NATO monitors and seeks to influence developments affecting exhibition under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar disability laws and regulations at the state and local level.  In 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) finalized regulations that have substantial impact on movie theater construction and operation in a number of significant areas, including wheelchair seating location, assistive listening devices, ticketing systems and processes, and other construction issues related to access and safety.  The DOJ has also proposed regulations recently to require captioning for the deaf and audio description for the blind.  NATO promotes development of reliable and affordable digital capabilities for accommodating patrons with visual and auditory impairments.  Closed captioning capabilities remain a critical facet to system requirements for digital cinema.

Improving Accessibility Fact Sheet

2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

The DOJ’s 2010 Revised ADA Standards for public facilities, including movie theaters, were published in the Federal Registeron September 15, 2010. The Standards became effective March 15, 2011—six months after publication. Compliance with the 2010 Standards became required on March 15, 2012 for new construction, alterations and barrier removal. Between September 15, 2010 and March 15, 2012, covered entities were able to choose between the 1991 Standards or the 2010 Standards.

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ADA Title III Regulations

The 1991 Standards (printed as Appendix A of the title III regulation in the Code of Federal Regulations, July 1, 1994)

Department of Justice (DOJ) Notice of Proposed Rule

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it expects to issue a proposed rule in October 2013 addressing the requirements for captioning and video description of movies exhibited in movie theatres under title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodation.

An advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) published on July 26, 2010, gives some insight into what the new proposed rule will entail. In the ANPRM, the DOJ said it was considering a regulation that would contain a sliding compliance schedule whereby the percentage of movie screens offering closed captioning and video description would increase by 10 percent on a yearly basis—until reaching the 50 percent mark in the fifth year. NATO submitted comments in response to the ANPRM in which it argued that requiring that 25% of screens be equipped would provide wide-spread access for persons with disabilities.

Department of Justice Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: DOJ-CRT-2010-0007-0001

NATO Response:  NATO StatementNATO ResponsesAttach A – DOJ-NPRM-NATO Comments 2008Attach B – NATO Amicus Curiae Brief

CINEMA Act (S. 555)

On March 13, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee, announced legislation that would expand access to captioning and image narration in movie theaters. Specifically, the Captioning and Image Narration to Enhance Movie Accessibility (CINEMA) Act would amend Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) to require movie theater complexes of two or more theaters to make captioning and video description available for all films at all showings. Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodation.

On May 14, NATO at a HELP Committee hearing in relation to the bill entitled, “The ADA and Evolving Technologies:  Improving Accessibility From the Movie Screen to Your Mobile Device.”

Testimony of John Fithian, NATO President and CEO
Harkin Hearing Testimony Summary