October 24, 2017 11:45AM

ADA: Deaf/​Blind Patron Can Sue Movie Theater Demanding “Tactile Interpreter”

Reversing a trial court, the Third Circuit has ruled (McGann v. Cinemark) that a deaf/blind man is entitled to sue Cinemark under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) demanding that it provide a “tactile interpreter” so that he can experience the movie Gone Girl. Each interpreter — two would be required because of the movie’s feature length — would narrate the film in American Sign Language (ASL) while McGann places his hand in contact with theirs to read the signs. The appellate judges rejected the argument that because of the need for subjective stylistic judgments about how to describe the movie’s action, on-the-fly translation would “fundamentally alter the nature of the good, service, facility, privilege, advantage, or accommodation being offered,” an exception that the law recognizes to its accommodation requirement. It sent the case back for further proceedings on whether the theater can plead “undue hardship,” a narrow defense that is often unavailable to large businesses which (it is argued) can cover even very high costs of accommodation with revenues earned from other patrons.

Like the Berkeley online courses fiasco, and the Main Street shakedown mills, and the emerging industry of web accessibility suit-filing, these are all developments to keep in mind when you hear people say that the courts are capable of working out the problems with the Americans with Disabilities Act by themselves and that Congress need not turn its attention to reform. (cross-posted and adapted from Overlawyered)