UPDATE: Closed-Captioning Suit Enters 2nd Season at FedEx Field
Last August, the National Association of the Deaf filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Washington Redskins fans to get team officials to offer closed-captioning for the deaf and hearing impaired at FedEx Field.
As another football season begins, the two sides continue to wage an off-field battle.
The fans, from Maryland, regularly attend home games and want the Redskins and FedEx Field officials to display captioning on scoreboards and video monitors for all announcements, and plays and penalties called, during the game. One of the fans, Shane Feldman of Silver Spring, said he misses parts of the game because he cannot hear information announced on the public-address system.
Team officials say they hired a stenographer and set up hundreds of monitors for deaf and hearing-impaired fans, but Marc P. Charmatz, senior attorney with the association's Law and Advocacy Center, said not enough has been done.
"We were not able to resolve all of the access issues involving deaf and hard-of-hearing fans at Redskins games at FedEx Field, notwithstanding the defendants' implementation of some access features after the complaint was filed," Charmatz said. "Therefore, the defendants have now filed an answer to the complaint. We expect to proceed with the litigation to ensure equal access for deaf and hard-of-hearing fans."
Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson said that the team considered a proposal to purchase captioning equipment from a Colorado firm but that it was rejected by Feldman. Feldman said he was concerned about the 10-minute delay in getting the captions posted.
"One of things they wanted us to do is put captions on the JumboTrons, and that is just not feasible," Swanson said. He said that monitors have been placed at both ends of the field and that a stenographer catches every word.
David Donovan, attorney for the team, said in an interview last week that the team had gone above and beyond to accommodate deaf and hearing-impaired fans.
"At this point, we are scratching our heads," Donovan said. "As far as we are concerned, we have done everything that we have been asked to do. There is no other stadium in the NFL or professional sports that has attempted to accommodate the hearing impaired as much as we do."
The two sides said that they continue to pursue an agreement but that it is likely the final decision will be determined in court.
-- Hamil R. Harris