Broadway hit 'Hamilton' is sued over services for blind theatergoers
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The producer of "Hamilton" has been sued by a blind theatergoer who claimed that the blockbuster Broadway musical violates federal law by failing to offer services to help blind and visually impaired people enjoy the show.
In his complaint on Monday, Denver resident Mark Lasser said Hamilton Uptown LLC and Nederlander Organization, which runs the Richard Rodgers Theatre in Manhattan where "Hamilton" is performed, could easily provide live audio narratives to help visually impaired people follow stage action between songs.
But Lasser said the theater refuses to offer such narratives, which can be listened to with headphones so other patrons will not be disturbed.
He said this violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodation, and "will continue to deter blind and visually impaired people from attending musicals."
The proposed class-action lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court. It was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.
Nederlander did not immediately respond on Tuesday to requests for comment. Spokesmen for Hamilton Uptown declined to comment. A lawyer for Lasser could not immediately be reached for further comment.
Lasser seeks to require "Hamilton" to put on at least one show per week with at least 25 headsets designed to accommodate visually impaired people.
He noted that former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Nov. 21 signed a final rule requiring many movie theaters to provide similar accommodations by late 2018 to blind patrons. (https://www.ada.gov/regs2016/movie_captioning_qa.html)
"Given the similarities," the complaint said, "live theaters must also be required to provide live audio description to the blind."
It is unclear why the lawsuit specifically targets the Broadway production of "Hamilton."
The New York law firm representing Lasser specializes in ADA lawsuits.
"Hamilton" tells the story of U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton in a musical blending, hip-hop and rap, rhythm and blues, ballads and Broadway showstoppers.
It won 11 Tony awards last year, including best musical and best book for creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also won a Pulitzer Prize.
The case is Lasser v Nederlander Organization Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-00490.