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NATO issues ‘landmark’ access recommendations for hearing disabled to DOJ



Nov 24, 2014
Annlee Ellingson Staff Writer- L.A. Biz

More than 38 million Americans have a hearing disability, according to the Los Angeles Times. And while 70 percent of Americans go to the movies at least once per year, only one-third of the deaf and hearing-impaired do. That's more than 14 million potential movie tickets that go unsold.

Such data makes for a strong case for movie theaters to install captioning equipment for hearing-disabled guests — as does avoiding costly lawsuits levied by advocacy groups. But such accommodations can be expensive — $3,000 to nearly $40,000 depending on the size of the theater, the Times estimates. So the National Association of Theatre Owners, along with four deaf and hard-of-hearing advocacy groups, is negotiating with the Department of Justice to make sure such an investment would be equitably distributed among its members.

For example, the joint recommendation agrees that all digital screens should be installed with closed-captioning (CC) and audio-description (AD) technologies. However, the DOJ has proposed a fixed formula for the number of CC display units based on the number of seats in a theater complex, regardless of the venue's actual attendance or the number of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the vicinity. The NATO document instead recommends establishing a minimum device requirement — 12 units for a theater with 16 or more screens — and then monitoring demand every six months, requiring display units at a rate of 150 percent of average weekend consumer demand.

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