Univ. of Maryland sued for failing to provide closed captioning on scoreboards at sporting events

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, September 25, 2013

The National Association of the Deaf is suing the University of Maryland for not providing closed captioning on scoreboards during collegiate sporting events.

“The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Joseph B. Espo, an attorney with Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP in Baltimore, Maryland, today filed a lawsuit against the University of Maryland College Park and several of its officials over the university’s long-standing and continuing failure to provide captioning of announcements and commentary made over the public address systems during athletic events at Byrd Stadium and the Comcast Center,” a press released issued by the NAD Monday said.

According to The Washington Post, the University of Maryland, its Board of Regents and school president Wallace D. Loh are all named as defendants in the suit, which was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland Monday.

The NAD filed the suit on behalf of Sean Markel and Joseph Innes, two deaf University of Maryland sports fans who often attend football games at Byrd Stadium and basketball games at the Comcast Center. In the suit, the NAD seeks to have captioning installed on scoreboards and video screens at the two sporting arenas.

The school currently offers closed captioning of game announcements online, which are accessible via smartphones or tablets provided by the school on a first-come, first-serve basis. According to the Post, an individual with knowledge of the situation said that these measures were in place for the school’s two home football games this season, however no requests for a tablet providing closed captioning were made.

“The University of Maryland is committed to providing an outstanding fan experience for all and we certainly do not discriminate against individuals with disabilities,” Brian Ullmann, the assistant vice president of university marketing and communications at the University of Maryland, told the Post. “We offer accommodations that we believe are in compliance with the law, including providing closed captioning of all game announcement through a special website accessible by any smart phone or tablet. We even offer the loan of tablets on gameday for those who require one. We continue to work to ensure an enjoyable game atmosphere for every one of our fans.”

The NAD doesn’t believe the school’s current accommodations go far enough, however.

“The University and its employees have known about this for years and did nothing,” Joseph B. Espo, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the NAD, said in the press release. “Deaf and hard of hearing fans are tired of being left out of the game.”

Espo added that the school already uses open captioning at the Comcast Center for graduations and other similar events, and that the cost of hiring someone to create the scoreboard captions would run the school about $500 per game. The NAD and Espo also sued the National Football League’s Washington Redskins in 2006 to have captioning added to the scoreboards at FedEx field in Landover, Md.

h/t The Washington Post

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