It is well known that going to the movies is an extremely popular pastime for the Americans. However for millions of Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing this is not something that they can enjoy in the same terms as the rest of the other movie goers since most movie theater operators consider that providing “equal access” to deaf or hard of hearing individuals consists only of allowing them to enter the theater, purchase and ticket and sit down not install captioning technology so that deaf or hard of hearing individuals could actually understand the movie shown. The article advocates that that movie theaters' refusal to implement available captioning technology or show open captioned movies that would permit deaf people to be full participants is discrimination, the very thing the ADA prohibits. This Comment reviews the portions of the ADA that govern issues of access for people with disabilities as applicable to deaf and hard of hearing Americans. It then presents the movie theater operators’ arguments against the use of the captioning technology available today as a means for access to people with disabilities and proceeds in arguing that this reluctance stems largely from their misunderstanding of the different forms of caption technology available, a misinterpretation of the ADA and legislative history, and a general unwillingness to open up their pocketbook. It then proceeds in a more detailed examination of the level of technology currently available that will enable deaf people to enjoy movies to the same extent as hearing people do, addressing the insufficiency of access that most movie theaters provide. The relevant case law dealing with the issue of technology as a means of access for people with disabilities is also presented and analyzed to determine whether a legal mandate exists to provide any available technology to ensure access. Finally, this Comment proposes a solution derived from available legal avenues in order to resolve the current lack of access for deaf people who seek equal enjoyment of the movies concluding that showing both open captioned movies and equipment-based captions is probably the best option that would be a reasonable compromise between the deaf community and movie theater chains.
Faye Kuo, Open and Closed: Captioning Technology as a Means to Equality, 23 J. Marshall J. Computer & Info. L. 159 (2004)