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Thomas H.
Former Democrat IA
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    Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

    by Former Senator Tom Harkin

    Posted on 2013-03-13

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    HARKIN: S. 555. A bill to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to require captioning and video description at certain movie theaters; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.



    Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, today marks the 25th anniversary of the appointment of Gallaudet University's first Deaf president, Dr. I. King Jordan. This historic appointment, the product of the ``Deaf President Now'' student protests, was truly a catalyzing moment--a moment to establish dignity--for the Deaf community. As President Jordan stated in his acceptance speech, the Deaf community would ``no longer accept limits on what we can achieve.'' Deaf President Now was significant not only for the Deaf community, but it also showed other Americans what Deaf individuals are capable of. We saw the rights of the Deaf community brought to the forefront. And the Deaf President Now movement, with the active involvement of the Deaf community, helped lead to passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act 2 years later, in 1990.

    The Americans with Disabilities Act is one of the landmark civil rights laws of the 20th century--a long-overdue emancipation proclamation for Americans with disabilities. The ADA has played a huge role in making our country more accessible, in raising the expectations of people with disabilities about what they can hope to achieve at work and in life, and in inspiring all of us to view disability issues through the lens of equality and opportunity.

    Before the ADA, life was very different for folks with disabilities. Being an American with a disability meant not being able to ride on a bus because there was no lift, not being able to attend a concert or ballgame because there was no accessible seating, and not being able to cross the street in a wheelchair because there were no curb cuts. In short, it meant not being able to work or participate in community life. Discrimination was both commonplace and accepted.

    Since then, we have seen amazing progress. The ADA literally transformed the American landscape by requiring that architectural barriers be removed and replaced with accessible features such as ramps, lifts, curb cuts, widening doorways, and closed captioning. More importantly, the ADA gave millions of Americans the opportunity to participate in their communities. We have made substantial progress in advancing the four goals of the ADA--equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.

    But despite this progress, we still have more work to do. Although most television and home videos contain captioning for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing--or the rest of us--most movie theaters do not. Thus millions of Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing are not able to attend a movie with their families or friends, at a time and location that they want, simply because captioning is not available. The same is true for individuals who are blind or visually impaired; most movie theaters do not provide access to video description technology, which would allow these individuals to have access to the key elements of a motion picture by contemporaneous audio narrated descriptions during the natural pauses in the audio portion of the programming, usually through headphones.

    A similar problem occurs in airplanes, with respect to in-flight entertainment. Many airlines are now providing in-flight entertainment for their passengers--but individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing cannot access it, because the overwhelming majority of this programming does not have captioning. Individuals who are blind or visually impaired are similarly excluded, since video description is not provided for such programming either.

    So we have a situation where an individual, in his own home, can usually access captioning or similar technology on his television when watching live television, or a television show, or a movie. Such captioning is often available in other venues, such as restaurants and sports bars. I do not believe that it would be difficult to provide the same technology access for individuals with disabilities in movie theaters or on airplanes. This would allow these Americans with disabilities [[Page S1792]] to have the same access as everyone else.

    Today I am introducing two bills. These bills will allow Americans with visual or hearing impairments to enjoy going to the movies and watching in-flight entertainment, through captioning and video description, just as they can at home.

    The first S. 555, entitled the Captioning and Image Narration to Enhance Movie Accessibility, CINEMA, Act, would amend Title III of the ADA to require movie theater complexes of two or more theaters to make captioning and video description available for all films at all showings.

    The second, S. 556, entitled the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act, would require air carriers to make captioning and video description available for visually-displayed entertainment programming--live televised events, recorded programming, and motion pictures--that is available in-flight for passengers. In instances where the programming is only available through the use of an individual touchscreen or other contact-sensitive controls, the bill would authorize the U.S. Access Board to develop accessibility standards so that individuals with disabilities can operate the displays independently.

    I look forward to working with my fellow members to pass these two bills and ensure that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who are blind or visually impaired, can have the same access to movies and in-flight entertainment as other Americans.

    Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

    There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: S. 555 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Captioning and Image Narration to Enhance Movie Accessibility Act'' or the ``CINEMA Act''.

