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45 Years of Impact Spotlight

Fighting For Effective Communication in Public Accommodations

DRP and its predecessors, DLP and DRN, have likewise fought for effective communications in public accommodations.

DRP and its predecessors have been involved in numerous ATM accessibility cases, including by filing lawsuits against PNC Bank Corp. and Mellon Bank Corp., and participating in structured negotiations with National City Bank and First Union. These efforts have resulted in the banks making improvements such as utilizing voice-equipped ATMs and updating their procedures for providing auxiliary aids and services, such as providing statements in alternative formats.

In 1995, DLP and private counsel filed Fulton v. Weight Watchers, Inc., on behalf of a woman who is blind, alleging that Weight Watchers violated Title III of the ADA by refusing to provide written materials on audio tape, thus preventing her from participating in its program. After we filed the lawsuit, Weight Watchers agreed to provide the materials on audio tape.

In 2000, DLP partnered with the National Association of the Deaf Law Center to file Majocha v. Turner, on behalf of a man, who is deaf, and his wife, who were denied medical services for their 15-month-old son because a doctor and medical practice would not provide a sign language interpreter. The lawsuit asserted that the actions of the doctor and medical practice violated the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. In August 2001, the court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, rejecting the defendants’ legal arguments and ruling that a jury would get to decide whether, in fact, the defendants discriminated on the basis of disability. The case settled, and the medical practice now offers interpreters and assistive listening devices.

In 2005, DRN filed Venzie v. Mazza Vineyards, Inc. d/b/a The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, alleging the defendant violated the ADA by refusing to provide sign language interpreter services at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. The parties settled. The settlement agreement requires the Faire to set aside two days each season when it will have ASL interpreters, to post the information about those days on its web site and in its advertisements, and to assign an employee who will be able to answer questions about the interpreter services.

In 2006, DRP filed Rivera v. Wyeth, an employment discrimination suit on behalf of a man who is deaf. Our client had been employed for many years in his company’s copying department but was never afforded the opportunity to receive training on the newer equipment, which precluded his advancement. In addition, his employer did not provide sign language interpreters for company events. We settled the case. Under the settlement, the defendant provided our client with training on the newer equipment with sign language interpreters with the intent to provide our client the opportunity to work on the new equipment after the training. The defendant also provided our client with sign language interpreters when necessary for employment functions and events, as well as sensitivity training on disability issues.

In 2015, DRP filed McGann v. Cinemark, a Title III ADA case on behalf of a deafblind man to challenge the defendant’s refusal to provide him with a tactile interpreter for a movie. The trial court ruled in defendant’s favor, holding that the theater is not required to provide tactile interpretation because it is not an auxiliary aid or service and because it would alter the content of the movies. DRP appealed, and the Court of Appeals issued victory for our client, holding that tactile interpreters constituted an auxiliary aid or service that entertainment facilities were required to provide when necessary for effective communication; that our client established he needed tactile interpreters for effective communication; and that Cinemark failed to demonstrate that providing such interpreters would result in a fundamental alteration. The court, however, remanded the case to the lower court to assess Cinemark’s undue burden defense since the lower court had not decided that issue. After the appellate court issued its ruling, the defendant agreed to a settlement that will provide the client with tactile interpreters whenever he requests them at any of the defendant’s theaters in the country.