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e-CFR data is current as of December 11, 2019

Title 28Chapter IPart 36 → Appendix


Title 28: Judicial Administration
PART 36—NONDISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF DISABILITY BY PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS AND IN COMMERCIAL FACILITIES


Appendix F to Part 36—Guidance and Section-by-Section Analysis

Section 36.303(g)(1)   Definitions

In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 79 FR 44976 (Aug. 1, 2014) (NPRM), the Department proposed §36.303(g)(1), which set forth definitions for certain terms specifically referenced in paragraph (g). The Department sought public comment on these proposed definitions.

“Analog Movie”

Although the Department did not specifically propose a definition of “analog movie” in the NPRM, the Department defined the term in the preamble and solicited comment on the state of analog movies and their availability. In the final rule, the Department has added a definition of “analog movie” in order to distinguish between movies shown in digital cinema format and movies shown in analog format. “Analog movie” is defined to mean “a movie exhibited in analog film format.”

“Audio Description”

In the NPRM, the Department used the term “audio description” to refer to the spoken description of information describing the visual elements of a movie to an individual who is blind or has low vision and who is unable to see the images and action on the screen. Proposed §36.303(g)(1)(i) defined “audio description” as the “provision of a spoken narration of key visual elements of a visually delivered medium, including, but not limited to, actions, settings, facial expressions, costumes, and scene changes.” Although the Department believes that the term “audio description” is most commonly used to describe this service, it sought public comment on whether to use this or some other nomenclature.

All commenters addressing this issue agreed with the Department's proposal and supported the use of the term and the Department's definition. In the final rule, the Department has retained the term “audio description,” and has slightly modified the definition for clarity to read as follows: “Audio description means the spoken narration of a movie's key visual elements, such as the action, settings, facial expressions, costumes, and scene changes. Audio description generally requires the use of an audio description device for delivery to a patron.”

“Audio Description Device”

In the NPRM, at proposed §36.303(g)(1)(iii), the Department used the term “individual audio description listening device” to refer to the “individual device that patrons may use at their seats to hear audio description.” The sole commenter on this definition expressed concern that the term “individual audio description listening device” was unnecessarily long. The Department agrees with the commenter and has revised the name of the device accordingly in the final rule. The final rule retains the text of the proposed definition with minor edits.

“Captioning Device”

In the NPRM, at proposed §36.303(g)(1)(iv), the Department used the term “individual captioning device” to refer to the “individual device that patrons may use at their seats to view the closed captions.” The sole commenter on this definition recommended that the Department shorten the nomenclature for this device to “captioning device.” The Department agrees with the commenter and has revised the name of the device accordingly in the final rule. The final rule retains the text of the proposed definition with minor edits.

“Closed Movie Captioning”

The NPRM defined “closed movie captioning” as “the written text of the movie dialogue and other sounds or sound making (e.g. sound effects, music, and the character who is speaking).” The NPRM further provided that closed movie captioning be available only to individuals who request it, and that, generally, it requires the use of an individual captioning device to deliver the captions to the patron.

Commenters were equally split as to whether the Department should use “closed movie captioning” or some other language to refer to the technology. Some commenters urged the Department to use the term “closed captioning.” Other commenters disagreed, however, and stated that the Department should avoid using the term “closed captioning” to distinguish it from the “closed captioning” that is turned on at home by a person viewing the television. In the final rule, the Department is retaining the term “closed movie captioning,” but the definition is modified for clarity to read: “Closed movie captioning means the written display of a movie's dialogue and non-speech information, such as music, the identity of the character who is speaking, and other sounds or sound effects. Closed movie captioning generally requires the use of a captioning device for delivery of the captions to the patron.”

“Digital Movie”

The Department has added a definition of “digital movie,” meaning “a movie exhibited in digital cinema format.”

“Movie Theater”

The NPRM proposed defining “movie theater” as “a facility other than a drive-in theater that is used primarily for the purpose of showing movies to the public for a fee” in order to make clear which facilities are subject to the specific captioning and audio description requirements set forth in §36.303(g). The Department intended this definition to exclude drive-in movie theaters as well as facilities that screen movies if the facility is not used primarily for the purpose of showing movies for a fee, such as museums, hotels, resorts, or cruise ships, even if they charge an additional fee. The Department asked for public comment on the proposed definition and whether it adequately described the movie theaters that should be covered by this regulation.

Commenters generally supported the Department's proposed definition for “movie theater,” but there were some concerns about the proposed definition's scope. Some commenters asserted that the definition of “movie theater” should be expanded to include the institutions that the Department expressly excluded, such as museums, hotels, resorts, cruise ships, amusement parks, and other similar public accommodations that show movies as a secondary function, whether or not they charge a fee. One commenter expressed concern that such entities might believe that they are otherwise exempt from any requirement to furnish auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication, and another commenter urged the Department to consider developing additional regulations that would specifically address public accommodations that are not covered by the proposed definition but otherwise exhibit movies or other video content.

The Department declines to make any changes at this time to address public accommodations that do not meet the definition of “movie theater” and are, therefore, not subject to the requirements of paragraph (g). The Department's title III regulation has always made clear that all public accommodations must provide effective communication to the public through the provision of auxiliary aids and services, including, where appropriate, captioning and audio description. See generally 28 CFR 36.303; 28 CFR part 36, app. A. The requirements of this rule were not intended to supplant the general obligation to provide effective communication through the provision of auxiliary aids and services. They are only intended to provide clarity about how “movie theaters” must meet this obligation. The Department notes that many public accommodations that screen movies as a secondary function already provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services, and where the Department has identified the need for enforcement action, these types of public accommodations have been willing to comply with the ADA and the effective communication requirement. See, e.g., Press Release, U.S. Department of Justice, Justice Department Reaches Settlement with National Museum of Crime and Punishment to Improve Access for People with Disabilities (Jan. 13, 2015), available at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-reaches-settlement-national-museum-crime-and-punishment-improve-access (last visited Sept. 12, 2016).

Two commenters asked the Department to revise the definition of “movie theater” to clarify that public accommodations used as temporary screening locations during film festivals, such as pop-up tents, convention centers, and museums with theaters, are not subject to the requirements of paragraph (g). According to such commenters, most movies screened at festivals are not ready for distribution, and typically have not yet been distributed with captioning and audio description. To the extent a film is already distributed with these features, the commenters argued that the myriad of logistics entailed in coordinating a festival may preclude a film festival from making such features available.

