CHICAGO, IL The Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA) and two additional plaintiffs, ALDA members Linda Drattell and Rick Rutherford, filed a lawsuit today against Cinemark USA, Inc. in California’s Alameda Superior Court for Cinemark’s failure to provide accessibility through captioned movies. The suit alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and Disabled Persons Act.

ALDA is being represented by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a non-profit disability rights firm headquartered in Berkeley, California that specializes in high-impact cases on behalf of people with disabilities.

“This past summer, the nation celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, yet I still can’t see movies at my local Cinemark theater with my family and friends,” said Linda Drattell, ALDA’s President. “It’s extremely frustrating for me and for others who lost their hearing and depend primarily on visual information.”

“We just want the opportunity to go to the movies with our friends and family like everybody else,” explained Rick Rutherford who lives in El Cerrito. “By failing to screen captioned films, movie theaters like Cinemark are denying me an experience I thoroughly enjoyed before the onset of hearing loss.”

“The theaters’ unwillingness to screen captioned films is short-sighted, particularly as the hearing loss community continues to grow,” noted Kevin Knestrick, an attorney representing the Plaintiffs. “The technology is readily available, and financially it is a drop in the bucket for theater chains like Cinemark to provide this service for men, women, and children with hearing loss.”

According to the National Association of Theater Owners, Cinemark USA, Inc. is the nation’s third largest chain in the U.S. and Canada with 3,825 screens at 293 sites as of June 24, 2010. In 2009 movie theaters in the U.S. earned $10.6 billion at the box office.

A ruling this year in the Ninth Circuit stated that closed captioning technology is a valid “auxiliary aid” mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, yet Cinemark has not taken steps to provide caption accessibility to its patrons with hearing loss.

Movies in theaters can be made accessible to deaf and hard of hearing individuals through open, closed or individual display captions.

Open captions are ones that cannot be turned off, such as subtitles on foreign films.

Closed captions are those which, as on television, can be turned on or off like the subtitles on television, and are now available through caption projection systems and new digital movies which require no special equipment or cost. More and more movie theaters are making the conversion to digital movie technology.

Individual captions are viewed only by people who have special equipment such as Rear Window Captioning or special glasses.

The Association of Late-Deafened Adults is a not-for-profit organization incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois. Late-deafened adults are people who became deaf after they developed language skills. They cannot understand speech without visual cues and thus rely on their hearing as means of receptive communication Instead, late-deafened adults must primarily depend on some visual mode of receptive communication, such as cued speech, speechreading, sign language, or text reading. Their deafness may have been the result of heredity, accident, illness, drugs, surgery, or “causes unknown.” Their hearing loss may have occurred suddenly or it may have progressively deteriorated over a period of years. Most importantly, however, regardless of the cause or rapidity of their hearing loss, all late-deafened adults share the cultural experience of having been raised in the hearing community and having “become” deaf, rather than having been “born” deaf.

5 responses to this post.



  2. […] writes an occasional blog and yesterday responded to negative comments by people with regard to the ALDA lawsuit against Cinemark. Give it up for […]


  3. As a co-founder of the Kansas City Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and blogger for, I commend ALDA for taking a stand for accessibility through movie captioning. For the past several months, the KC HLAA Chapter has been in communication with locally headquartered AMC Entertainment to expedite captioning of its latest digital format films. Follow our efforts at, and read my posts about theater captioning under “Advocacy” at

    Shanna Groves
    Author, Speaker and Hearing Loss Advocate


  4. Posted by Jeffrey Weitzman on January 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I am so happy to see this issue finally being addressed. My daughter has sat thru countless movies in the Bay Area of San Francisco unable to understand the dialogue, even though she wears both a hearing aid and a cochlear implant. She often comes out of the movie theater frustrated as she hA missed much of the dialogue, saying she’ll have to wait for it to come out on DVD to see it again. This is just not fair. It is that simple.

    At Disney World we had our first experience with closed captioned movies, it was great. The lectures were also closed captioned. They put us in the front row, with a mirror in front of us, she watched thru the mirror the closed captioning on the back wall. This was a simple remedy that should be required of all movie theaters.None of the viewers with full hearing were even aware we were using this technology. Why are the ADA Laws not being implemented in this situation, there is a lot of technology to correct this problem available?


  5. […] end result of the ALDA vs Cinemark lawsuit was spectacular: Cinemark has agreed to provide a closed captioning option at all its first-run […]


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