Getting tickets for the big game or concert shouldn't be a hassle for wheelchair users. New rules are helping to ease the pain.
So, there is a fabulous new stadium in town and the team looks good this year-—you’d best move fast to get good seats. Every year, a new sports season offers new opportunities for fun and (if things go right) a winning team. Are you going to be able to enjoy it?
Most new ballparks, arenas, and stadiums are being built according to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines and offer accessible seating throughout the facility. A few design and architecture firms specialize in large sport facilities and have learned along the way what works, mostly by including people with disabilities in the planning process. But even the most accessible facility doesn’t mean you’ll be able to enjoy the game or show.
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) members and other wheelchair users have struggled for years to be able to buy accessible seats in theaters, stadiums, arenas, etc. They generally must call a different number and wait for a return call or e-mail, and only rarely is it possible to buy a ticket for an accessible seat online. (Ticketmaster for years didn’t sell accessible seats and changed its policy only when the Department of Justice [DOJ] investigated and settled with them.) When it comes to season tickets, playoff games, or concerts that sell out fast, the problem becomes even more complex.
Twenty years after ADA, when DOJ issued its revised final regulations in September 2010, one of the most critical revisions was in the area of ticket sales. DOJ stated its existing regulations required that all ticketing options available to the general public likewise are available to people with disabilities. While this may have been the requirement, many facilities were making up their own rules.
For instance, the University of Oklahoma (Norman) wouldn’t allow a season ticket holder who needed wheelchair-accessible seating to purchase a particular seat. He was required to purchase a regular-season ticket to be exchanged on game day for an accessible location. On the member’s behalf, PVA filed a formal complaint with the Department of Education, starting a lengthy investigation that continues more than six years later (OU recently reported to PVA it is working to resolve this problem).
DOJ’s regulations apply to Title II and Title III entities such as state, local, and private facilities. These range from neighborhood theaters to 100,000-seat football stadiums; from single-event tickets to season tickets; and from dignified operas to screaming mosh pits.
Ticket sales must now be available to patrons with disabilities during the same hours, at the same prices, under the same terms, and by the same methods the general public can buy. If a third party such as Ticketmaster is involved, it must follow the same rules as the venue itself. Even discount or half-price ticket sellers must sell tickets for accessible seats (if any exist at the time of sale).
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