The Department does not believe that its definition of “movie theater” encompasses the temporary facilities described by the commenters that host film festivals. However, operators of film festivals, just like any other public accommodation that operates a place of entertainment, are still subject to the longstanding general requirement under §36.303 to provide effective communication unless doing so would be a fundamental alteration of the program or service or would constitute an undue burden. Moreover, if a festival programmer schedules the screening of a movie that is already distributed with captioning and audio description at a movie theater that is subject to the requirements in paragraph (g), then the effective communication obligation would require the festival to ensure that the accessible features are available at all scheduled screenings of a movie distributed with such features.

The Department also received several comments regarding the exclusion of drive-in movie theaters in the proposed definition. Many commenters agreed that drive-in movie theaters should not be subject to the requirements of paragraph (g) because the technology still does not exist to exhibit movies with closed movie captioning and audio description in this setting. A few commenters pointed out innovative ways for drive-in movie theaters to provide captioning and audio description and argued that such options are feasible. For example, one commenter suggested that drive-in movie theaters provide audio description through a second low-power FM broadcast transmitter or on a second FM channel. However, these commenters did not clearly identify technology that is currently available or under development to provide closed movie captioning in this setting. Finally, one commenter expressed concern that if audio description was broadcast at a drive-in theater, it would likely be heard by patrons who do not require audio description and would result in a fundamental alteration of the movie-going experience for such patrons.

The Department declines to change its position that drive-in movie theaters should be excluded from the requirements of paragraph (g). Given the diminishing number of drive-in movie theaters, the current lack of accessible technology to provide closed movie captioning and audio description in this setting, and the fact that it is unlikely that such technology will be developed in the future, the Department remains convinced that rulemaking regarding drive-in movie theaters should be deferred until the necessary technology becomes commercially available.

For the reasons discussed above, the Department has retained the text of the proposed definition of “movie theater” with minor edits. The final rule defines “movie theater” as “a facility, other than a drive-in theater, that is owned, leased by, leased to, or operated by a public accommodation and that contains one or more auditoriums that are used primarily for the purpose of showing movies to the public for a fee.”

“Open Movie Captioning”

The NPRM proposed defining “open movie captioning” as “the provision of the written text of the movie dialogue and other sounds or sound making in an on-screen text format that is seen by everyone in the movie theater.”

While commenters were evenly split on whether the new regulation should use the term “open movie captioning” or “open captioning,” the Department chose the former to avoid confusion and emphasize that the term refers only to captioning provided at movie theaters. The final rule defines “open movie captioning” as “the written on-screen display of a movie's dialogue and non-speech information, such as music, the identity of the character who is speaking, and other sounds and sound effects.”

Section 36.303(g)(2)   General

In the NPRM, the Department proposed at §36.303(g)(2)(i) that “[a] public accommodation that owns, leases, leases to, or operates a movie theater shall ensure that its auditoriums have the capability to exhibit movies with closed movie captions.” That paragraph further provided that in all cases where the movies the theater intends to exhibit are produced, distributed, or otherwise made available with closed movie captions, the public accommodation must ensure that it acquires the captioned version of those movies and makes closed movie captions available at all scheduled screenings of those movies. An identical provision requiring movie theaters to exhibit movies with audio description was proposed at §36.303(g)(3)(i). The Department proposed applying the requirements for closed movie captioning and audio description to all movie screens (auditoriums) in movie theaters that show digital movies and sought public comment as to the best approach to take with respect to movie theaters that show analog movies. The Department sought public comment on whether it should adopt one of two options regarding the specific obligation to provide captioning and audio description at movie theater auditoriums that display analog movies. Option 1 proposed covering movie theater screens (auditoriums) that display analog movies but giving them 4 years to come into compliance with the requirements of §36.303(g). Option 2 proposed deferring the decision whether to apply the rule's requirements to movie theater screens (auditoriums) showing analog movies and considering additional rulemaking at a later date.

Many commenters generally agreed with the provisions as they related to movie theaters displaying digital movies. These commenters stressed, however, that movie theaters should in no way be prohibited or limited from exhibiting a movie that is not available with captioning or audio description, or be required to add captioning and audio description when these features are not available.

Commenters were split in response to the Department's question concerning the best approach to take with respect to analog movie theaters. A slight majority of commenters supported deferral for movie theater auditoriums that exhibit analog movies exclusively. In support of Option 2, these commenters pointed to the state of the movie industry, the financial condition of many small movie theaters, and the unintended consequences of a 4-year compliance date. According to the comments, there are very few remaining movie theaters that display analog movies exclusively, and despite the industry's urging that such movie theaters must convert to digital to remain viable, many of these movie theaters have not converted because they cannot afford the high cost to do so. Therefore, these commenters argued that a regulation covering analog movie theaters will have minimal overall impact in addition to being an unnecessary strain on small businesses, considering the high cost of compliance for such movie theaters.

The remaining commenters responding to this question stated that the Department should adopt Option 1's 4-year compliance date for movie theaters displaying analog movies. These commenters reasoned that fairness and equality concerns justified adoption of Option 1 because, in their view, Option 2 could incentivize more movie theaters to delay their digital conversion, resulting in fewer movie theaters being subject to the regulation, and individuals with hearing and vision disabilities continuing to face unequal access to movie theaters. A few disability groups argued that because a movie theater is subject to title III of the ADA regardless of whether it displays analog movies or digital movies, adoption of Option 2 could be seen as carving out an exception within the ADA where none exists otherwise.

In consideration of these comments and the Department's independent research, the Department has decided to defer until a later date the decision whether to engage in rulemaking with respect to movie theater auditoriums that exhibit analog movies exclusively. Thus, the final rule makes clear that the requirements of paragraph (g) apply only to movie theaters with auditoriums that show digital movies. The Department agrees with commenters that very few analog movie theaters remain, and that the number of such movie theaters has declined rapidly in recent years. The Department believes that it is prudent to wait until it is clear whether there will be any movie theaters that continue to show analog movies and whether analog movies will continue to be produced at all, or distributed with captioning and audio description. Although movie theater auditoriums that exhibit analog movies exclusively are not subject to the specific requirements of paragraph (g) at this time, such movie theaters are nonetheless public accommodations and subject to the effective communication requirements of title III.

The final rule provides that “[a] public accommodation shall ensure that its movie theater auditoriums provide closed movie captioning and audio description whenever they exhibit a digital movie that is distributed with such features. Application of the requirements of paragraph (g) is deferred for any movie theater auditorium that exhibits analog movies exclusively, but may be addressed in a future rulemaking.”

