Sunday, March 27, 2011

Washington Redskins stadium must caption all of public address system, appeals court rules

From The Baltimore Sun:

A federal appeals court upheld a ruling March 25 that requires the Washington Redskins to make game content broadcast over the FedEx Field public address system accessible to deaf fans through captioning — including song lyrics.

"Whatever the poetic merit of the lyrics and their relevance to the sport of football, we agree with the district court that the music played over the public address system during Redskins home games is part of the football game experience … and that the [Americans with Disabilities Act] requires full and equal access to the music lyrics," judges from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in the 29-page majority opinion.

That means halftime mix lyrics such as "Y'all don't really want it but the young got time / With a flow so spec like ... technologic" from Lil Mama's "Shawty Get Loose" will now be accessible to all, according to a footnote in the opinion.

The National Association of the Deaf and the Baltimore law firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy filed the suit in 2006 on behalf of three deaf or hard-of-hearing Redskins fans who regularly attend home games. Soon afterward, the team and field owners began captioning most broadcast statements, except for lyrics.

The U.S. District Court in Greenbelt ruled that lyrics had to be captioned as well, and the decision was upheld on appeal.

"The NAD expects that sports stadiums around the country will take notice of this groundbreaking decision and make their game-day experiences fully accessible to deaf and hard of hearing fans through accommodations such as captioning," Bobbie Beth Scoggins, NAD president, said in a statement.

One of the appeals judges wrote a separate opinion, disagreeing with the scope of the lower court's ruling, however. He claimed it was too broad and set a standard that could require all athletic event content to be captured and provided to deaf patrons, even though the Americans With Disabilities Act "itself does not include such a requirement."