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Freie Bahn für U.S. Barrierefreiheit; NATO and advocay groups reach joint agreement on theatre accessibility

The Alexander Graham Bell Association (AG Bell), the Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA), the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) today announced an agreement to file joint recommendations with the Department of Justice regarding its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on captioning equipment in U.S. movie theaters.


After several weeks of discussions, the five organizations agreed on a set of recommendations (click here) to the DOJ to improve access to movies for deaf and hard of hearing patrons.
• Closed captioning (CC) and audio description (AD) technologies are to be
installed in all digital movie theater auditoriums nationwide.
• The joint plan establishes certain minimum closed captioning device
requirements with a monitoring requirement. This flexible, market-responsive
device scoping method will ensure access for all deaf and hard of hearing
patrons and respond to actual consumer demand.
• The compliance period has been restructured to reflect reasonable timelines in
delivery and installation of CC and AD systems

In addition to these and other requirements regarding marketing, staff training, and equipment maintenance, the movie theater industry and the advocacy groups have committed to voluntary actions (attached) to expand access to the movies. These include:
• Encouraging movie distributors to provide CC and AD data files on all movies
and trailers.
• Encouraging movie distributors to provide theaters with information on the
availability of CC and AD technologies in advance of the film’s release so this
information can be included in show time listings.
• Sharing information on areas with large deaf and hard of hearing populations,including schools, and conducting specific outreach to community groups.

“A.G. Bell and other deaf advocates have been fighting for captioning access in movie theaters ever since 1927 when the first “talkie” movies were released,” said John F. Stanton, chair, Public Affairs Council of A.G. Bell. “These joint comments are the result of decades of efforts from A.G. Bell’s members and other deaf advocates to attain captioning access in movie theaters. Today is truly a landmark day in captioning access history. As soon as these joint comments are effectuated, the days for deaf or hard of hearing consumers having to wait for a movie to come out on television, video, or DVD for the captions will be over.”

"This is the end of a long road, and like a lot of long roads, there have been a few bumps along the way," said John Waldo, ALDA member and attorney. "Most ALDA members lost some or all of their hearing later in life, and movies were one of those things we could and did enjoy at one time but can no longer do so. We are very grateful to the theater owners for helping us get to this destination, and we look forward to a continuing and productive partnership."

“Hearing Loss Association of America welcomes this historic agreement with NATO,” said Anna Gilmore Hall, executive director of HLAA. “With this agreement comes the potential for anyone with hearing loss to see and understand any movie any time using captioning devices. For us, that is a “Welcome Back” banner for people who had given up going to the movies simply because they could no longer hear.”

"These Joint Recommendations from a breakthrough coalition of movie theater owners and deaf and hard of hearing advocacy groups are a tremendous step forward in ensuring equal access for everyone," said Howard A. Rosenblum, Esq., CEO of the NAD. "Since 1880, the NAD has advocated for equal access to all aspects of life and is thrilled to be involved in this collaborative effort to break down barriers on an ongoing
basis."

John Fithian, NATO president and CEO, said “This partnership between deaf and hard of hearing advocates and the movie theater industry has been remarkably productive and promises to yield results that will benefit our patrons and expand access to movie theaters in a real, practical and measurable way.”


"Encouraged by the DOJ and particularly Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eve Hill, NATO and the advocacy groups have worked diligently to develop a Joint Position that will be flexible, encourage new technology, and enable movie goers across the nation to benefit from closed captioning in all digital theatres. We will be submitting our recommendations to the DOJ for consideration as part of the rule,” said Randy Smith, chief administrative officer for Regal Entertainment Group.

Freie Bahn für U.S. Barrierefreiheit

Gemeinsam mit vier Schwerhörigen- und Taubstummenverbänden, die zusammen mehr als 48 Millionen AmerikanerInnen vertreten, hat der Theaterverband NATO ein offizielles Positionspapier verfasst und Initiativpaket geschnürt. Die Maßnahmen, die erstmals und auf freiwilliger Basis garantieren, daß alle digital ausgestatteten Säle mit Technik zur Untertitelung und für deskriptive Narration ausgestattet werden, sollen als Empfehlungen an das U.S. Justizministerium weitergeleitet werden. Im Rahmen der ADA Behindertengesetzgebung eingereichte Beschwerden hatten zu Klagen in mehreren Bundesstaaten geführt.

Der Vertreter der Alexander Graham Bell Assoc. sagte, sein Verband habe bereits seit Einführung des Tonfilms für Untertitelungen im Kino gekämpft. Die Zeiten, wo auf das Erscheinen von Filmen auf Scheibe daheim oder im Fernsehen gewartet werden mußte, seien nun endgültig vorbei, meinte John F. Stanton. John Waldo, Mitglied des ALDA Verbands, der jene Bürger vertritt, die im Alter ihre Hörfähigkeit verlieren oder gemindert ist und „einstmals gerne ins Kino gegangen sind und es später nicht mehr konnten“, sprach vom Ende eines langen Weges und dankte den Kinobetreibern.

Von deren Seite betonte NATO President und CEO John Fithian, daß die Gespräche bemerkenswert produktiv verlaufen sind und zu Ergebnissen geführt hätten, „die unseren Gästen helfen und den Zugang zu Kinos auf breiter Basis und real, praktisch und meßbar ausweiten“. Neben der Festlegung, wieviele Geräte mindestens bereitstehen müssen – zwischen sechs für einen Einzelsaal und zwölf für Megaplexe ab 16 Säle – wurden auch Verpflichtungen über Personaltraining und Wartung der Anlagen eingegangen. Darüberhinaus soll die Gerätezahl alle sechs Monate aktualisiert werden und 150 Prozent der zu Hauptzeiten an Wochenenden tatsächlich angeforderten Einheiten gemessen werden. Studios und Verleiher seien angehalten, die notwendingen Untertitelungs- und Audiodateien für Filme und Trailer bereitzustellen und die Kinos frühzeitig zu unterrichten, um eine möglichst breite Ankündigung zu ermöglichen. Die Gehörlosenverbände werden Informationen über geografische Verbreitung ihrer Mitglieder bereitstellen und Verbindung zu Gruppen und Schulen herstellen. (AFu.)

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