York Township movie theater didn't have headset for visually impaired customer
A visually impaired York County man who requested a descriptive audio headset to watch a movie was told by theater staff they didn't have them available, he said Monday.
Preston Gaylor, who went to see the movie "Dolittle" with his mother, Rosemary Gaylor, on Feb. 4 at Queensgate Movies 13, confused staff members when he requested the equipment. Audio headsets are mandated for movie theaters by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"It kind of made me feel like I wasn't welcome," said Gaylor, 25, of Stewartstown. "My mom had to describe the movie scene-by-scene for me."
R/C Theatres took over Queensgate Shopping Center location in November. The previous occupant, Frank Theatres, declared bankruptcy in 2018, according to NJ.com.
Sharon Gutshick, the director of marketing for R/C Theatres, said inspections in November found that ADA-compliant equipment at the movie theater was either nonexistent or defective.
"As soon as we inspected and realized we didn't have that equipment, it was ordered," Gutshick said. "We hope that the community understands, as a company, we are very compliant with the rules and we would never purposely not have (equipment)."
While ADA-compliant equipment, including descriptive audio, closed captioning and assisted listening, was ordered in November, it wasn't delivered until a few weeks ago, Gutshick said.
And the technician who worked for R/C Theatres died unexpectedly, which prolonged the installation of the necessary equipment. A replacement was hired, and the equipment was installed on Monday, Feb. 10, Gutshick said.
That's a relief for Gaylor.
"Now that I hear they're taking action, it makes me feel a little bit better," Gaylor said. "What happened last week was just unacceptable, but I'm just glad I'm able to get the word out."
In January 2017, the ADA expanded rules for movie theaters to require accessories for the blind and deaf. Movie theaters showing digital movies must provide closed-captioning and audio description devices, the rule states.
The rule explains that the number of captioning and audio description devices is based on the number of auditoriums in the movie theater.
Gutshick said she was unsure how many of each device were ordered for the Queensgate location. R/C Theatres, which manages 12 locations with six in Pennsylvania, carries captioning and audio description devices at its other locations, including the one in Hanover, she said.
"We felt bad that this happened and he is certainly deserving of this experience that he deserves to have," she added. "It's something that was an unfortunate situation."
Gaylor said the best way for companies or individuals to understand an issue like this is to not be afraid to ask questions or learn more about a topic.
"Even though I may have a visual impairment, I'm still normal and I can still do the same things as anybody else," Gaylor said. "I feel better that R/C's taking initiative and getting things rolling with this."
— Reach Tina Locurto at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.