By Steven Stamps
A deaf fan has filed suit in the Southern District of Ohio against Ohio State University last month in hopes of getting captioning at athletic events.
Vincent Sabino’s complaint alleges that the “Defendant has not provided auxiliary aids and services such as captioning to ensure that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing have the same opportunities as hearing patrons to enjoy football and basketball games and other programs, services and activities at Defendant’s various venues, as required under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. 12131 et. seq. and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794.”
Title II of the ADA reads, “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §794, states that “no qualified individual with a disability, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Sabino alleges that Ohio State University is a public entity, receives federal financial assistance, and “has failed to provide auxiliary aids and services to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, such as Plaintiff, with respect to aural information projected into the stadium bowls and concourse areas before, during, and after home games.”
The suit asks the court to issue a permanent injunction in addition to compensatory damages. The injunction would order Ohio State to “provide and display captioning on or in the same lines of sight as the Jumbotrons and video monitors at Defendant’s venues for all announcements made over the public address systems, including all of the plays that just occurred, all of the penalties called, safety and emergency information, and any other announcements made over the public address systems or any other systems projecting aural information.”
Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch told the Columbus Dispatch that the university was working on a settlement with Sabino, which is represented by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the law firm Willis & Willis Co., L.P.A.,. Many options, such as scoreboard captions, are being examined.
In 2006, the NAD filed a lawsuit, Feldman v. Pro-Football, Inc., against the Washington Redskins for not providing captioning at their football games at FedExField. In September 2008, the court ruled that “the ADA requires Defendants 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.” That case is pending appeal.
“Nearly 20 years after the ADA was enacted, many sports stadiums are still not fully accessible to deaf and hard of hearing fans,” said Michael Stein, attorney for the NAD. “Accommodations such as captioning are required by law to ensure equal access for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.”
Laren Knoll, attorney at the law firm of Willis & Willis, added that “this case speaks to so much more than one individual’s rights. Every single fan deserves the opportunity to participate, understand and enjoy the sporting event, while they’re watching it. Mr. Sabino had the courage to take a stand, not only for himself, but for sporting event fans everywhere.”