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Attorney General Horne and Cinemark Theater Chain Reach Settlement to Expand Access to Movies and Performances for Hearing-Impaired Customers

(PHOENIX Thursday, July 19, 2012) -- Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and Cinemark Holdings, Inc. have announced the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division in June 2011 that will improve access for the theater chain’s hearing-impaired customers. 

The terms of the Settlement Agreement will expand access to the dialogue, sound effects, and sound track of first run movies, independent films, and other performances shown at Cinemark’s theaters during the peak season for summer blockbuster movies. 

“Everyone, regardless of a disability, should have the opportunity to enjoy the widest variety of entertainment options available,” Horne said. “I commend Cinemark Theaters for providing customers who are hard of hearing with the necessary devices to give the hearing-impaired more options and for the cooperative way in which it worked to resolve the lawsuit.” 

Cinemark agreed effective June 30, to equip its six Arizona theaters with neckloops and receivers, making the devices available at Century 20 El Con, Century Gateway 12, Century Park Place 20 and XD, Century Theatres at Oro Valley Marketplace, Cinemark 10 (Sierra Vista), and Cinemark Mesa 16. Cinemark also agreed to track the demand for neckloops and obtain more, if necessary, to meet the actual demand generated by customers using the devices. Cinemark will also train its staff to ensure that they can assist guests to locate the neckloops when they arrive, learn how to operate them, and troubleshoot if there is any problem using them. Cinemark agreed to take steps to market the availability of the neckloops, including sending informational notices to various agencies serving the deaf and hard of hearing community, posting signs in the lobby and box office window, and indicating neckloop availability on its website with this symbol: neckloop logo . 

With the addition of neckloops, Cinemark offers a full range of devices for the hard of hearing and deaf customer including closed caption devices (for movies produced with closed captions) and standard and neckloop assistive listening devices (for any movie or performance). 

Although Cinemark already provided over-the-ear headsets that amplified sound, neckloops are assistive listening devices that work with cochlear implants and hearing aids with T-coil technology. A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin. About 60% of available hearing aids and cochlear implants use T-coil technology, a number that is increasing every year. Unfortunately, T-coil hearing aids and cochlear implants did not work with the standard assistive listening headsets provided by Cinemark. Neckloops hang around the guest’s neck and transmit sound magnetically into their cochlear implant or hearing aid. In this way, the technology uses the customer’s own adjustments to provide a much higher quality of music, dialogue, and sound effects without producing feedback. 

Assistant Attorneys General Rose Daly-Rooney and Chris Carlsen and Compliance Officer Patricia Bianchi handled this matter for the Attorney General’s Office. Jose de Jesus Rico, an attorney at the Arizona Center for Disability Law, represented Mr. Olson before the Civil Rights Division during its investigation. 

The Arizonans with Disabilities Act prohibits disability discrimination in places of public accommodation, such as movie theaters, hotels, restaurants, retail stores, professional offices and day care centers. People who believe that their civil rights have been violated should contact the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division for assistance in filing a complaint. Individuals wishing to file a civil rights complaint may call a statewide toll-free number at 1.877.491.5742 or go to www.azag.org to either submit an online complaint or find the nearest satellite office to speak to a community volunteer.