The requirements of paragraph (g) do not in any way prohibit a movie theater from displaying a movie that has not been made available with captioning and audio description features nor do the requirements require a movie theater to independently add such features to a movie that is not distributed with such features. In addition, all movie theaters, regardless of size, status of conversion to digital cinema, or economic viability, continue to have available to them the individualized and fact-specific undue burden limitation specified in §36.303(a). This regulation does not change the availability of this compliance limitation nor the circumstances under which it can be asserted. See 28 CFR 36.104 (defining undue burden and listing factors to be considered in determining whether an action would result in an undue burden). It does, however, provide clarity about how movie theaters can meet their longstanding effective communication obligations under the ADA.

The Department notes that even if a movie theater cannot initially install captioning and audio description equipment in all of its auditoriums because it is an undue burden, the movie theater is still obligated to comply with renumbered §36.303(h) and provide alternatives to full compliance by providing captioning and audio description in some of its auditoriums up to the point where the cost becomes an undue burden. In such a situation, the movie theater should take steps to maximize the range of movie options for customers who are deaf or hard of hearing, or blind or have low vision, by dispersing the available equipment throughout their auditoriums so that the theater is able to exhibit as many movies as possible with captioning and audio description throughout the day and evening on weekdays and weekends. If, for example, a six-auditorium movie theater can only afford to install captioning equipment in half of its auditoriums, and it has auditoriums with different capacities, it should install captioning equipment in a large, a medium, and a small auditorium. This distribution of equipment would permit exhibition of different types of movies, as blockbusters generally are shown in larger auditoriums first and lower budget or older movies may only be shown in medium or small auditoriums.

It has been, and continues to be, the Department's position that it would not be a fundamental alteration of the business of showing movies in theaters to exhibit movies already distributed with closed movie captioning and audio description in order to ensure effective communication for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, or blind or have low vision. The service that movie theaters provide is the screening or exhibiting of movies. The use of captioning and audio description to make that service available to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, or blind or have low vision, does not change that service. Rather, the provision of such auxiliary aids is the means by which these individuals gain access to movie theaters' services and thereby achieve the “full and equal enjoyment,” 42 U.S.C. 12182(a), of the screening of movies. See, e.g., Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae Supporting Appellants and Urging Reversal at 15-17, Arizona ex rel. Goddard v. Harkins Amusement Enters., Inc., 603 F.3d 666 (9th Cir. 2010) (No. 08-16075); see also NPRM, 79 FR 44976, 44982-83 (Aug. 1, 2014). The Department received no public comments challenging that position.

Section 36.303(g)(3)   Minimum Requirements for Captioning Devices

In the NPRM, the Department proposed that movie theaters be required to have available a minimum number of captioning devices equal to approximately half the number of assistive listening receivers already mandated for assembly areas by sections 219 and 706 of the 2010 Standards. The calculation was based on a movie theater's total seating capacity and 2010 Census data estimating that 3.1 percent of the U.S. population ages 15 and older (7.6 million) has difficulty hearing. See U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce, P70-131, Americans with Disabilities: 2010 Household Economic Studies at 8 (2012), available at http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/p70-131.pdf (last visited Sept. 12, 2016). Thus, the proposed §36.303(g)(2)(iii)(A) required that a movie theater maintain captioning devices for approximately 2-4 percent of all available seats and stated that: “a public accommodation that owns, leases, leases to, or operates a movie theater shall provide individual captioning devices in accordance with the following Table [below]. This requirement does not apply to movie theaters that elect to exhibit all movies at all times at that facility with open movie captioning.”

Capacity of seating in movie theaterMinimum required number of individual captioning devices
100 or less2.
101 to 2002 plus 1 per 50 seats over 100 seats or a fraction thereof.
201 to 5004 plus 1 per 50 seats over 200 seats or a fraction thereof.
501 to 100010 plus 1 per 75 seats over 500 seats or a fraction thereof.
1001 to 200018 plus 1 per 100 seats over 1000 seats or a fraction thereof.
2001 and over28 plus 1 per 200 seats over 2000 seats or a fraction thereof.

The Department received more than 70 comments on its proposed scoping requirements for captioning devices. All commenters disagreed with the formula in the NPRM, and with the exception of a very few individuals and a law school clinic, commenters uniformly maintained that the Department's proposed requirements substantially overestimated the number of captioning devices necessary for a variety of reasons.

Many commenters asserted that seating capacity does not equate with the need for captioning devices because movie theaters are rarely at 100 percent seat occupancy, and not all Americans attend the movies simultaneously. They stressed that even at peak attendance times (weekends), average seat occupancy rates are substantially less than half of capacity while small movie theaters in rural areas with one or two auditoriums report even lower attendance rates. Other commenters noted that old historic theaters often have large seating capacities, despite low attendance rates. And some noted that at large, multi-auditorium complexes, not all auditoriums are simultaneously in use at all times. Thus, these commenters asserted that average movie attendance during weekend hours, not the number of theater seats, most accurately predicts anticipated demand for captioning devices.

Some commenters maintained that the Department's proposed scoping requirements significantly overestimated the need for captioning devices because the percentage of persons in the population who have difficulty hearing does not reflect those who will actually benefit from or use the devices. In their view, captioning devices will not be used by the vast majority of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing because such devices are only needed by persons who have “severe” difficulty hearing, and assistive listening receivers, which amplify the volume of sound, are already required and available at movie theaters. These commenters also cited statistics showing that a significant percentage of Americans do not attend the movies at least once a year, and while hearing loss disproportionately affects seniors, they represent a smaller proportion of persons who actually attend the movies.

Commenters also stressed that in their experience, the Department's proposed scoping requirements for captioning devices far exceed demand in those movie theaters that currently stock and advertise the availability of such devices. To support this conclusion, NATO offered device usage data from five movie theater companies (which included a small business with a total screen (auditorium) count in the 1-75 range, three regional companies with a total screen (auditorium) count in the 300-700 range, and a national company with a 2000+ screen (auditorium) count) that stock and advertise the availability of captioning devices on their Web sites, at ticket counters, and on third-party Web sites. According to NATO, that data showed that even though four of these five companies stocked far fewer captioning devices than the NPRM proposed, actual demand rarely, if ever, exceeded supply even at peak attendance times. Other movie theaters and a trade association also submitted tracking records to confirm the same.