    SEC. 2. MOVIE THEATER ACCESSIBILITY.

    Section 302(b) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12182(b)) is amended-- (1) by redesignating paragraph (3) as paragraph (4); and (2) by inserting after paragraph (2) the following: ``(3) Movie theater accessibility.-- ``(A) Definitions.--In this paragraph: ``(i) Closed captioning.--The term `closed captioning' means a method, process, or mechanism, which may include a device, that-- ``(I) allows an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing to have access to the content of a motion picture; and ``(II) allows that access by displaying, through an individual device or individually used technology, all of the audio portion of the motion picture (including displaying the dialogue and any narration, as well as descriptions of on- and off-screen sounds such as sound effects, music, or lyrics for music, and information identifying the character who is speaking) as text that can be effectively viewed and controlled by that individual while the individual simultaneously watches the motion picture.

    ``(ii) Covered entity.--The term `covered entity' means an entity-- ``(I) that operates a complex of 2 or more movie theaters, screening rooms, or similar venues, at a single location, that are used for the exhibition of copyrighted motion pictures, if such exhibition is open to the public; and ``(II) whose operations affect commerce.

    ``(iii) Open captioning.--The term `open captioning' means a method, process, or mechanism that-- ``(I) allows an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing to have access to the content of a motion picture; and ``(II) allows that access by openly displaying on the movie screen involved all of the audio portion of the motion picture (including displaying the dialogue and any narration, as well as descriptions of on- and off-screen sounds such as sound effects, music, or lyrics for music, and information identifying the character who is speaking) as text that can be effectively viewed by that individual and other members of the audience while the individual and members simultaneously watch the motion picture.

    ``(iv) Video description.--The term `video description' means a method, process, or mechanism, including a device, that-- ``(I) allows an individual who is blind or visually impaired to have access to the key visual elements of a motion picture (such as actions, settings, facial expressions, costumes, and scene changes); and ``(II) allows that access through the provision of contemporaneous audio narrated descriptions of those elements during the natural pauses in the audio portion of the motion picture, or during the audio portion if necessary.

    ``(B) Accessibility.--It shall be discriminatory for any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a covered entity to fail to ensure that all motion pictures shown at the complex involved are accessible to individuals with disabilities, including-- ``(i) providing, or making available, open captioning for individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing; ``(ii) providing, or making available, closed captioning for individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing; and ``(iii) providing, or making available, video description for individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

    ``(C) Rule of construction.--Nothing in this Act shall be construed to limit or prohibit an individual with a disability from utilizing technology in connection with a personal device in a manner that may provide the individual with access to closed captioning, open captioning, or video description that is equivalent to or greater than the corresponding access required under subparagraph (B).''.

    SEC. 3. CONFORMING AMENDMENT.

    Section 308(a)(2) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12188(a)(2)) is amended by striking ``and section 303(a)'' and inserting ``, 302(b)(3), and 303(a)''.

    SEC. 4. EFFECTIVE DATE.

    This Act takes effect 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act.

    ______ By Mr. HARKIN: S. 556. A bill to amend title 49, United States Code, to improve the accessibility of entertainment programming provided by air carriers on passenger flights, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

    Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

    There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: S. 556 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ``Air Carrier Access Amendments Act''.

    SEC. 2. ACCESSIBILITY OF IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAMMING.

    (a) In General.--Subchapter I of chapter 417 of title 49, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 41705 the following: ``Sec. 41705a. Accessibility of in-flight entertainment programming ``(a) In General.--In providing air transportation, an air carrier, including (subject to section 40105(b)) any foreign air carrier, shall ensure that-- ``(1) on and after the date that is 180 days after the date of the enactment of the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act, all visually displayed entertainment programming available to passengers on a flight is accessible to individuals with disabilities, including by-- ``(A) providing, or making available, open captioning for individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, when such programming is available to passengers through shared video displays, such as a monitor located in a passenger access aisle; ``(B) providing, or making available, closed captioning for individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, when such programming is available to passengers through individual video displays; and ``(C) providing, or making available, video description for individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are blind or visually impaired, when such programming is available to passengers through individual video displays or shared video displays; and ``(2) not later than the effective date of the regulations prescribed under subsection (c)(2), all individual video displays that display entertainment programming or information to passengers on a flight that are operated primarily by using touchscreens or other contact-sensitive controls include a mechanism that allows individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are blind or visually impaired, to independently operate the displays in accordance with the standards prescribed under subsection (c).

