Views Sought in Movie Theater Wheelchair Case
Mon January 12, 2004 11:47 AM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court asked the federal
government on Monday for its views on whether the law protecting the
disabled from discrimination required stadium-style movie theaters to
give wheelchair users the same views as other patrons.
The high court sought the views of the Justice Department's solicitor
general on whether to hear the appeal by Regal Entertainment Group's
A U.S. appeals court ruled the theater chain failed to comply with
the Americans with Disabilities Act by putting wheelchair patrons in
the front rows.
Three disabled, wheelchair-bound women had sued Regal over the
seating at stadium-style theaters in Oregon.
Stadium-style theaters, which first opened in 1995, place most seats
on stepped risers rather than on sloped floors like in older
theaters. In stadium-style theaters, wheelchair seating is located
within the first five rows, near the exits.
A federal judge ruled for Regal and said the law entitled wheelchair
users only to an unobstructed view of the screen. But the appeals
"Wheelchair-bound movie theater patrons must sit in seats that are
objectively uncomfortable, requiring them to crane their necks and
twist their bodies in order to see the screen, while non-disabled
patrons have a wide range of comfortable viewing locations from which
to choose," it said.
The appeals court ruled Regal must provide wheelchair seating
locations within the range of viewing angles offered to the general
Regal appealed to the Supreme Court. It said there have been
conflicting appeals court rulings on the issue. Regal said the ruling
in its case means thousands of movie theaters may have to be brought
into compliance with the law.
The Justice Department is expected to file its views about the case
within the next several months.
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