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Court Affirms Redskins' Compliance With ADA at FedExField


A federal court has held that the Washington Redskins have resolved "the vast majority of the issues" raised by three deaf fans seeking captioning of all stadium announcements during games.

The Court acknowledged at a hearing on Monday that the U.S. Department of Justice recently identified the Redskins as having gone beyond the current requirements of the law in accommodating the needs of the hearing impaired.

Since 2006 the team has been captioning everything spoken over the stadium's public address system, including all post-play announcements and referee calls, as well as providing captioning of the broadcast television play-by-play on televisions throughout the stadium. The program, now in its third season, has provided all fans the ability to keep up with stadium announcements while loudly cheering for the team.

"The record here was undisputed that no sports arena in the United States does more to provide accommodations for the hearing impaired than FedExField," said David Donovan, General Counsel of the Redskins. "Since 2006 we have been doing virtually everything the court has now held that stadiums need to do, so the decision won't have any significant consequence with respect to our operations."

"The only new issue the court addressed was the need to communicate to deaf fans the words to the songs that are played during on-field cheerleader routines," Donovan said. "The fact that this was virtually the only issue left in the case demonstrates how far the Redskins already had gone to address the concerns of these three fans. No one had ever before asked the Redskins to caption music, but now that the court has addressed it, we are exploring alternatives to provide the words to the songs played during cheerleader dance routines."

The court, in a decision filed Tuesday, held that the Redskins had resolved virtually all of the issues back in 2006 when the team began captioning stadium announcements on LED boards located at the 50-yard line on each side of the stadium, as well as providing captioning on half of the televisions in stadium concourses.

U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams, Jr., observed that the Redskins had made "reasonable efforts" to address the issues raised by the three fans.

The court sided with the Redskins on three of the four issues left in the case:

-- Holding that the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") did not require the team to "caption" the stadium's Jumbotrons (rather than the LED boards), as the three fans had claimed
-- Declining to hold that the team is required to provide captioning of the game's play-by-play radio broadcast
-- Declining to enter any injunction because the team "already provide(s) the vast majority of the captioning that Plaintiffs seek" on the LED boards.

The fans own expert in the case praised the in-stadium captioning provided by the Redskins, stating that the LED boards on which the captions are displayed are "well-placed in the stadium" with lettering "bright enough to be seen in direct sunlight" and prepared by a stenographer who is "highly qualified" with "ample TV sports captioning experience."

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