A King County Superior Court judge ruled July 22 that Washington State law requires that AMC, the nation’s second-largest theater company, install closed captioning in each of its movie theaters county wide.
“The (Washington Law Against Discrimination) is a civil rights law,” the court stated. “The issue is not how many patrons have used the technology provided, but rather, whether an individual with a sensory disability has the legal right to have access to the movies when technology is now present to allow that access without impeding on other patron’s experience and it is feasible for the defendant to provide it.”
In February 2009, the Washington Communication Access Project filed a discrimination lawsuit against AMC and the nation’s first-and third-largest theater operators, Regal and Cinemark.
The court ruled in November 2010 that state law requires that the companies take steps “reasonably possible in the circumstances” to ensure access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, prompting a subsequent May 2011 trial to determine which specific steps the theaters are required to take.
Regal and Cinemark agreed prior to the May 2011 hearing to provide close captioning in all their King County theaters. Both companies have since stated they would install closed captioning in all their theaters nationwide.
Closed captioning is a technology that allows individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to view written text at movie theaters through a personal display device, which is seen through a visor to ensure it does not impact the movie experience of other individuals.