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'Hamilton' Musical Sued by Blind Patron for ADA Violation

By George Khoury, Esq. on January 27, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A Denver man has filed an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit in the New York Federal Courts after he attended a performance of the hit Broadway play, Hamilton. While ADA lawsuits regarding physical access to public accommodations are not uncommon, this one seems to be turning heads, most likely because anything related to Hamilton creates a pretty big stir.

The plaintiff didn't have any difficulty getting in or out of the theater, or using any of the facilities within the theater, as is common in ADA lawsuits. Because the plaintiff is blind, his disability prevents him from seeing onstage action like other patrons, and therefore his ADA claim is based on the lack of providing a narrative description of the onstage activities as is common in other theaters.

Though some might think this is another one of those drive-by type ADA lawsuits, those same people need to realize that ADA violations cause real mental and emotional injuries, and can frequently put the disabled at risk of physical injury. An ADA violation is a civil rights violation, and when a person's civil rights are violated, it causes real harm or injury.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, who despite being blind, enjoys live theater quite a bit, is alleging that the producers, general management, and even the theater where Hamilton was being put on, can easily provide headsets for disabled patrons that provide a narrative description of the onstage actions between musical numbers. The plaintiff went to the play, and was saddened by the fact that there was no accommodation to this effect to allow him to equal access to enjoy the theater.

Many live theaters and movie theaters across the country have this sort of accommodation for the blind, or other vision impaired patrons. In fact, in 2018, movie theaters across the country will be required to provide this type of accommodation.

Does the ADA Really Cover This?

Yes. The Americans with Disabilities Act covers quite a bit that many people might not expect. While there is frequently controversy when businesses are sued for not complying with specific building codes requiring bathrooms to have specific accessible features, at this point, the ADA is approaching 27 years old and business should not be out of compliance. The readily achievable standard allows some businesses to get away with not complying, however successful business may have a harder time avoiding compliance.

The federal government in passing the ADA specifically stated that businesses that allow barriers to exist when they can be remedied are discriminating against the disabled. Given the widespread success of Hamilton, it would be shocking if the producers and management didn't quickly resolve this matter by making the play more accessible to blind patrons.

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