Bow Tie Cinemas, which has theaters in Hartford, West Hartford and nine other locations in the state, is being sued by the Connecticut Association of the Deaf for failing to provide access for deaf and hard of hearing patrons.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday and lists three plaintiffs along with the association. It claims that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Bow Tie is unlawfully denying equal access to “a routine social experience that hearing people enjoy as a matter of course: going to the movies with their family and friends.”
Attempts to reach the company for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday night.
The complaint says services for deaf patrons at Bow Tie theaters, specifically those on New Park Avenue in Hartford and at Blue Back Square in West Hartford, are either insufficient or nonexistent. No films with visible captions are shown in the theaters, and the plaintiffs say the few closed-captioning devices — which allow a viewer to access captions otherwise not visible to viewers — that were offered didn’t work.
“Some Bow Tie theaters provide a nominal number of devices for deaf and hard of hearing patrons. However, even assuming that those devices were functional … a nominal number of devices would not render those theaters accessible,” the complaint states.
The American School for the Deaf is a mile from the Blue Back Square theater in West Hartford, making the lack of access particularly troubling, said attorney Catherine Mohan, a partner at McCarter & English, the firm representing the association and its members in this suit.
“There are 70,000 deaf and hard of hearing people in Hartford County who are being shut out of the movie going experience,” Mohan said in a press release.
The president of the association, Harvey Corson, is one of the individual plaintiffs named in the suit. The complaint says he and his wife, both of whom are deaf, used to attend captioned films at the movie theater on New Park Avenue in Hartford before Bow Tie took over that location.
“All we want is to be able to go to the movies with our friends and family members like other Americans,” Corson said in a press release. “The technology exists. They just need to make it available and to make sure their employees know how to turn it on.”
Text By Kelly Glista, Hartford Courant; Video By Fox CT