Deaf Cheerleader’s Mother Files Lawsuit Against Elite Gym for Discrimination

PLANO, Texas– A Plano-based cheer program is facing a lawsuit from a mother who claims her deaf daughter is being discriminated against. The operators of the gym, however, deny the allegations. Alicia Mims, the mother, filed the lawsuit on behalf of her nine-year-old daughter Ari, who has been involved with Cheer Athletics for the past three years. The program is known as one of the largest cheer and dance facilities in North Texas.

Though Ari loves cheerleading and finds it to be her favorite sport, she has been facing increasing challenges in understanding her coaches due to her hearing impairment. According to her, she often gets in trouble and becomes frustrated because she cannot understand the instructions. Mims argues that her daughter needs an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter to provide her with directions during complex and potentially risky routines.

The lawsuit states that Cheer Athletics has failed to provide an ASL interpreter for every practice and competition. When an interpreter is provided, the gym has placed significant limitations on their actions, hindering learning opportunities and safety awareness for Ari. Mims alleges that the gym is violating her daughter’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Cheer Athletics responded to the lawsuit, declaring that the claims made against them are false. They highlight their investment in accommodating Ari, including consulting with medical experts and providing a roger device, which her doctor recommended as the appropriate accommodation in an allstar cheer environment. However, Mims refused this device and requested a translator instead, which the gym ultimately provided at their expense. Cheer Athletics asserts that they have supported Ari and modified the teaching approach for her and the team.

Lia Sifuentes Davis, the director and professor at the Civil Rights Clinic at the University of Texas Law School, commented on the lawsuit. She emphasized that cases like this are rare but acknowledged the responsibility of businesses to provide effective communication under the ADA. Davis mentioned that determining what is reasonable and whether it imposes an undue burden on the business is often part of these types of cases.

Mims expressed her desire for her daughter to have the same experience as her teammates and be able to fully enjoy the sport she loves. Ari, despite the challenges, feels proud of herself. The lawsuit seeks accommodations for Ari’s participation and highlights the importance of ensuring equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities in athletic programs.