Online Staff Report
CHICAGO — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) announced April 4 a landmark settlement with Illinois’ largest movie theater operator that will provide unprecedented access for people with hearing and vision disabilities.
Madigan said the settlement with AMC Theatres, based in Kansas City, will provide personal captioning services and audio-description technology for moviegoers with hearing and vision disabilities at all of its theaters and its 460 movie screens.
AMC operates both area movie theaters — Showplace 16 at 8301 E. State St., Rockford, and Showplace 14, 1860 Anjali Way, Machesney Park, Ill.
“This technology will allow people with disabilities to enjoy a movie right alongside their friends and families unlike ever before,” Madigan said.
Madigan was joined at AMC River East 21 in Chicago by AMC representatives and disability rights supporters to detail the settlement. By 2014, AMC movie theaters will be equipped with captioning services and audio-description devices. The technology will be available to moviegoers at nearly any movie at an AMC theater and at all of a film’s listed showings.
The attorney general’s settlement is a significant development for people living with disabilities in Illinois. Prior to the agreement, Madigan said, only 21 out of 246 movie theaters in Illinois offered closed-captioning services and only 10 offered audio-description services.
The settlement arose out of concerns brought to the Attorney General’s Office in 2010 by Equip for Equality, the federally-funded advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Illinois.
At the time, only a small fraction of movie theaters offered the technology for only a limited number of movies and usually at showings set at off hours.
Noel MacDonald, vice president of operations at AMC Theatres, said: “AMC is committed to providing the best possible moviegoing experience for all of our guests, which includes the conversion to digital presentation. For the past several years, we’ve worked with suppliers to develop digital assistive technologies that can be implemented on a broad scale. We’re excited that this technology allows everyone to join us at an AMC theater.”
Amy Peterson, senior attorney for Equip for Equality, said: “Our clients are thrilled with the comprehensive agreement reached by the Illinois Attorney General and AMC. Under the agreement, people who are deaf, hard of hearing and blind will now be able to fully enjoy going to the movies, like all other citizens of Illinois.”
This case was handled by Madigan’s Disability Rights Bureau Chief Nicki Bazer. Madigan’s Disability Rights Bureau enforces state and federal laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities to equal access to places of public accommodation, housing, and local government programs and services.
Posted April 4, 2012