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February 03, 2003

Lawsuit to accommodate hard of hearing audience in cinemas

Cinemas are a closed world to millions of hearing impaired people on every continent because of the lack of captioning.

Robert Todd, a 15 year-old American is among those who have a hard time following a movie because he cannot hear much of what is being said on screen.

In June of 2002, his father, Rob Todd, decided to take the American film industry and some major cinema chains to court in the hope of forcing them to make their shows more accessible to the hearing impaired and deaf consumers. He filed a class action suit in a federal court in Texas against 12 film-production companies and theater chains. Like numerous associations of hearing impaired and deaf people, he believes that by not providing captions, the distributors and theaters are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act which has protected the rights of disabled Americans since 1990.

Several types of closed captioning have been tried in cinemas, but none has caught on. Todd's attorneys say that the film studios should supply cinemas with open-captioned films with the dialogue appearing onscreen. The film industry resists open captions as a distraction to hearing audiences. But advocates of the open captions point out that hearing viewers have grown used to captions on television sets in bars, airports and gyms.

It may be months or even years before the issue is resolved in the courts.

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