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Greensburg will provide interpreter for deaf boy

| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 11:12 p.m.

Greensburg City Council agreed on Monday to settle a federal lawsuit and supply a sign interpreter for a deaf boy to play soccer.

In a 5-0 vote, council approved paying up to $1,600 per season for the interpreter for “each and every soccer practice and game up through the fall 2016,” according to the agreement.

James and Amy Ahearn of South Greensburg sought an American Sign Language interpreter as part of their suit filed this year in federal court in Pittsburgh for their 8-year-old son, Spencer.

The Ahearns, who could not be reached for comment, still must approve the agreement.

City officials released the terms of the agreement after receiving a Right to Know request.

The couple accused the city in their suit of discrimination for not paying for and supplying an interpreter for their son during soccer practices and games involving the city recreation department.

The Ahearns, who were referred to only by the initials “J.A.” and “A.A.” in the suit, claimed the city was required to make the interpreter available under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The couple and boy are identified by their full names in the proposed settlement.

Parties reached the proposed settlement after a mediation session was held last month, city officials said.

Mayor Ron Silvis said he was concerned months ago that granting the request could lead to more of them.

“We were concerned with the snowball effect in all other sports,” he said after the meeting. “You could really get into a lot of money.”

Under the agreement, the city further agreed to supply an interpreter for up to $700 for each of two possible summer camps that the boy could attend.

In all, the city could supply an interpreter for five soccer seasons and two summer camps, based on the agreement.

The city agrees, through insurance, to pay $8,100 to the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania.

The city denies all claims of liability.

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, according to court papers.

At the time the suit was filed, city Solicitor Bernard McArdle said he knew 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 added.

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

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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