On December 26th, 2023, William J. Barber II, a renowned civil rights leader, experienced a distressing incident at the AMC Theatres location in Greenville, NC. Barber, accompanied by his 90-year-old mother, had planned to enjoy a screening of “The Color Purple” as a special gift. Unfortunately, he faced resistance due to his medical condition, ankylosing spondylitis.
Due to mobility challenges associated with his condition, Barber relies on two canes and brings a specialized chair to accommodate his needs. In an effort to avoid disruptions, he proactively purchased a ticket in the disabled section, which typically features companion seats and wheelchair spaces. Despite these efforts, AMC Theatres management not only denied Barber the right to remain in the theater but also involved law enforcement, leading to his removal from the premises.
Barber’s compliance with the police escort left his 90-year-old mother to watch the film with the assistance of a companion. Astonishingly, the theater’s management failed to recognize and accept Barber’s reasonable accommodation, insisting on formal notice regarding his chair. Despite Barber’s repeated explanations of his disability and the necessity of accommodation, his pleas were consistently ignored.
In an extended interview with WNCT9, Barber stated, “It stops with me, because what else have they done to other people… what ways have they not been accommodating to other people…”
Despite AMC’s CEO and Chairman, Adam Aron, extending an apology and initiating a discussion with Barber in response to the incident, it is evident that AMC Theatres, as a company, requires significant improvements in its practices. The recent incident involving Barber highlights the urgent need for comprehensive staff training, especially in cases where individuals, such as a man with two canes accompanying his 90-year-old mother, require reasonable accommodation.
Unfortunately, I have personally experienced discrimination from AMC Theatres due to my disability, resulting in a lack of reasonable accommodation. I live with a progressive disability requiring the use of a powered wheelchair. During my six years with the company, I encountered multiple challenges in advancement as I cannot access crucial facilities on the second floor. Instead of engaging in a conversation about reasonable accommodation, I was denied opportunities altogether.
Both incidents are not isolated cases, as numerous patrons and employees have faced challenges with AMC’s facilities, and these issues often go unaddressed. AMC Theatres must conduct a thorough assessment of all its locations to guarantee accessibility for both patrons and employees. These measures are not extravagant requests but rather essential elements that should already be integrated into the standard operating procedures of a reputable company like AMC Theatres.