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Parents of deaf boy sue Greensburg for not providing sign language interpreter for soccer league

| Thursday, May 29, 2014, 11:37 p.m.

The parents of an 8-year-old boy who is deaf are suing Greensburg for failing to provide an interpreter for the child while he plays in the city soccer program.

The suit was filed Thursday in federal court in Pittsburgh for the child, who is referred to as “S.A.” in the complaint. His parents are identified only by initials, “A.A.” and “J.A.”

They asked the court to rule the city discriminated against the boy by not supplying an American Sign Language interpreter and to order the city to supply one in the future.

But the city contends it is under no obligation to provide an interpreter for a non-resident playing in a voluntary league.

In addition, the parents seek compensatory damages and for the city to pay the costs to file the suit.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act require that governments do not discriminate against people with disabilities, according to the complaint.

The city has discriminated against the boy “by failing to provide an ASL interpreter at soccer practices and games so that he can participate fully and equally and receive the same benefits as children without disabilities who participate in defendant's soccer programs,” it says.

The parents asked city officials to provide an interpreter when the boy started playing soccer in spring 2012, according to the complaint.

The recreation department's soccer program operates with two seasons a year at Lynch Field, one in the fall and one in the spring. The boy did not take part in the fall 2012 season.

The boy's mother, who is a certified interpreter, assumed interpreter responsibilities during the spring 2012 season after the city failed to do so upon request, according to the suit.

She was unable to serve as interpreter during the 2013 seasons or this year, and no interpreter was provided by the city, the suit maintains.

The boys wants to continue playing soccer but needs to be able to communicate with his coach and teammates to “learn skills, ask questions, communicate his ideas and play as a member of the team,” the suit says.

Attorneys for the boy contacted the city's solicitor in March and related the law required the city to provide a interpreter, the complaint states.

Solicitor Bernard McArdle responded on Thursday that he knows of no requirement that a municipality supply an interpreter for a recreation program coached by volunteers. City council has an obligation to spend taxpayer money wisely, he said.

“This is a voluntary recreation league,” McArdle said. “The city will follow the law, but we don't believe there's a legal requirement to provide a signer in a municipal recreation league to a non-resident,” he said.

McArdle estimated an interpreter would cost the city between $6,000 and $10,000 a year for the two-season program.

The matter will be turned over to counsel for the city's insurance carrier, McArdle said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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