NATO's John Fithian praises theatre access for disabled patrons


National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) president and CEO John Fithian praised the advances the movie theatre industry has made in providing access to deaf, blind, hard-of-hearing and visually impaired patrons in testimony today before the Senate Health, Education, Labor And Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Fithian stated, “NATO has maintained for some time that our industry’s conversion from film to digital technologies would enable much greater access for deaf and blind patrons. Events during the past year have proved that statement to be true. We are very excited about these developments.”
 More than 88% of U.S. movie screens have converted to digital.

Fithian continued, “The pace of these innovations is accelerating access markedly. Over the past year, digital technology has enabled the distribution of more movies than ever with captions and descriptions, as well as the rollout of a new generation of closed captioning and descriptive video devices. America’s movie theatres are voluntarily installing these systems as fast as the manufacturers can produce them.

“To spur innovation and promote greater access, NATO members have provided technical guidance, cinema testing locations, design requirements and other aid to access equipment companies; organized hands-on demonstrations of prototype access equipment to representatives of the disabled community and industry participants; and taken the lead public advocacy position in the movie industry to promote closed captioning and video description using newspapers, company and third-party websites, box-office signage and other press materials.

“As a result of these proactive and voluntary initiatives taken by the movie theatre industry, more than 18,000, or 53%, of America’s digital-cinema screens are now enabled for closed captioning and video description.”