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Court Supports Captioning at Sporting Events

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 providing captions.


October 2008

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 announcements.”

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.

About NAD

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.