What you need to know about ADA compliance for concert venues

  • 28.10.2020

Beethoven is famous for being a musical genius despite having hearing difficulties for half of his life. Truly, music is a wonderful gift for all of humanity that should be enjoyed by everyone. Today, we like to enjoy music in the comforts of our privacy as well as in the company of other people.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

A decade ago, the US Department of Justice released updated regulations concerning Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These were published as the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

The ADA is a civil rights law that ensures the right of a person with disability to equal access and opportunities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26% of all American adults are currently living with some form of disability. Among these people with disabilities, the most common type of difficulty is with mobility. In fact in 2015, the National Institutes of Health reported that there were 2.7 million individuals who needed to use wheelchairs.

Title III of the ADA is specifically for places of Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities. This part of the ADA categorizes public venues like concert halls and bars as places of exhibition or entertainment and places of public gathering. Public means everyone and entertainment includes music. With the revised regulations in 2010, requirements for reasonable accommodations were prescribed for patrons with disabilities including rules for accessible seating and wheelchair mobility.

ADA seating for event venues

Rights reserved for individuals with disabilities include the allotment of accessible seating in public spaces. The ADA necessitates the differentiation between a non accessible and an accessible seat as well as regulation in the sale of tickets for specific seating.

Generally speaking, the ADA requires that venues must have about 1% of their available seats reserved for individuals with disabilities. But this amount varies depending on the size of the seating area in the venue. As someone with a disability must be reasonably expected to be joined by at least one companion, features of the accessible seats must also include three additional seats for the use of accompanying individuals. If venues cannot provide such number of seats, the closest ones must be provided for use of the individuals joining the person with disability. For the complete requirements for accessible seats and wheelchair spaces especially at assembly areas, these are discussed in sections 221 and 801 of the 2010 Standards.

Due to the ADA, rules for ticket sales are also an accessibility issue. Tickets for accessible seats may only be sold as non accessible in the event that all non accessible seats in the same price level and section have already sold out. Since a venue cannot require individuals with disabilities to present proof of disability to purchase tickets for accessible seats, this is where accessible seating for events can get complicated and prone to abuse. If tickets for non accessible seats may be transferable to others, the same right must be afforded for the use of people with disabilities. This means that tickets for accessible seats may actually be used by someone who does not have a disability. It is a provision that is undoubtedly open to abuse but events organizers may include language in their privacy policy to ward from such occurrences. They can provide a notification saying that they might require a ticket holder to move to a non accessible seat if he or she does not actually need accessible seating. As much as possible, such seats must only be made available for persons with disabilities. However, it is a system ultimately based on trust hoping that individuals would exercise decency in the purchase of tickets.

Accessibility requirements for bars

A bar is a good venue for a musical event where people can enjoy their drinks and the intimacy of a close group. Since bars are also places of public gathering, they also need to observe ADA requirements for accessibility. These rules are not exclusive to bars but may be the same rules already applied at restaurants, cafes, and other places where seating at a table is necessary.

In most cases, bars feature a tight amount of space, unlike other areas that are also required to provide wheelchair access. Nevertheless, accommodations must be made for the smooth mobility of a wheelchair. As stated in the ADA GOV site, the minimum clearance for wheelchair access is 32 inches. This means that aisles, entrances, and other areas of passage need to have a width of almost 3 feet.

For a patron with a wheelchair to be comfortably accommodated at a table, certain measurements are also prescribed. The heights of tables may only be between 28 to 34 inches to make enough room for standard wheelchair heights. Underneath the table, knee room must meet the minimum 30 by 27 by 19 inches required. Just like at an event venue, accessible seating must also be available but in this case, accessible seating means that seats should be able to move to make way for a wheelchair. A section in the restroom allotted for the use of a person with disability must also meet a standard 5 by 5 foot area for easy maneuvering with a wheelchair.

Just as no person can claim perfection, it is also impossible to be 100% ADA compliant. There are a lot of rules to follow and all you need to make a mistake is to miss one of these tiny details. The surest way to know that you are in possible violation of any provision is the serving of a complaint already filed in court. Nobody wants this to happen and this is only the worst case scenario.

The ADA was constructed to ensure equal opportunities for everyone and this includes businesses who also have the right to have patrons from all backgrounds. But because the rules serve more as a prescription for best practices, it can be hard to comply even with the best of intentions. Every year, legal proceedings specifically for ADA Title III violations continue to go on the rise. If you need guidance and access to more information regarding the ADA, please feel free to contact us with any of your questions.

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