ST. LOUIS - The Fabulous Fox Theatre must make a number of accommodations available to hearing-impaired patrons by May 18.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry issued a ruling April 18 in a lawsuit brought by two deaf individuals - Maria "Tina: Childress and Mary Stodden - who claim they have been deprived of the ability to understand the dialogue and lyrics of live theater during Broadway-type of performances.
They sued in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in 2016 claiming the theater is in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act that prohibits owners and operators of public facilities such as the Fox from discriminating on the basis of disability "in the full and equal enjoyment of its goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations."
Perry has ordered that the Fox must:
- Provide open or closed captioning at all performances of theatrical productions at the Fabulous Fox Theatre where captioning is requested at least two weeks in advance.
- Publicize the availability of captioning at the Fabulous Fox Theatre and provide means to request captioning.
- Provide hands-free, line-of-sight captioning devices at the Fabulous Fox Theatre for use from accessible seating upon two weeks’ advance request.
- Provide handheld captioning devices at the Fabulous Fox Theatre for use from non-accessible seating upon two weeks’ advance request.
- For single events or series of events, offer for sale to deaf patrons’ tickets for accessible seating at the Fabulous Fox Theatre under the same terms and conditions as other tickets sold for the same event or series of events.
- Enable persons to purchase tickets to captioned performances at the Fabulous Fox Theatre by non-telephonic means, including by electronic mail.
According to background in the ruling, Childress had contacted the Fox in April 2016, requesting captioning for the show "Rent," that was scheduled for performance in May 2017.
When Fox responded that it did not plan to provide captioning, Childress's attorney sent a letter outlining ADA requirements, however that letter went unanswered. The lawsuit followed.
Following negotiations, Fox agreed to provide prescheduled captioning for one performance of some of its Broadway productions, provided that captioning was requested two weeks in advance of that prescheduled performance. Disputes continued between the parties followed by moves for summary judgment by both.