Stadium operators at FedEx Field, home of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, will have to provide hearing impaired fans with equal access to the stadium’s public address system through closed-captioning according to the 4th Circuit. The issue on appeal dealt with whether or not the stadium had to provide song lyrics for the hearing impaired on the jumbotron. The reason being, the hearing impaired were not fully enjoying the game as all the other fans without being afforded the opportunity to read the music lyrics being played over the PA system. The ADA requires full equal access to all relevant in-game experiences from having closed-captioning for the refs announcing penalties to the music lyrics being played for the cheerleaders.
“Without access to lyrics played, for example, during cheerleader dance routines and the halftime show, plaintiffs would not fully and equally experience the planned and synchronised promotional entertainment that large stadiums like FedEx Field provide.”
Prior to the suit, the Redskins already provided closed-captioning for everything addressed over the PA system with the exception of music lyrics. Apparently, this wasn’t enough for the National Association of the Deaf, who filed suit on behalf of three hearing-impaired fans, arguing that the lyrics are part of the complete in-game entertainment experience. FedEx will now have to provide closed-captioning of all music played.
With this ruling, will college campuses across the nation be required to follow suit? One must also consider the undue burden presented when stadiums have to convert all PA announcements to closed-captioning. One particular university faced this very issues when an Ohio State fan sued the Buckeyes over an identical issue.
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