Several commenters objected to the Department's proposed scoping requirements because they provided a fixed, nonadjustable number that was not tied to actual consumer demand and failed to account for variations in attendance based on theater location and patron demographics. These commenters noted that while movie theaters near areas with a high concentration of residents or students who are deaf or hard of hearing may experience greatest demand for devices, a movie theater in a small rural area may have only a few requests. Many commenters also expressed concern that because the Department's proposed scoping requirements would result in the vast majority of movie theaters having to purchase expensive technology far in excess of what is needed or would be used, those movie theaters would likely avoid investing in new, superior technology as it becomes available.

Although commenters overwhelmingly disagreed with the Department's proposed approach to scoping, most did not suggest a formula for determining the number of captioning devices that should be required. Instead, they recommended that the number of required devices be based on one or more factors, including actual or average weekend movie attendance, percentage of individuals who have severe hearing difficulty and will likely use the devices, demand for devices, number of movie theater seats, screen count, and patron demographics. For example, a Federal agency recommended that the Department set scoping requirements in accordance with the optimal number of devices sufficient to provide accessibility to the disability community (based on relevant factors such as device usage, demand, and weekend theater attendance) while minimizing the burden on small businesses. A few movie theaters maintained that any minimum device requirement would be a waste of resources and unnecessary because movie theaters seek to satisfy their patrons' needs, and as a result, many already advertise and provide captioning devices upon request.

NATO and four advocacy groups representing persons who are deaf or hard of hearing1 submitted a Joint Comment offering a three-tiered approach to scoping that was referenced and supported by many commenters. First, the Joint Comment recommended that movie theaters obtain a minimum number of captioning devices based on the number of screens (auditoriums) displaying digital movies, in accordance with the following:

1Those advocacy groups are the National Association of the Deaf, the Hearing Loss Association of America, the Association of Late Deafened Adults, and the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Single Screen: 4 devices

Miniplex (2-7 screens): 6 devices

Multiplex (8-15 screens): 8 devices

Megaplex (16+ screens): 12 devices

Second, in order to address the limited circumstances when demand for captioning devices exceeds minimum requirements, the Joint Comment proposed that movie theaters record weekend demand for captioning devices and adjust the number of devices biannually to be equal to 150 percent of the average weekend demand during a 6-month tracking period. For example, under this formula, a movie theater that is initially required to have 6 devices and calculates an average actual weekend demand of 8 devices during a tracking period must increase the number of available devices to 12 (150 percent of 8). Finally, the Joint Comment recommended that the Department require every movie theater company to submit an annual report of its tracking records to the Department.

After considering all comments, census data, statistics regarding movie theater attendance, actual usage data, and its independent research, the Department has modified its approach to captioning device scoping and has adopted a final rule that requires movie theaters to have on hand the minimum number of captioning devices proposed in the Joint Comment. Thus, the final rule at renumbered §36.303(g)(3)(i) states that “[a] public accommodation shall provide a minimum number of fully operational captioning devices at its movie theaters in accordance with the following Table:”

Number of movie theater
auditoriums exhibiting digital movies
Minimum
required
number of
captioning
devices
14
2-76
8-158
16+12

The Department imposes these requirements because its own research and analysis confirms that they will easily satisfy maximum weekend demand for captioning devices at movie theaters across the nation in almost every location. Thus, the Department believes that the final rule obligates movie theaters to provide the optimum number of captioning devices sufficient to provide accessibility to individuals with disabilities who will need and use them, without requiring movie theaters to purchase equipment that may likely never be used.

Despite NATO's and a number of other comments to the contrary, the Department has also decided not to impose specific requirements at this time for providing additional captioning devices when actual demand for them exceeds the rule's minimum requirements. While the Department acknowledges that there are a few movie theaters located in areas where there is an unusually high concentration of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, comments, usage data, and independent research all indicate that only in those rare circumstances is there a reasonable possibility that regular demand for devices may exceed the rule's minimum requirements. That same information also reflects that many movie theaters located in markets that consistently have an unusually large number of patrons with hearing difficulties are already making voluntary efforts to satisfy consumer demand. For example, because open movie captioning is popular with many movie patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing, some movie theaters near schools that educate persons who are deaf provide open-captioned screenings on-demand, or in accordance with a convenient, regular, and frequent schedule. In any event, the Department currently lacks adequate information and data to craft an appropriate standard to address these situations.

In addition, the Department decided not to impose a recordkeeping requirement on movie theaters at this time, even though some commenters suggested that the Department do so in order to require movie theaters to keep records of actual demand for devices. The NPRM did not solicit information about existing movie theater recordkeeping practices with respect to the provision of assistive listening receivers or captioning and audio description devices, and the Department lacks adequate data as to the costs and the burdens of imposing such a requirement on all movie theaters. Moreover, the Department has not previously imposed this type of recordkeeping requirement on public accommodations, and it declines to do so without more information about the need and the costs. The Department intends, however, to reach out to stakeholders in the future and obtain additional information about whether it should consider engaging in supplemental rulemaking regarding a recordkeeping requirement and imposing a standard that addresses situations when actual demand exceeds the rule's minimum requirements.

In the interim, for those movie theaters that are located in the few places where there is an unusually high concentration of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, the Department strongly encourages these public accommodations to voluntarily work with the local disability community to identify and maintain an appropriate number of captioning devices, or to utilize other approaches, including open movie captioning, to satisfy their patrons' regular and actual demand.

Section 36.303(g)(4)   Minimum Requirements for Audio Description Devices

In order to ensure that individuals who are blind or have low vision have access to audio-described movies when such movies are available, movie theaters must provide a reasonable number of audio description devices. In the NPRM, the Department proposed at §36.303(g)(3)(ii)(A) that movie theaters maintain one audio description device per auditorium, with a minimum of two devices per movie theater. However, the Department noted at proposed §36.303(g)(3)(ii)(B) that “[a] movie theater may comply with this requirement by using receivers it already has available as assistive listening devices in accordance with the requirements in Table 219.3 of the 2010 Standards, if those receivers have a minimum of two channels available for sound transmission to patrons.” The Department theorized that many movie theaters utilized the newer, multi-channel assistive listening receivers, and as a result, most movie theaters would not be required to purchase additional devices in order to comply with this requirement.

The Department received extensive comments regarding the proposed scoping for audio description devices. Although commenters overwhelmingly supported the proposed rule's goal of ensuring access to audio description in movie theaters, only three commenters agreed with the proposed scoping.

