Court Supports Captioning at Sporting Events
Editor: A Federal district court has ruled that the Washington Redskins
must provide captioning of all aural information broadcast over their
public address system. This is great news for sports fans with hearing
loss, and we'll hopefully start to see stadiums around the country
In an opinion issued on September 30, 2008, a federal district court in
Maryland held that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires the
Washington Redskins "to provide deaf and hard of hearing fans equal access
to the aural information broadcast over the stadium bowl public address
system at FedExField, which includes music with lyrics, play information,
advertisements, referee calls, safety/emergency information, and other
The lawsuit was brought in August 2006 on behalf of Redskins fans Shane
Feldman, Brian Kelly, and Paul Singleton, who are deaf or hard of hearing
and who regularly attend Washington Redskins home games at FedExField. The
National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Joseph B. Espo of Brown,
Goldstein & Levy, LLP, represent the plaintiffs. The court's ruling
requires that FedExField, the home of the Washington Redskins, must
provide auxiliary aids and services to make the game-day experience fully
accessible for deaf and hard of hearing fans.
"This victory is the first of its kind and carries great significance"
said Nancy J. Bloch, NAD Chief Executive Officer. "As the court
recognizes, there are hundreds of stadiums, arenas, and sports venues
throughout the United States. This groundbreaking decision is expected to
have nationwide ripple effect as these stadiums look to this decision for
guidance on ADA requirements with respect to the communication access
needs of deaf and hard of hearing consumers."
"This is a tremendous breakthrough for deaf and hard of hearing sport
fans. This decision, supporting equal access, will benefit the entire deaf
and hard of hearing community, especially those who bleed burgundy and
gold," said Mr. Feldman, referring to the colors of the Washington
Redskins team. "This outcome would not have been possible without the
valiant efforts of the NAD and Mr. Espo."
"We expect that stadiums, arenas and other sports venues will take heed
and begin to follow the law on providing equal access to individuals with
disabilities, including providing equal access to aural information for
individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing," said Mr. Espo.
"The court's decision marks a significant victory for plaintiffs and
the deaf and hard of hearing community," said Marc Charmatz, NAD Senior
Attorney. "The ADA applies to stadiums, and now a court, for the first
time, has recognized that deaf and hard of hearing fans have a legal right
to equal access at stadiums."
The Court held that one disputed fact remained in the case - whether
captions displayed on the 50-yard line were effective for audiovisual
presentations displayed on JumboTrons located in the end zones. The NAD is
confident that this matter will be brought to a successful closure.
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) was established in 1880 by
deaf leaders who believed in the right of the American deaf community to
use sign language, to congregate on issues important to them, and to have
its interests represented at the national level. These beliefs remain true
to this day, with American Sign Language as a core value. As a nonprofit
federation, the mission of the NAD is to preserve, protect, and promote
the civil, human, and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing
individuals in the United States of America. The advocacy scope of the NAD
is broad, covering the breadth of a lifetime and impacting future
generations in the areas of early intervention, education, employment,
health care, technology, telecommunications, youth leadership, and more.
For more information, please visit www.nad.org.