Melissa Earll, of Nevada, says a California federal judge's dismissal of her lawsuit against eBay Inc. late last year was ill-founded because he had already been contradicted by a judge of equal authority in Massachusetts.
Earll said the December ruling by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila of San Francisco is highly questionable because U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor of Springfield, Mass., last July had ruled that the Netflix on-demand Internet streaming media provider is subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act. "All of Netflix's new releases now have to be closed captioned for the deaf," Earll said.
"It took years of speech therapy for me to acquire the language and linguistics so that when people hear me talk, my disability is invisible because I don't talk like a deaf person," she said. "The minute someone asks me a question, I'm watching to read their lips to compensate so communication can occur."
In his ruling, Judge Ponsor said it "would be irrational to conclude that places of public accommodation are limited to actual physical structures," which contradicted Davila's subsequent ruling that eBay should be exempted from the provisions of the ADA because it does not have a "brick and mortar" place of business, according to news reports.
Born with nerve deafness, Earlls could only hear loud noises of 90 to 100 decibels until a surgeon cut her auditory nerve and put a cochlear implant in her left ear in 2008 to allow her to hear some ambient noises, she said. "I have always read lips," she said.
"Growing up in Nevada, the only other local people who were deaf were Steve Forkner, Kathy Howard and Kendall Hartzfeld. This lawsuit is not about money, it's about human dignity and what I believe are my civil rights.
"For eBay to say the solution was for my parents to answer the phone was incredibly offensive and demeaning. It's the 21st century, but however many great strides have been made, the deaf and hard of hearing are no closer to full inclusion than we have ever been."