Caption Glasses and the ADA

So, last week, I was introduced to the notion of “caption glasses,” as an assistive technology to help deaf and hard-of-hearing folk to enjoy movies for their dialogue and not just for the pretty pictures.  And I called the Flagship Cinemas in Waterville to ask if they had “caption glasses,” and the reply came back in the negative.

Now, I currently have Book Brain (manuscript due in oh, right close to 30 days), so I don’t have a lot of Think Power left over to consider Real Life, but it did occur to me sometime yesterday that, doggone it, hasn’t the ADA* had some kind of input here?  I mean, considering the sheer number of people who are deaf or heard-of-hearing?**

I shelved that thought for Life After Book, but Irene Harrison was busy doing the legwork on a parallel track.  She provided the information that the ADA required theaters with more than 50 seats to have assistive technology available, and that the government would give those theaters that installed this technology support in the form of a tax break.

Steve followed up on this for me, and came up with the Hearing Loss Association of America website (here’s the link), on which we find the following (note the date):

Dec 6 2016

On June 10, 2010 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations – Movie Theaters; Movie Captioning and Audio Description.” Six-and-a-half-years later, the DOJ has issued a Final Rule on the ANPRM.

In their Final Rule, the DOJ requires movie theaters to:

  • have and maintain the equipment necessary to provide closed movie captioning and audio description at a movie patron’s seat whenever showing a digital movie produced, distributed, or otherwise made available
  • provide notice to the public about the availability of these features, including on communications and advertisements at the box office, and other ticketing locations, on websites, mobile apps newspapers and via telephone. Third party websites are not required to provide that information.
  • ensure that theater staff is available to assist patrons with the equipment before, during, and after the showing of a movie with these features.

Full article here.

So, what it looks like is that, for 6.5 years, the assistive technology rule has more or less been a guideline, and now, it is law.

In the meantime, just for fun, I have written to Flagship Cinema Corporate (owner-operators of theaters in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Florida), inquiring into the existence of assistive hearing devices in their Waterville location, and seeking guidance on how to ask for this device at the ticket counter.

So, that.

Back to work.

*ADA = Americans with Disabilities Act

**Actually, there is a Societal Thing where we pretend that being deaf or hard-of-hearing isn’t really a disability.  Insurance companies routinely pretend that hearing aids are some sort of luxury item, which you may buy out of your funds, or do without; and my insurance carrier, at least, has stopped covering hearing tests.  Of course, my insurance carrier has stopped covering treatment for depression, but only for women. Because, my ghod! If we covered all the depressed women or hearing impaired people in the world, the stockholders wouldn’t get their profit.  But I digress.

7 thoughts on “Caption Glasses and the ADA”

  1. I have been totally profoundly deaf since my late 30’s…yikes, I am just now thinking, that is 50 years, since I am 81. I have caption tv and the relative I go to most often remembers to turn on caption for me. I am so thankful, if now we can get ministers’ sermons captioned. I don’t go to movies, but I will ask for the glasses if I do go with my grandchildren.

    Thanks for you ongoing efforts to make it possible for us to get more out of life

  2. When you go on Medicaid next year it will cover an annual hearing test IF you provide the audiologist with a referral from your primary care physician. Which is a hoop that annoys me to jump through every year since I’ve had hearing aids since I was 62 and I KNOW my hearing sucks why does Medicare need a referral from the primary care doc I seldom see. (end of rant) Good hearing aids are expensive, no doubt about it. Since there are studies out there that show a relationship between dementia and hearing loss, wouldn’t it be logical to pay for hearing aids to help keep folks out of nursing homes and off Medicaid? (End of rant # 2). sigh.
    I’ve also discovered that closed captioning is great for watching Austin City Limits on PBS; the lyrics of the songs are included in the captions so I can actually figure out what they are singing. I may look into the caption glasses at my local Regal Cinema. Even with hearing aids it’s sometimes difficult to understand dialog.
    How’s your knee? Hope it’s doing better.

  3. I never understood why we don’t have Whole Person Health Care — why it’s split up into Dentistry, and Vision, and Hearing, and All that Other Stuff — and we pretend that one has nothing to do with the other. (end my rant #1).

    The knee continues not to wish to be walked on. We’re talking about it.

  4. You got your lousy healthcare through an ACA exchange, right? For as long as the ACA still manages to exist, I thought it had rules about equal coverage for men and women. Or maybe depression is one of those areas not mandatory. ???

  5. I did, too. OTOH, there were a lot of built-in loopholes about how much the insurance company could profit, so — who knows but that’s how they got away with cutting out one group.

    Insurers were, for instance, required to offer the same plans for the same cost (except for cost-of-living adjustments) year to year. They got around that one by renaming the plans and saying, oops, sorry! New plan, higher price tag. Your old plan doesn’t exist anymore.

    It’s not that the insurance is particularly lousy; it just costs ‘waaaaay more than it should for what it is.

  6. Near as I can figure (and I just started working for a health insurance company taking benefits-and-eligibility customer service calls), the reason we don’t have Whole Person Health Care is that some people don’t need glasses or teeth and don’t want to have to pay extra for them, or else they want to get their dental coverage from somewhere else that offers better options. If they made everyone pay for Whole Person Health Coverage, people would end up paying more for services they don’t want.

    It’s kind of like how Qdoba switched from offering queso and/or guacamole “for a little extra” on its burritos to offering “free” queso and guacamole to all comers—but raised the price of all its burritos by a buck or so when that went into effect. (And stopped asking people if they wanted guacamole…now they have to remember to ask for it themselves.)

  7. As a frequent viewer of television content with closed captioning, and as the captioning compliance officer for a public television station, I am glad to see that captioning and narration will be coming to theaters.

    I do want to call your attention to some limitations that are present in the rule-making.

    Full rule-making is at:

    Justice Department NPRM FAQ is at:

    1. Although the rule-making takes effect January 17, 2017 the required implementation date by the Theaters takes effect at various dates between July and December of 2018.

    2. Exceptions to the rule:
    a. if the theater is analog only (film not bits)
    b. if the theater would have an “undue” burden*
    c. if the movie is not provided with captions/descriptions
    d. drive in theaters (8 in Michigan**)

    3. There are not a lot of captioning devices required, for example, a multiplex with 2 though 7 theaters has a Minimum required number of captioning devices of 6.

    *Cost estimates for theater conversion and annual costs for maintaining and operating the systems are in the rule-making. I can see where the expense to a small theater could adversely effect their continued operation.


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