Several commenters recommended a greater number of audio description devices than the Department proposed in the NPRM to accommodate an increase in the number of individuals who are blind or have low vision who will likely attend the movies if accessible technologies are available. A few commenters recommended two audio description devices per auditorium, citing a movie theater's usage data to support the suggestion. One commenter, concerned that a movie theater should be able to accommodate a larger group of blind or visually impaired movie patrons, recommended at least eight audio description devices per movie theater, or two devices per auditorium, whichever is greater. Finally, one commenter proposed requiring three audio description devices per auditorium to accommodate a larger user pool, and to counteract a reduction in available devices that may arise in the event of equipment failure, or when devices are being recharged.

The majority of commenters, however, stated that the recommended scoping was excessive and too inflexible. These commenters reasoned that the proposed scoping failed to consider attendance variability or demographics, and inhibited movie theaters from moving devices between locations to effectively meet demographic needs. Commenters recommended basing the number of required audio description devices on factors such as weekend attendance, annual attendance, tracked usage rates, and market demand. The Department received a large number of comments from movie theaters stating that current requests by patrons for audio description devices are extremely low. Additionally, a trade association submitted comments stating that member companies reported signing out a maximum of 1-4 audio description devices at any time, and that these companies never had more requests for devices than the number of devices available. Based on this information, the trade association recommended that the Department require one audio description device for every two auditoriums, with a minimum of two devices per movie theater.

In addition to comments criticizing the proposed scoping, commenters also addressed the Department's belief that most movie theaters utilize multi-channel headsets to meet their assistive listening device obligations. A couple of movie theaters indicated that they have the dual-channel receivers. However, a trade association commented that many movie theaters still rely on single-channel headsets to meet their assistive listening device obligations and that the Department erred in assuming that most movie theaters would not need to buy additional devices in order to comply with these scoping requirements.

In consideration of the comments received and the Department's independent research, the Department has adjusted the required number of audio description devices to one device for every two auditoriums. The Department believes that the available data supports its view that the revised scoping ensures that movie theaters will have available an adequate number of devices without requiring movie theaters to purchase more equipment than is likely necessary. The final rule at renumbered §36.303(g)(4)(i) reads as follows: “A public accommodation shall provide at its movie theaters a minimum of one fully operational audio description device for every two movie theater auditoriums exhibiting digital movies and no less than two devices per movie theater. When calculation of the required number of devices results in a fraction, the next greater whole number of devices shall be provided.” The Department has retained the provision in proposed §36.303(g)(3)(ii)(B) regarding the use of multi-channel assistive listening receivers to meet this requirement. The Department notes that if movie theaters are purchasing new receivers to replace existing single-channel receivers, they may choose to purchase two-channel receivers and then use them to meet both their requirements to provide assistive listening receivers and audio description devices if use of the two-channel receivers is compatible with their audio description and assistive listening systems. The Department does not, however, intend this provision to discourage movie theaters from using induction loop systems for sound amplification while using a different system for transmission of audio description. Renumbered §36.303(g)(4)(ii) states that “[a] public accommodation may comply with the requirements in paragraph (g)(4)(i) by using the existing assistive listening receivers that the public accommodation is already required to provide at its movie theaters in accordance with Table 219.3 of the 2010 Standards, if those receivers have a minimum of two channels available for sound transmission to patrons.”

Section 36.303(g)(5)   Performance Requirements for Captioning Devices and Audio Description Devices

In the NPRM, the Department proposed performance requirements for the individual devices used by movie patrons at their individual seats. Proposed §36.303(g)(2)(iii)(B) stated that the individual devices needed to be adjustable; be available to patrons in a timely manner; provide clear, sharp images; be properly maintained; and be easily usable by the patron in order to ensure effective communication.

While the comments were generally supportive of the existence of performance requirements, there were differences of opinion expressed about the specifics of this provision. Some commenters supported the Department's language, but others expressed concern that the requirements as written were vague and subjective. For example, a few commenters proposed that the Department define specific quantifiable and technical standards, and several commenters suggested that the Department develop a program to encourage the development of better accessibility technology due to their concerns associated with the design and quality of current technology.

The Department also received conflicting comments with respect to adding requirements beyond those proposed in the NPRM. Several commenters suggested that the Department require captioning devices to have an adjustable font size while many disagreed, stating that an adjustable font size requirement would be problematic. Other commenters believed that the Department should require that all devices be clean, in addition to being available and functional. Commenters also suggested requiring quality assurance procedures, frequent testing, and regular maintenance schedules to ensure that the devices are functional and deliver complete and accurate captions and audio description. One commenter encouraged the Department to require that movie theaters maintain the most recent technology in a range of device styles and consult with customers and consumer groups to decide which devices to purchase. Although the NPRM language focused on captioning devices, many of the comments urged the Department to ensure that both captioning and audio description devices are maintained and readily available.

After considering all comments, the Department has decided to retain the performance requirements as proposed in the NPRM with minor structural edits and to make clear that the requirements for maintenance and timely availability apply to both types of devices. The Department declines to impose any additional requirements related to ensuring the functionality of the captioning and audio description devices provided by movie theaters. The rule imposes the responsibility on movie theaters to ensure that the equipment is fully operational (meets all of the performance requirements in the regulation) and available. The Department believes that movie theaters are able to determine the best approach for ensuring compliance with the regulatory requirements and notes that §36.211(b) (Maintenance of accessible features) “does not prohibit isolated or temporary interruptions in service or access due to maintenance or repairs.”

The Department also declines to include specific technical specifications regarding the captioning and audio description devices. The Department notes that its approach to performance requirements for captioning and audio description devices is similar to the approach the Department took with respect to performance standards for video remote interpreting services. See §36.303(f).

The Department also declines to impose an obligation that movie theaters must upgrade to the most recent technology. While the Department is in favor of technological development, such a requirement is beyond the scope of this regulation. Additionally, the Department believes that many of the concerns about current devices raised by commenters (e.g., poor power connection or poor signal) are adequately addressed by the requirements in paragraphs (g)(3) through (5)—that devices be fully operational and maintained.

Renumbered §36.303(g)(5) of the final rule retains the performance requirements proposed in the NPRM, but it has been restructured for clarity.

Section 36.303(g)(6)   Alternative Technologies

Although commenters on the 2010 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 75 FR 43467 (July 26, 2010) (ANPRM), encouraged the Department to require open movie captioning at movie theaters, the Department declined to make such a proposal in the NPRM, noting that in the debate leading up to passage of the ADA, the House Committee on Education and Labor explicitly stated that “[o]pen-captioning, for example, of feature films playing in movie theaters, is not required by this legislation.” H.R. Rep. No. 101-485, pt. 2, at 108 (1990). The Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources included a statement in its report on the ADA to the same effect. S. Rep. No. 101-116, at 64 (1989). As the House Committee also recognized, however, “technological advances *  *  * may require public accommodations to provide auxiliary aids and services in the future which today would not be required because they would be held to impose undue burdens on such entities.” H.R. Rep. No. 101-485, pt. 2, at 108.

