Redskins ordered to provide hearing-impaired fans 'aural content' in stadium

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Redskins were ordered to provide deaf and hard-of-hearing fans with "equal access to aural content" in the team's stadium, such as music lyrics, ads and other broadcasts on the public-address system.

This week's court ruling is the first of its kind under the Americans with Disabilities Act and will likely affect other sports venues, said Joseph Espo, a lawyer for three Redskins fans who filed the lawsuit in 2006.

U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams said that since the suit was filed, the Redskins have resolved the "vast majority of the issues" raised by the plaintiffs by captioning play-by-play, emergency information and other content.

"No one had ever before asked the Redskins to caption music," the team said in a statement. "But now that the court has addressed it, we are exploring alternatives to provide the words to the songs played during cheerleader dance routines."

Williams ruled the stadium must go further to accommodate the deaf, writing that the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that the team provide "full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations available at FedEx Field.

"Defendants provide more than a football game; they also provide public address announcements, advertisements, music and other aural information to hearing fans," the ruling states.

The judge did not specify how FedEx Field should comply with the law. But the ruling noted that the plaintiffs in this case would not be helped by assisted listening devices, which patrons have long been provided at FedEx Field upon request.