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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Disabled Moviegoers Win Round in Access Case

(CN) - Disabled moviegoers won their 9th Circuit bid to reinstate a class action accusing an Arizona theater chain of violating federal law by not providing closed captioning and audio aids.

The Arizona Civil Rights Division filed a class action in state court on behalf of Larry Wanger, who is mostly blind, and Fredrick Lindstrom, who is mostly deaf, against Arizona-based Harkins Amusement Enterprises. The lawsuit accused the theater chain of violating federal and state law by not offering disabled movie-goers auxiliary aids to help them enjoy movies.

Wagner and Lindstrom filed a public accommodation discrimination complaint with the state after going to several Harkins theaters and finding none that offered the services they needed.

U.S. District Judge Rosyln Silver dismissed the claims, ruling that the laws do not require movie theaters to alter the content of their services.

But the 9th Circuit revived the class action on appeal, saying the "plaintiffs are seeking an auxiliary aid, which is specifically mandated by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) to prevent discrimination of the disabled."

Harkins had argued that the ADA only requires it to offer equal access to its services.

"In sum, the district court was correct in holding that the ADA does not require Harkins to utilize open captioning as a matter of law," Chief Judge Proctor Hug, Jr. wrote for the San Francisco-based panel. "However, the district court erred in holding that closed captioning and descriptive narration are not required by the ADA."

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