The Department included a provision in the NPRM giving movie theater owners and operators the choice to use other technologies to comply with the captioning and audio description requirements of this rule. Proposed §36.303(g)(2)(ii) provided that “[m]ovie theaters may meet their obligation to provide captions to persons with disabilities through use of a different technology, such as open movie captioning, so long as the communication provided is as effective as that provided to movie patrons without disabilities. Open movie captioning at some or all showings of movies is never required as a means of compliance with this section, even if it is an undue burden for a theater to exhibit movies with closed movie captioning in an auditorium.”

Commenters disagreed on whether this provision struck an appropriate balance between the cost to movie theaters, the benefit to individuals with hearing and vision disabilities, and the impact on the movie-going experience for individuals without disabilities. The majority of comments on this provision concerned open movie captioning. Although some commenters expressed concern that an open-movie-captioning requirement would have an impact on the cinematic experience of hearing patrons, most commenters argued that the Department should require open movie captioning. Several open-movie-captioning requirements were proposed by commenters, including: Requiring open movie captioning at 100 percent of showings; requiring one open-captioned movie per day; requiring dedicated open-captioned auditoriums; or requiring open movie captioning if closed movie captioning is unavailable for any reason. One commenter who supported an open-movie-captioning requirement asserted that 95 percent of the deaf and hard of hearing community prefers open movie captioning to the use of captioning devices.

The commenters proposing an open-movie-captioning requirement ultimately disagreed with the Department's interpretation of the legislative history as indicating congressional intent that the ADA did not require the provision of open movie captions at movie theaters. One commenter reasoned that because modern open movie captioning is significantly different from the open movie captioning available in 1990, the legislative history on this point represents a latent ambiguity. Therefore, in this commenter's view, the Department is not bound by the legislative history concerning open movie captioning and is free to require it. Other commenters, however, agreed with the Department's statement in the NPRM and argued that because the legislative history states that open movie captioning is not required as a means of compliance with the ADA, the rule should not mandate any conditions concerning open-captioned showings.

In response to the Department's questions concerning the parameters of the option to provide open movie captioning rather than closed movie captioning, several commenters suggested that the Department define what constitutes a “timely request” when a movie patron requests open movie captioning. These commenters provided a variety of suggestions, which ranged from the specific (e.g., 1 hour or 1 day before the showing) to the ambiguous (e.g., it should be reasonably easy).

Other comments also addressed whether the Department adequately addressed new technology. One commenter agreed that the “different technology” language encompassed any future technology, but further suggested that the effectiveness of new technologies should be judged from the baseline of “as effective as captioning and/or audio description devices.” Other commenters disagreed and criticized the rule for not addressing other currently available technologies, such as hearing loop systems, InvisivisionTM glasses, or smart phone applications.

After considering all of the comments, the Department has decided to retain the option to comply with the captioning and audio description requirements of this rule through the use of any other technology that is or becomes available to provide effective communication to patrons with hearing and vision disabilities, including open movie captioning. The Department has clarified, however, that in those circumstances where a public accommodation chooses to use open movie captioning at all showings of all movies available with captioning or at all times it receives a request to turn on open movie captions prior to the start of the movie, it is not also required to comply with the specific requirement to obtain captioning devices. However, if a public accommodation only makes open movie captioning available to patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing at some showings of movies available with captioning, it will still have to comply with the requirements to provide captioning devices because it must provide effective communication at all showings of all movies available with captioning.

The Department has made other changes to the structure and language of this provision in response to comments and to better preserve the intent and longevity of this paragraph. The final rule now reads “through any technology,” instead of “through use of different technology.” Although the Department declines to endorse specific technologies, the Department believes that the revised language better articulates the purpose of this paragraph to encompass current and future technologies that may serve individuals with hearing and vision disabilities. The requirement that public accommodations provide auxiliary aids and services to ensure communication as effective as that provided to movie patrons without disabilities remains unchanged as that is the standard for effective communication required by §36.303(c). See 28 CFR part 36, app. C (explaining that public accommodations must provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services “to ensure that communication with persons with disabilities is as effective as communication with others”).

The Department maintains its view that Congress did not intend the ADA to require movie theaters to provide open movie captioning. Although the technology to provide open movie captioning has changed and enables movie theaters to provide the service more easily, open movie captioning as it exists today remains visible to all movie patrons and has not changed in this respect. As a result, the Department's position remains consistent with the legislative history on this point, and the final rule retains the language (with some minor edits) in proposed §36.303(g)(2)(ii), which provided that “[o]pen movie captioning at some or all showings of movies is never required as a means of compliance with this section, even if it is an undue burden for a theater to exhibit movies with closed movie captioning in an auditorium.” In the final rule, however, the Department has moved this language to new §36.303(g)(10).

The revised provision addressing other technologies, renumbered in the final rule as §36.303(g)(6), enables a public accommodation to meet its obligation to provide captioning and audio description through alternative technologies that provide effective communication for movie patrons with hearing and vision disabilities. Section 36.303(g)(6) further provides that a public accommodation may use open movie captioning as an alternative to complying with the captioning device scoping requirements of this rule by providing open movie captioning at all showings, or whenever requested by or for an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing.

Section 36.303(g)(7)   Compliance Date for Providing Captioning and Audio Description

In the NPRM, the Department proposed at §36.303(g)(4)(i) that all movie theaters with auditoriums displaying digital movies must comply with the requirements of the rule within 6 months of the publication date of the final rule. The Department also proposed to give movie theaters that converted their auditoriums with analog projection systems to digital projection systems after the publication date of the rule an additional 6 months from the date of conversion to comply with the rule's requirements. Although the Department expressed the belief that 6 months was sufficient time for movie theaters to order and install the necessary equipment, train employees on how to use the equipment and assist patrons in using it, and notify patrons of the availability of these services, the Department requested public comment on the reasonableness of a 6-month compliance date.

The Department received many comments both against and in favor of the proposed 6-month compliance date. A minority of comments from a few disability advocacy groups and a few private citizens supported the proposed 6-month compliance date. These commenters asserted that because most movie theaters had already committed to providing captioning and audio description to their patrons by the end of 2014, the 6-month compliance date was, in their view, reasonable.

