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 Judges Laugh at Arguements that Theaters Aren't Bound by the ADA

Misc. ArticlesBanner Day in Court for People with Hearing Loss

...The Arizona Attorney General's Office sued the Harkins theater chain, claiming that the business violated both ADA and Arizona state law by failing to show captioned and described movies. The AG was not suggesting that the theaters themselves had to provide the captions or descriptions, but only that they need to install the equipment necessary to show the captions and descriptions provided by the studios.

The theaters took the position that ADA does not regulate the contents of their products or services, and that they offer non-captioned movies. "We have the right to choose what services we provide, and that is our choice," said the attorney for the theaters. "We let everyone come into our theaters and see our (non-captioned) movies, and that is what ADA requires us to do."

The AG's office, on the other hand, said that captions are the kind of "auxiliary aid and service" that the ADA requires to enable people with hearing and vision losses to gain the "full enjoyment" of the businesses' offerings.

The judges basically said flat-out that they thought the theater argument is preposterous. Alex Kozinski, the chief judge, said, "What if we took the position that this building is a building with steps, and if someone in a wheelchair wants to come in, they can find somebody to carry them?"

Kozinksi went on, "Actually, that case happened, and some lawyer argued that being able to crawl up the steps was good enough. Today, people are laughing at that argument, and I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years, people are laughing at your argument."

The attorney didn't back down. And the judges started laughing.

"Captions just let them enjoy the same movie that everybody else sees," Kozinski said. "I don't know why you don't want to do this." Kozinski went on to say that at best, it's only a matter of time before movie theaters have to comply. "You are going to lose," he said. "You might not even lose this case, but you will lose someday. Why don't you get out ahead and do the right thing instead of being jerks?" Nor were the judges impressed with any argument about cost. I asked for CART for the hearing, which was provided. "That wasn't in our budget," Kozinski said, "but we pulled it together in a day. With what theaters are doing with 3D, the cost of this (providing equipment to show captions) is just a drop in the bucket."...



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