Blind advocates sue AMC theaters

Five blind and vision-impaired individuals and two advocacy groups sued the AMC movie theater chain in federal court in San Francisco Tuesday for allegedly failing to provide adequate equipment for an assistive service known as audio description technology.

The technology supplements the spoken dialogue heard by blind moviegoers by providing spoken descriptions of scenes where there is no dialogue or where an explanation is needed.

Blind movie patrons hear the descriptions through earphones.

“Audio description technology is essential to the movie-going experience of blind individuals,” the lawsuit claims, “so that they will know what is happening in scenes without dialogue or scenes that include significant visual elements.” The lawsuit was filed by the California Council of the Blind, Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, four California residents and one Georgia resident.

They claim that AMC, which owns or operates 348 theaters nationwide, violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act by “routinely” providing audio description technology that is malfunctioning, non-functioning or programmed for the wrong movie.

The lawsuit asks for an injunction requiring AMC to provide properly functioning audio description equipment.

It also seeks to be declared a class action on behalf of all blind and visually impaired patrons nationwide who have tried to use the technology in an AMC theater.

The defendants in the lawsuit are Kansas-based AMC Entertainment Inc., which operates the theaters, its parent company AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., and subsidiary American Multi-Cinema Inc.

A spokesman for AMC could not be reached for comment. About 200 million moviegoers visit AMC theaters each year, according to the company’s website.