Class Action Lawsuit Challenges AMC's Discrimination Against Blind Movie-Goers...
Several blind individuals, the California Council of the Blind (CCB), and the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (LightHouse) filed a nationwide class action lawsuit in federal court against AMC Theatres to challenge discrimination against movie-goers who are blind or low-vision. The lawsuit alleges that AMC is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. The individual plaintiffs are Scott Blanks, Leah Gardner, Charles Nabarette, Robert Schulenburg, and Empish Thomas.
The lawsuit alleges that AMC movie theatres are failing to provide properly functioning audio description technology. When properly working, audio description technology enables people who are blind or low vision to participate in and enjoy the experience of going to the movies. This technology lets these movie-goers know what is happening in scenes without dialogue or scenes with significant visual elements. To use audio description at the movies, an individual wears a headset and listens to an audio description track that contains narration of the visual elements of the movie that is synchronized with the movie. Movie studios create the audio description tracks and provide them to AMC and other theaters. Without audio description, individuals who are blind or low vision watching a movie do not know what is happening in scenes without dialogue and can misinterpret the meaning of other scenes.
While AMC claims to provide audio description services at many of its theaters, AMC regularly fails to ensure the devices are properly functioning. AMC does not adequately maintain, charge, or correctly program the equipment it has. AMC has also failed to adequately train its staff to set up and troubleshoot the equipment. AMC often gives movie-goers who are blind or low vision audio description equipment that does not play any audio at all, is programmed to play audio description for the wrong movie, or that works only briefly before the battery dies. Movie-goers who are blind or low vision often miss parts of movies trying to troubleshoot this faulty equipment, or simply give up on using the malfunctioning audio description equipment.
Plaintiff Scott Blanks commented, "I was so excited to take my sighted sons to see their first theater movie - The Good Dinosaur. Unfortunately, my excitement quickly turned into disappointment once the movie started and the audio description track kept starting and stopping and then stopped playing altogether. Because the equipment failed, I could not fully enjoy my first movie-going experience with my children."
"Millions of individuals go to AMC theaters each year to enjoy movies, but AMC fails to make this experience accessible to people who are blind or low vision because AMC does not provide properly functioning audio description technology that would allow these movie-goers to fully access movies," says Jeff Thom, President of CCB. Millions of Americans are blind or low vision. This is the first class action lawsuit of its kind to address audio description in theaters on a nationwide basis.
Plaintiffs' co-counsel Rebecca Williford of Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) explains, "AMC has the technology and capacity to provide properly functioning audio description equipment that would end the discrimination that blind movie-goers encounter. This makes it all the more disappointing that AMC has failed to take meaningful steps to ensure that blind movie-goers can actually enjoy the theater experience that AMC claims to offer."
Plaintiffs are asking that the court issue a permanent injunction under the ADA requiring AMC to take the steps necessary to provide properly functioning audio description equipment and services for individuals who are blind or low vision in their movie theaters. Plaintiffs are not seeking damages.
"Other theaters have been able to make this technology work for their blind patrons," notes plaintiffs' co-counsel Michael Nunez of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld. "It's time for AMC to step up to the plate and do the same."
Bryan Bashin, Executive Director/CEO of the LightHouse concludes, "AMC's failure to provide access for blind movie-goers contributes to the technical and social divides that blind people experience when companies like AMC give short shrift to the needs of the blind community."
To read the complaint visit: dralegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/AMC_Complaint.docx