The vast majority of commenters, however, asserted that 6 months was not enough time for the remaining movie theaters to comply with the requirements of this rule. These comments raised concerns about manufacturers' ability to sustain the sudden, increased demand that the scoping requirements would likely create for captioning and audio description devices. Industry commenters stated that movie theaters already experience considerable delays between order date and delivery date and that, with increased demand and a limited supply, the prices of these devices would likely increase, especially for lower volume purchasers. Industry commenters further advised the Department that a trained technician must install the captioning and audio description equipment and that their experience indicates that there is a waiting period for such services. Commenters also expressed concern that the compliance date proposed in the NPRM was drastically different from the phased compliance date proposed in the ANPRM and that the Department's rationale for the change was insufficient.

Finally, some commenters expressed concern that small movie theaters in particular would have difficulty complying with the requirements of the rule within the proposed 6-month compliance date. Commenters advised that small movie theaters would need additional time to raise the necessary funds or adjust their budgets in order to purchase the equipment.

Based on these concerns, commenters offered a variety of alternative compliance dates. The Joint Comment suggested that the Department require movie theaters to issue purchase orders for the equipment within 6 months of the final rule's publication, but require fully functional and operational devices and trained staff either within 2 years of the final rule's publication or 6 months of system delivery, whichever came first. Other commenters suggested compliance dates ranging from 1 year to 4 years. One major movie theater chain in particular recommended an 18-month compliance date, stating that this is the amount of time that it currently takes to order and install the necessary equipment. Some commenters suggested a sliding compliance schedule based on a movie theater's gross revenue or a movie theater's size, and others suggested a phased compliance date similar to the schedule articulated in the ANPRM.

In consideration of these comments and the Department's independent research, the Department agrees that 6 months may be an insufficient amount of time for movie theaters to comply with the requirements of paragraph (g) of this section, and the Department instead will require compliance beginning 18 months from the date of publication of the final rule. The Department believes that an 18-month compliance period sufficiently accounts for potential delays that may result from manufacturer backlogs, installation waitlists, and other circumstances outside a movie theater's control. This date also gives small movie theaters that are financially impacted as a result of the unrelated costs of digital conversion a sufficient amount of time to plan and budget accordingly. The Department declines to include a requirement that movie theaters issue purchase orders for the equipment within 6 months of the final rule's publication because such a requirement is unenforceable without imposing recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

The final rule continues to provide additional time for movie theaters converting their auditoriums from analog projection systems to digital projection systems after the publication date of the final rule. Once the installation of a digital projection system is complete, meaning that the auditorium has installed the equipment needed to exhibit a digital movie, the movie theater has at least an additional 6 months to ensure compliance with the requirements of the rule and provide closed movie captioning and audio description when showing digital movies in that auditorium. Renumbered §36.303(g)(7)(ii) states that “[i]f a public accommodation converts a movie theater auditorium from an analog projection system to a system that allows it to exhibit digital movies after December 2, 2016, then that auditorium must comply with the requirements in paragraph (g) of this section by December 2, 2018, or within 6 months of that auditorium's complete installation of a digital projection system, whichever is later.” The Department believes that this approach will provide movie theaters in the process of converting to digital projection after the publication date of the rule a sufficient amount of time to acquire the necessary equipment to provide captioning and audio description.

Section 36.303(g)(8)   Notice

The Department believes that it is essential that movie theaters provide adequate notice to patrons of the availability of captioned and audio-described movies. In the NPRM, the Department proposed at §36.303(g)(5) that movie theaters provide information regarding the availability of captioning and audio description for each movie in communications and advertisements intended to inform potential patrons of movie showings and times and provided by the theaters through Web sites, posters, marquees, newspapers, telephone, and other forms of communication.

Commenters on the NPRM unanimously supported the inclusion of some form of a notice requirement in the final rule but differed on the scope of that requirement. Some commenters supported requiring notice in all places where a captioned or audio-described movie is advertised, and another commenter asked the Department to include as many forms of communication as possible in the language of the final rule, including mobile phone applications. These commenters reasoned that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, or blind or have low vision, should be able to find this information easily. Several other commenters, however, asked the Department to limit the notice requirement to the box office, ticketing locations, and the movie theater's Web site. Although such commenters raised concerns about the high cost associated with a requirement that covers all communications and advertisements, they offered no other rationale for why they were proposing a limited requirement.

In addition to the scope of the requirement, commenters also addressed the form of the notice required. One commenter requested that the Department require a uniform notice by all movie theaters, and another commenter suggested that the Department require movie theaters to include within the notice the universal symbols for captioning and audio description as well as the type of device available.

Other commenters pointed to industry realities in order to highlight their concerns with the proposed provision. Some commenters expressed concern that movie theaters would be liable for a third party's failure to include information about captioning and audio description availability in their communications although movie theaters lack control over these communications. Commenters also advised the Department that there may be circumstances where compliance with the notice requirement would be difficult for some types of media. These commenters contend, for example, that movie theaters often book a film without knowing whether it is captioned or audio-described and that print deadlines may materialize before that information is available.

After considering these comments and the information available to the Department, the Department has revised its proposed notice language. The Department agrees that notice may not be necessary on all forms of communications and advertisements but disagrees that the notice obligation should be limited only to the box office, ticketing locations, and the movie theater's Web site. For example, telephone recordings serve an especially important medium of communication for individuals who are blind or have low vision and who may not utilize Web-based or print media to access information concerning movie showings. Similarly, newspapers serve an especially important medium of communication for individuals who may not use Web-based media generally. Moreover, according to the Department's research, movie theaters utilize proprietary mobile phone applications to inform potential patrons of movie showings and times, and some already advertise the availability of captioning and audio description devices on these applications.2 Therefore, the Department has decided to require movie theaters to provide notice on communications and advertisements provided at or on any of the following: The box office and other ticketing locations, Web sites, mobile apps, newspapers, and the telephone.

2The Department's research indicates that the following movie theater companies operate mobile phone applications and advertise the availability of captioning and audio description on these platforms: Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Theatres, Cineplex Entertainment, and Harkins Theatres. See, e.g., American Multi-Cinema, Inc., AMC Theatres (Version 5.2.2, 2016) (mobile application software), available at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/amc-theatres/id509199715?ls=1&mt=8 (last visited Sept. 12, 2016); Regal Cinemas, Inc., Regal—Movie Tickets and Showtimes for Regal Cinemas, United Artists and Edwards Theatres (Version 3.4.2, 2016) (mobile application software), available at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/regal-cinemas/id502912815?mt=8 (last visited Sept. 12, 2016).

