The National Association of the Deaf is suing the University of Maryland for not complying with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements regarding accessible media. The lawsuit involves their football program and alleges that some announcements by referees and the PA announcer are not easily accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees. Though students can access a live stream of the captions via smartphone (the University points out that if students don’t own a smartphone, the school will loan them one), such devices require the use of one or two hands, and make it hard to sign while a student is trying to read the captions. Many stadiums use a lit screen beside the scoreboard to display captions.
The NAD has filed similar lawsuits in the past decade against other football programs, such as Ohio State University’s, and the NFL’s Washington Redskins. One representative in the class-action suit against Washington, Shane Feldman, said “Providing captioning is not rocket science; it is simple, and it is the right thing to do.” The suit against Ohio State resulted in the installation of a lit caption display beneath the scoreboard.
Aside from the NAD drive to have all football captions easily accessible, deaf and hard-of-hearing football fans have more to get excited about. Derrick Coleman, a running back for the undefeated Seattle Seahawks, is deaf. He communicates largely by speechreading and actually credits his hearing loss with making it easier to concentrate in loud stadiums like Houston’s, from which the Seahawks emerged victorious this Sunday. Because of his work ethic and tenacity, he is a fan favorite among deaf and hearing fans alike.