The Sam Bernstein Law Firm Sues Triathlon Organizations for Endangering Visually Impaired Athletes
Aaron Scheidies v. USA Triathlon, International Triathlon Union, and 3-D Racing LLC
In 2012, the firm sued three triathlon organizations on behalf of 30-year-old Aaron Scheidies, a 7-time world champion and 8-time national champion world-class runner who is legally blind.
The lawsuit claimed the organizations violated Scheidies’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by requiring him to wear blackout glasses during the run portion of a paratriathlon (triathlon for athletes with disabilities).
Blackout glasses, which have lenses covered with black tape, were originally intended to even the playing field for athletes with no sight. However, because they block out all light and motion, running in total darkness created a dangerous situation for Scheidies and other athletes with limited vision. When he tried running with the glasses on, he hit his head on a pole, fell into a ditch and ran off the road several times, even with the help of a guide.
Scheidies, who has a Ph.D. in physical therapy, began losing his sight as a child, when he developed Juvenile Macular Degeneration, a progressive disease.
"It’s absurd to make someone more disabled than they already are by forcing them to wear blackout glasses," contended Richard Bernstein, a principal partner of the firm who was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court in 2014.
The case was resolved in August 2012 when Federal Judge Patrick J. Dugan of the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that no blackout glasses were to be worn by any visually impaired athletes. In addition, the defendants agreed to have Scheidies help rewrite the rules of accommodation in races for the visually impaired.
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