Ultra Music Festival

Local Activist Sues Ultra Music Festival Over Accessibility for the Visually Impaired

Photo by George Martinez
Juan Carlos Girl, a legally blind local activist and Paralympic athlete with cerebral palsy, is suing Ultra Music Festival. He claims the festival's website and live events are inaccessible to visually impaired patrons, which violates Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Ultra has faced lawsuits before, including one for $10 million after a security guard was trampled. But Gil, who has filed more than 70 suits against organizations that offer public services and events, is more than confident his case will succeed, even if only to inspire a public conversation.

Scott R. Dinin is Gil's lawyer. He has partnered with the activist in many of these suits. This past summer, a case brought by Gil and Dinin against Winn-Dixie supermarkets became the first of its kind when a federal judge decided the supermarket had violated Title III of the ADA. Gil and Dinin maintained that the supermarket's website was incompatible with current screen-reader technology (a requirement of Title III) that Gil and many other blind people use to fill prescriptions, download coupons, and find stores near them.

Dinin wants these organizations and the public to realize the ADA is not a newfangled product of political correctness. “I think the biggest misperception of this law is that people don’t understand that it’s been law for 25 years," Dinin tells New Times (Gil is not commenting on the suit). "This same law is a civil rights law.”

The attorney adds that the 30-page suit is "not an indictment of Ultra whatsoever," but a public motion for greater inclusivity. "We recognize the great work that Ultra does to bring the community together," Dinin says. "All we’re asking them to do is recognize [that] this is a very diverse population, to make all their offerings available to all people in that population. We think it’ll make it a better Ultra experience and, obviously, a better Miami."

Ultra Music Festival declined to comment on the suit.

Dinin hopes the festival will feel pressure to adopt measures more sensitive to people with disabilities. He cites Colorado and California concerts he's attended, which often have sign-language interpreters and other accommodations. He adds that the visually impaired can enjoy music like anyone else.

"Before we came, they were either uniformed or didn’t understand the severity of the pain they were causing people," Dinin says. "If you put people at your decision-making table, everything will flow from that. I think that’s the nature of civil rights litigation."
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Stefanie Fernández is a freelance music and arts writer for Miami New Times. She received her BA in English from Yale University in 2017. She is always lying on the floor listening to the Replacements' "Unsatisfied."