    ``(b) Enforcement.-- ``(1) In general.--The remedies and procedures set forth in section 308(a) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12188(a)), including the injunctive relief described in paragraph (2) of that section, shall be available to any person aggrieved by the failure of an air carrier to comply with subsection (a).

    ``(2) Enforcement by attorney general.--The provisions of section 308(b) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12188(b)) shall apply with respect to the compliance of air carriers with subsection (a) to the same extent that those provisions apply with respect to the compliance of covered entities with title III of that Act (42 U.S.C. 12181 et seq.).

    ``(c) Establishment of Standards for Operation of Individual Video Displays.-- ``(1) In general.--Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of the Air [[Page S1793]] Carrier Access Amendments Act, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board shall, in consultation with the Secretary of Transportation, prescribe standards in accordance with chapter 5 of title 5 (commonly known as the `Administrative Procedure Act') setting forth the minimum technical criteria for individual video displays described in subsection (a)(2) to ensure that such video displays include a mechanism that allows individuals with disabilities to operate the displays independently.

    ``(2) Regulations.--Not later than 180 days after the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board issues standards under paragraph (1), the Secretary shall prescribe such regulations as are necessary to implement those standards and shall publish those regulations in an accessible format.

    ``(3) Review and amendment.--The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, in consultation with the Secretary, shall periodically review and, as appropriate, amend the standards prescribed under paragraph (1) in accordance with chapter 5 of title 5. Not later than 180 days after the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board issues amended standards under this paragraph, the Secretary shall make such revisions to the regulations prescribed under paragraph (2) as are necessary to implement the amended standards.

    ``(d) Definitions.--In this section: ``(1) Closed captioning.--The term `closed captioning' means a method, process, or mechanism, which may include a device, that-- ``(A) allows an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing to have access to the content of visually displayed entertainment programming; and ``(B) allows that access by displaying, through an individual device or individually used technology, all of the audio portion of the programming (including displaying the dialogue and any narration, as well as descriptions of on- and off-screen sounds such as sound effects, music, or lyrics for music, and information identifying the character who is speaking) as text that can be effectively viewed and controlled by that individual while the individual simultaneously watches the programming.

    ``(2) Individual with a disability.--The term `individual with a disability' means any person who has a disability as defined in section 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12102).

    ``(3) Open captioning.--The term `open captioning' means a method, process, or mechanism that-- ``(A) allows an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing to have access to the content of visually displayed entertainment programming; and ``(B) allows that access by openly displaying on the video display on which the programming is displayed all of the audio portion of the programming (including displaying the dialogue and any narration, as well as descriptions of on- and off-screen sounds such as sound effects, music, or lyrics for music, and information identifying the character who is speaking) as text that can be effectively viewed by that individual and other passengers while the individual and passengers simultaneously watch the programming.

    ``(4) Video description.--The term `video description' means a method, process, or mechanism, including a device, that-- ``(A) allows an individual who is blind or visually impaired to have access to the key visual elements of visually displayed entertainment programming (such as actions, settings, facial expressions, costumes, and scene changes); and ``(B) allows that access through the provision of contemporaneous audio narrated descriptions of those elements during the natural pauses in the audio portion of the programming, or during the audio portion if necessary.

    ``(5) Visually displayed entertainment programming.--The term `visually displayed entertainment programming' means live televised events, recorded programming (including television programs), or motion pictures that are available to passengers, for a fee or without cost, on a flight in air transportation.''.

    (b) Clerical Amendment.--The analysis for chapter 417 of title 49, United States Code, is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 41705 the following: ``41705a. Accessibility of in-flight entertainment programming.''.

    ____________________

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