Theater to add technology for the deaf

This graphic is a square with a blue background with the universal access symbol in the middle.
Universal Access Symbol

Cinemark has agreed to install closed captioning equipment in all of its first-run California movie theaters to ensure accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The decision is in response to a lawsuit filed by the Association of Late-Deafened Adults and Disability Rights Advocates in November 2010 charging that Cinemark’s refusal to install the technology in all of it’s theaters violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide equal access for people with disabilities in a place of public accommodation.

Cinemark is the nation’s third-largest theater operator with almost 300 theaters and nearly $2 billion in revenue.

“We are pleased with Cinemark’s support for captioning. This decision makes first-run movies available to millions of patrons who are deaf and hard-of-hearing in California. They deserve to participate in this quintessential American experience,” said Kevin Knestrick, a lawyer with Disability Rights Advocates, in an April 26 Cinemark news release.

The technology allows individuals to view written text through a personal display device attached to a bendable support room that fits into the theater seat cup holder. The screen is seen through a visor, which shields it from the rest of the audience. The theaters pay a one-time expense of less than $10,000 to install the equipment. It will be available in all of Cinemark’s California’s theaters by mid 2012.

In 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that failure to install close captioning technology is a violation of the ADA, reversing a district court decision.

An estimated 28 million people in the United States are either deaf or hard of hearing.