AMC Movies Settles Class Action With the Blind

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Under a new settlement, one of the nation’s largest movie theater chains, AMC, will adopt sweeping reforms to give blind customers access to devices that describe visual elements in films.

“It makes the movie going experience more equal for blind patrons to experience what folks who are sighted see in movies,” said Michael Nunez, who represented a class of blind and visually impaired moviegoers.

Lead plaintiff Scott Blanks sued AMC in February 2016, saying that though the theatre chain supposedly offered audio-description devices, it often gave blind patrons the wrong gadgets, such as devices intended for deaf people, or malfunctioning equipment.

Under the two-year settlement deal, AMC will train employees how to use and set up the devices, create a step-by-step guide for them, and test the equipment weekly.

Nunez said the class hopes the new policies and procedures will become engrained in AMC culture and remain in place long after the two-year settlement term expires.

As part of the deal, AMC will keep all complaints it receives about the audio description devices, and a disability access coordinator will review and resolve those complaints, Nunez said.

The theatre chain will also create audio descriptions for its pre-film announcements, giving blind patrons a chance to test their devices and make sure they work properly before the film starts.

AMC also will ensure that suppliers of movie trailers provide audio descriptions for film previews whenever possible, Nunez said.

Beyond carrying out changes in theatres, AMC will also make its website and mobile app more accessible and publicize the availability of its audio-description equipment online. Furthermore, it will update its website and mobile apps to inform patrons when audio equipment is out or unavailable at certain locations, Nunez added.

“We’re hoping the policies and practices in the settlement serve as a model for other movie theatre chains as they look to improve access to audio description at their theatres as well,” Nunez said.

Nunez, of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld in San Francisco, worked with attorneys from Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley to secure the settlement deal.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Blanks, the California Council of the Blind, Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Leah Gardner, Charles Nabarrete, Robert Schulenburg and Empish Thomas.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on Thursday approved a stipulated request to dismiss the case without prejudice. Rogers will retain jurisdiction over the case until April 2019 to ensure compliance.

AMC did not immediately respond to a phone call and email seeking comment Thursday night.

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