mandate after mandate. The cost is a small fortune for a small theater like us.”

Ninety percent of the nation’s theaters have digital technology; 55 percent have the closed-captioning and narration machines. The trigger for the new regulations may have been a recent administration notice about a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” in October, or possibly the appearance before Congress of Justice Department lawyer Eve Hill, who said in May, “Movies are part of our shared cultural experience. When individuals with sensory disabilities have the opportunity to attend movies that they can actually understand through the use of captions or audio description, they are exposed to new ideas and gain knowledge that contributes to their social development.”