The Department declines to require a specific form of notice to describe the availability of captioning or audio description. The Department notes that movie theaters already appear to be using a relatively uniform method of advising the public about the availability of captioning and audio description. A review of Web sites and newspaper advertising indicates that movie theaters routinely use “CC” and “OC” to indicate the availability of closed and open movie captioning and “AD” or “DV” to indicate the availability of audio description.

As the Department specifically noted in the NPRM and makes clear in the final rule, the rule does not impose obligations on independent third parties that publish information about movies, and these third parties will not face liability under the ADA if they fail to include information about the availability of captioning and audio description at movie theaters.

Renumbered §36.303(g)(8) of the final rule requires that whenever a public accommodation provides captioning and audio description in a movie theater auditorium exhibiting digital movies on or after January 17, 2017, its notices of movie showings and times, provided at the box office and other ticketing locations, on Web sites and mobile apps, in newspapers, and over the telephone, must inform potential patrons of the movies that are being shown with captioning and audio description. The final rule further provides that this obligation does not extend to third parties that provide information about movie theater showings and times, as long as the third party is not under the control of the public accommodation.

This provision applies to movie theaters once they provide captioning and audio description for digital movies on or after the effective date of the rule, January 17, 2017. Thus, movie theaters that already show digital movies with closed movie captions and audio description must comply with this provision as soon as the rule takes effect.

Section 36.303(g)(9)   Operational Requirements

In response to the ANPRM, the Department received a significant number of comments from individuals with disabilities and groups representing persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and who are blind or have low vision strongly encouraging the Department to include a requirement that movie theater staff know how to operate captioning and audio description equipment and be able to communicate with patrons about the use of individual devices. Having considered those comments, the Department included in the NPRM proposed §36.303(g)(6), which required movie theaters to ensure that at least one individual was on location at each facility and available to assist patrons whenever showing a captioned or audio-described movie. The proposed §36.303(g)(6) further required that such individual be able to operate and locate all of the necessary equipment and be able to communicate effectively with individuals with hearing and vision disabilities about the uses of, and potential problems with, the equipment.

All of the comments on the NPRM that addressed this proposed language acknowledged that staff training regarding the operation of equipment is vital to the proper functioning of the rule. A number of commenters stated that on numerous occasions when they attempted to go to a movie advertised as having captioning or audio description, there was no staff available who knew where the captioning devices were kept or how to turn on the captioning or audio description for the movie. Many of these commenters indicated that they were unable to experience the movie fully because of the lack of trained personnel, even if the auditorium was properly equipped and the movie was actually available with captioning or audio description.

A handful of commenters requested that the Department expand its proposed operational requirement, emphasizing concerns about movie theater staff's current knowledge concerning the operation of available equipment. One commenter encouraged the Department to specifically require all movie theater personnel to be properly and uniformly trained in providing such services, and other commenters suggested that all movie theater personnel be trained as to the availability of these services. Other comments encouraged the Department to enumerate specific requirements to ensure that movie theater staff is capable of operating the captioning and audio description equipment, including a requirement that management document employee training and a requirement that employees receive periodic refresher courses.

A few commenters questioned the need for the proposed language in §36.303(g)(6)(iii), which required movie theaters to “[c]ommunicate effectively with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and blind or have low vision regarding the uses of, and potential problems with, the equipment for such captioning or audio description.” One commenter asserted that an “effective communication” requirement in the proposed paragraph (g)(6)(iii) was superfluous given the overarching requirements in §36.303(c). Other commenters supported the proposed language, stating that movie theater staff, including managers, often are not knowledgeable on how to properly communicate with individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or have low vision. A State government also pointed out that in Camarillo v. Carrols Corp., 518 F.3d 153, 157 (2d Cir. 2008) (per curiam), the Second Circuit held that a public accommodation's failure to provide employee training on effective communication with individuals with disabilities can constitute a violation of title III, specifically 42 U.S.C. 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii).

The final rule retains the operational requirements proposed in the NPRM in renumbered §36.303(g)(9) and adds the requirement that if a movie theater is relying on open movie captioning to meet the requirements of paragraph (g)(3), it must also ensure that there is an employee available at the theater who knows how to turn on the captions. The Department declines to add a specific requirement that all personnel be trained, as it believes that it is sufficient if a movie theater has at least one knowledgeable employee on location at all times to ensure that the service is available and provided without interruption. While the Department agrees that it would be a good idea for movie theaters to implement reasonable staff training programs and periodic refresher courses, the Department declines to take these recommendations and has not included in the final rule specific logistical requirements concerning movie theater staff training.

The Department has decided to retain in the final rule the language in proposed §36.303(g)(6)(iii) requiring movie theater staff to effectively communicate with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, or blind or have low vision, regarding the uses of, and potential problems with, the captioning and audio description devices. The Department notes, however, that communicating effectively with patrons about the availability of captioning at a movie theater would not require a movie theater to hire a sign language interpreter. Communication with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing about the availability of these services or how to use the equipment involves a short and relatively simple exchange and therefore can easily be provided through signage, instructional guides, or written notes.

Final §36.303(g)(9) requires that whenever a public accommodation provides captioning and audio description in a movie theater auditorium exhibiting digital movies on or after January 17, 2017, at least one theater employee must be available to assist patrons seeking or using the captioning or audio description equipment. The employee must be able to quickly locate and activate the necessary equipment; operate and address problems with the equipment prior to and during the movie; turn on the open movie captions if the movie theater is relying on open movie captions to meet its effective communication requirements; and communicate effectively with individuals with disabilities about how to use, operate, and resolve problems with the equipment.

This provision applies to movie theaters once they provide captioning and audio description for digital movies on or after the effective date of the rule, January 17, 2017. Thus, movie theaters that already show digital movies with closed movie captions and audio description must comply with this provision as soon as the rule takes effect.

Section 36.303(g)(10)

Section 36.303(g)(10) in the final rule provides that “[t]his section does not require the use of open movie captioning as a means of compliance with paragraph (g), even if providing closed movie captioning for digital movies would be an undue burden.” The NPRM proposed similar language at §36.303(g)(2)(ii). See discussion of comments on final §36.303(g)(6), supra.

[AG Order 3779-2016, 81 FR 87379, Dec. 2, 2016]

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