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Arizona Demands Captions at NFL Stadium

PHOENIX (CN) - Arizona's attorney general sued the state's NFL team, the Cardinals, demanding captioning for the deaf on all monitors in the University of Phoenix Stadium.

Football "is a vital part of the social lives of Arizonans, fostering community bonds that strengthen their ties to the state and creating shared experiences that strengthen their ties to each other," the state says in its complaint against the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, Global Spectrum, and the Arizona Cardinals.

The complaint was filed in Maricopa County Curt on behalf of Michael Ubowski, a profoundly deaf man.

"Ubowski made numerous attempts between October 2005 and 2007 to consult with Arizona Cardinals' management and encourage them to voluntarily adopt effective auxiliary aids and services to provide deaf and hard of hearing patrons an experience like that enjoyed by other Arizona Cardinals fans, as the team previously had at Sun Devil Stadium," the complaint states.

The Cardinals used open captioning, which transmits information to every person in the stadium, at Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe from 1988 to 2006, when the team moved to the then-new University of Phoenix Stadium.

Ubowski received an email from John Drum, director of stadium operations, on Aug. 13, 2007 "stating that the Arizona Cardinals would not provide captioning on the Stadium's Jumbotron screens, as Ubowski had recommended, but would instead install three small, caption-enabled monitors in a disabled seating section with six reserved seats," Attorney General Tom Horne says in the complaint.

The New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Washington Redskins and the New York Yankees use open captioning in their stadiums, according to the complaint.

By July 2010, the Cardinals had removed the caption-enabled monitors and began using three wireless personal digital assistants capable of displaying captions, but "failed to post information about the availability of this auxiliary aid on their website until August 2011, one year after the devices first became available," the complaint states.

Horne says Ubowski and his father tried to use a PDA during a Cardinals game on Sept. 26, 2010, and "found that the PDA was difficult to locate, obtain, and use."

There were "delays in the transmission of the captions and frequent device malfunctions," and the PDA "made it impossible to communicate in sign language, cheer, clap, eat, and drink, and also diverted [Ubowski's] attention from the field and scoreboard," according to the complaint.

In September 2012, more than 5 years after Ubowski "first approached the Arizona Cardinals about displaying open captions in the stadium," the Cardinals began showing open captioning in the stadium on ribbon boards underneath two of the largest videoboards. But captioning was not shown "in the concourse area on concourse monitors," Horne claims.

The Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority owns and operates the stadium, and Global Spectrum manages its operations.

Horne wants the defendants enjoined to "permanently provide open captioning at the stadium during Arizona Cardinals' football games and events at University of Phoenix Stadium," on all monitors, and to train their employees "regarding operation of the captioning equipment and assistance for people with sensory disabilities."

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