AMC Theaters sued by advocates for the blind

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AMC Theater Facing Accessibility Suit

The nation’s largest movie chain was hit by a class-action complaint in federal court last month, accusing it of failing to make its services accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.

“Properly functioning audio description technology provides an audio track containing descriptions of the visual elements of the film and is synchronized with the film’s audio track,” the lawsuit states. “Most major film studios release wide-release movies with audio description tracks…”

“Although many AMC theaters have the technology to provide audio description tracks to customers, Plaintiffs have repeatedly found that the devices are unavailable, improperly charged, programmed to play audio description for the wrong movie, and otherwise malfunctioning.”

Theaters have been a focus of disability litigation and legislation in recent years, primarily regarding their closed captioning services and accessibility issues pertaining to the deaf. This lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is the first class-action centered on services for people with visual disabilities.

In the complaint, the California Council of the Blind and the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired allege that AMC’s theaters regularly fail to maintain equipment or train their staff on proper usage of the technology.

In some cases, customers are handed devices either of poor quality or not fully powered, or in some cases even technology designed for deaf, not blind, individuals, the lawsuit states.

Disability Rights Advocates is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which asserts that these actions systematically violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“AMC’s failure to provide access for blind movie-goers contributes to the technical and social divides that blind people experience when companies like AMC give short shrift to the needs of the blind community,” Lighthouse Executive Director Bryan Bashin said in a news release.

In December 2011, AMC settled a lawsuit with DRA and the Association of Late-Deafened Adults, agreeing to install captioning services at its more than 300 theaters nationwide.