US senator introduces legislation for accessible entertainment

Tuesday, 26 March 2013 11:56am

The impact of access legislation in the USA has had a ripple effect around the world. The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, introduced in 2010, has seen a flood of captioned video reach the web. Now two bills being put forward by an Iowan senator could see progress in cinema and in-flight entertainment.

Senator Tom Harkin, who was responsible for introducing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1989, has introduced the Captioning and Image Narration to Enhance Movie Accessibility (CINEMA) Act to amend Title III of the current ADA. The CINEMA Act will require cinema complexes with two or more screens to offer captioning and audio description for all movies at all sessions.

Some American cinema chains are implementing accessible cinema programs, mainly as a result of litigation or the threat of litigation, but the nation as a whole does not have a national strategy like Australia’s Cinema Access Implementation Plan.

The second bill is the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act, requiring airlines to caption and audio describe in-flight video entertainment and provide alternative arrangements for touchscreen controls. The current act requires televisions and other audiovisual displays within airports to display captions at all times but does not stretch to in-flight services.

In-flight entertainment is one area in which access is severely lacking. Currently, Australia’s Qantas is one of only a small number of airlines worldwide that offers a captioning service on some in-flight videos.

Before becoming United States law, both bills must be passed in the Senate, then the Congress and then signed by President Obama. They are currently being reviewed by relevant Senate committees.

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