The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) successfully advocated for equal access to sports stadiums through a settlement agreement on behalf of Vincent Sabino with Ohio State University. Ohio State’s athletic department agreed to undertake several steps to make its athletic events accessible to deaf and hard of hearing fans. The original complaint, filed in 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, alleged that Ohio State’s athletic department discriminated against him and other deaf or hard of hearing individuals by failing to provide auxiliary aids and services, such as captioning, at Ohio Stadium and Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center. Without captions, Sabino did not have full and equal enjoyment of and access to Ohio State’s programs and services required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal disability rights law.
The settlement agreement requires Ohio State’s athletic department to undertake several steps to make its athletic events accessible to deaf and hard of hearing individuals. For example, Ohio State agreed to provide captioning for its football and basketball games. Ohio State is part of the Big Ten Conference of universities. Unfortunately, not all Big Ten universities provide the same level of accommodations as Ohio State now provides. To remedy this, the NAD sent a letter to all other Big Ten universities outlining the settlement agreement with Ohio State and requesting that these universities adopt similar policies and practices to ensure their stadiums provide equal access to deaf and hard of hearing fans.
“The NAD expects that this settlement agreement will serve as a model for other university and professional sports stadiums,” said NAD President Bobbie Beth Scoggins. “Deaf and hard of hearing spectators are legally entitled to all of the benefits of sporting events, including understanding announcements, play by play commentaries, referee calls, and the highly spirited school songs so integrated in the ultimate sport fan experience.”