Company Helps Sports Facilities Satisfy ADA Requirements

Nov 17, 2023

Carol Studenmund started her career in captioning services working with court reporters in the Oregon court reporting business.

Then technology opened the door to a new business — helping sports entities become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and meeting the needs of the hearing impaired.

“Technology is what made this possible,” she explained. “Inexpensive PCs made it very feasible to get into closed captioning without spending thousands of dollars.”

With that, Studenmund, along with co-worker Robin Nodland, decided to launch their own business, utilizing technology as its prime advantage. Thus, LNS Captioning was born.

One of the company’s longest-standing relationships traces back to its partnership with the Portland Trail Blazers for which it provided captioning for Blazer games for 24 years.

A few years later came its first stadium work, a partnership with the National Basketball Association when in 2003 the league sought out LNS’s services to provide live captioning for its annual All-Star game. LNS has since continued to provide its services for the NBA’s all-star weekends, proving just how valuable its services are.

Countless deals have followed.

The need for captioning services is especially acute as a result of recent litigation requiring new stadiums to provide equal accommodation to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

In the case of Feldman v. Pro Football, Inc., for example, the Washington Commanders were ordered to make all information delivered aurally to patrons at the stadium accessible to patrons with hearing loss. At the time, attorney John Waldo wrote about that case for Sports Litigation Alert.

“The court ruled that those patrons [of the hearing impaired community] are entitled to ‘full and equal enjoyment,’ not just of the game itself but of the entire spectrum of entertainment being presented,” Waldo wrote. “Whatever is believed to enhance the total experience for hearing patrons should be made available to deaf patrons.”

This meant that stadiums would need to go beyond captioning play calls and emergency announcements and include anything deemed to enhance the experience of a hearing individual such as song lyrics, advertisements, and other announcements.

With that requirement, teams do have a choice in how they decide to provide individuals with captioning services, but many have found that one solution trumps the others.

Take for example the University of Oregon, which first sought out LNS’s services after deciding that hand-held devices were not sufficient to the needs of the hearing impaired community.

“Our first attempt was captioning with hand-held devices, but because of some problems with the internal antenna that did not work as well as we had expected,” said University of Oregon’s senior associate athletic director Mike Duncan. “And that brought us to the captioning situation on the boards.”

Duncan said that since installing and implementing captioning services on their big video board at Autzen Stadium, they have received nothing but positive feedback.

“I had a call from a father whose daughter was able to go to a football game [at Autzen] and actually understand what was happening,” Duncan said. “She hadn’t had that opportunity before.”

In addition to benefitting the hearing-impaired community, feedback from LNS clients has shown that everyone can benefit from captioning services and that most hearing individuals actually appreciate the added convenience of being able to read about a recent play or penalty, et cetera, when the stadium becomes too noisy to hear calls as they are announced.

Studenmund noted that even beyond that, one of the greatest benefits to both hearing and hearing impaired individuals comes with urgent announcements and evacuation alerts in emergency situations.

“Tornadoes touched down in the New York City area, and MetLife Stadium [a client of LNS] had to evacuate to safer areas the entire football crowd,” Studenmund said. “Our captioner captioned the same emergency message over and over during the storm… the captions were just there for everyone to read. No one had to dial up information on their smart phone or look at their handheld device.”

It is clear from this example alone that scoreboard captioning is a prime choice when it comes to captioning options. Not only has the hearing impaired community deemed it their preferred method of receiving announcements while still feeling included in the game day atmosphere, but it is beneficial in numerous ways to all patrons attending an event.

LNS Captioning has truly revolutionized this business and continues to expand its client base across the nation. In addition to the NBA, Portland Trail Blazers, MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and Autzen Stadium at the University of Oregon, they now do work in Reser Stadium at Oregon State University, the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, and Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.

Professional Captions Achieve Near 100% Video View Rate Among Deaf & Hearing Populations

Research supports the notion that captioning makes economic sense.

Svetlana Kouznetsova, a B2B accessibility consultant, author, and TEDx speaker, shed light recently on the immense potential of accessibility in the recently released 2nd edition of her book Sound is Not Enough: The Art of Captioning for Universal Access.

Both Sveta’s book and her TEDx talk, How Captions Increase ROI and Audience for Media Creators, emphasize two crucial reasons to prioritize high-quality, same-language captioning and transcription. First, there are millions of individuals, like herself, who rely on captions for accessibility. Second, implementing captions opens the door to a significantly larger audience and increased ROI.

In her TEDx talk, Sveta revealed key statistics like:

● 80% of caption users are not deaf. (Source: UK Office of Communications)

● Captions increase viewership by 40% and 90% of captioned videos are watched to completion

In addition to these figures, she makes clear that the benefits of captions extend beyond serving the 466 million deaf individuals worldwide. According to Sveta, they also prove invaluable when content is complex, challenging to understand, presented with heavy accents, or consumed in noisy or sound-sensitive environments, such as gyms or bars.

“It’s essential to understand that automated tools not only lack a guarantee of 100% accuracy but also often overlook another critical aspect – readability. Even accurate content loses its impact if it’s not properly presented,” Sveta said. “Many professional captioning and transcribing vendors prioritize accuracy over readability. This partnership is akin to authors collaborating with editors and designers. Vendors focus on establishing accuracy as the foundation, while Sveta’s role is dedicated to proper formatting, ensuring content is not only error-free but also highly readable and accessible.

“Readability is essential because many people underestimate the complexities of accessibility. Captions and transcripts aren’t only about conveying words; they’re about providing a seamless and comprehensible experience, especially for the millions of deaf individuals worldwide who rely on them. Poor captions can cause cognitive dissonance for deaf viewers, similar to how poor audio quality can frustrate those with good hearing.”

“Accessibility is about more than meeting a basic standard,” said Sveta. “It’s about creating an inclusive and enjoyable experience for all audiences.”

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