From Hearing Loss Law & Wash-CAP
At its national convention last week, the Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA) highlighted the importance of access to public facilities by honoring John Waldo with the I. King Jordan award. The award, named for the first deaf president of Gallaudet University, was given in recognition of the work done to increase the availability of captioned entertainment, particularly at movie theaters.
In a sense, ALDA was honoring itself, and rightly so. ALDA was the organizational plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit filed in California against Cinemark theaters, America’s third-largest theater chain. Along with Disability Rights Advocates, a public-interest law firm based in Berkeley, Waldo represented ALDA in that case. The case was amicably resolved when Cinemark agreed to install and use captioning equipment at all of its first-run theaters in California.
After resolving the California case, Cinemark extended its commitment to full captioning nationwide. It uses a personal viewing device called CaptiView that is attached to a flexible goose-neck that fits into the cup-holder on the theater seat. The captions are transmitted wirelessly to the device and shown in lighted type. The devices are shielded so as not to disturb other viewers. Unlike the more familiar Rear Windows Captioning system, the CaptiView devices can be used equally well from any seat, and the captions are not interrupted when someone behind the viewer stands up.
At the ALDA convention, Waldo received very favorable feedback from a number of people throughout the country that have experienced captioned movies with the CaptiView devices. Many of them said they had not been able to enjoy movies for years, but are thrilled to be able to join friends and family members at the theater.
After the Cinemark case had concluded, ALDA, DRA and Waldo initiated conversations with AMC theaters, America’s second-largest theater chain. AMC also agreed to provide full captioning capability in its first-run California theaters. Waldo/ALDA was able to sign that agreement at the convention. AMC also plans now to make captions available everywhere once its theaters are converted to digital projection.
Regal Cinemas, America’s largest chain, also has committed to full captioning after digital conversion. Regal showed an open-captioned movie for ALDA conference attendees on the evening prior to the convention opening, and received thanks and recognition at the conference.
Earlier this year, the Civil Rights Section of the Washington State Bar presented Waldo with this year’s Distinguished Service Award. That was a welcome recognition that securing the rights and opportunities that federal and state disability laws extend to people with hearing loss is very much a part of the same civil-rights movement that has opened doors that may have been barred because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other characteristics that ought not be relevant.
None of those objectives could have been achieved without the support of organizations like ALDA, the Washington State Communication Access Project (Wash-CAP) and the Oregon Communication Access Project (OR-CAP). Their willingness to clearly and persistently articulate our needs has made it possible to enrich the lives of all that live with hearing loss.