INTERVIEW: Call For Change to DOJ’s Ruling on Closed Captioning in All Movie Theaters

Harkins rep: “…that button on the side – turn that on, and it should have captions…” What many in the Deaf community think of as a hassle… is about to be getting a lot easier. Howard: “Trying to require captioning in
all movie theaters is not a new request. We’ve been fighting for change for over 25 years. Now we’ve finally had success so Deaf patrons can go and enjoy the movies.” I decided to visit a Harkins theater to see the captioning equipment that’s going to be effected. Last month the Department of Justice (DOJ) passed a ruling that requires all digital movie theaters to provide closed captioning equipment for its Deaf patrons. The National Association of the the Deaf (NAD) partnered with the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) and others on how to improve the DOJ’s ruling on captioning. John: “We felt that the rule was not the
best fit for accommodating Deaf patrons and neither did the Deaf community.” The CEO of NATO, John Fithian, says the new ruling on captioning doesn’t work because… John: “The Department of Justice’s proposed rule was a one size fits all — same number of devices for access all across the country.” The recommendation suggests:
Setting a minimum number of captioning devices across the country.
Monitoring how many people use the devices and then increasing the number of devices where more Deaf patrons are attending movies. The NAD was supportive of this process because… Howard, “Less equipment means people will continue to look for new ways to develop closed captioning equipment and theaters will allow for more open captioning going forward.” John, “This truly is a historic agreement. When the consumer representatives and the industry representatives can come
up with a plan that’s best for everyone… that’s how government should work.” NATO includes about 80% of movie theaters across the country. We’ll know if the DOJ accepted the joint recommendation early next year.

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