Accessible Seating

Venue Accessibility – Accessible Seating

Although complicated, accessibility is far from an unsolvable challenge.

Disabled Spectator is committed to revolutionizing the way people with disabilities, their family and friends enjoy entertainment and sporting events at public venues. There are a number of ways we’re going to achieve this. However, our two primary focuses are on improving the accessible seat ticket purchasing process and gathering and providing venue accessibility information.

Venue accessibility is essential for people with disabilities attending live entertainment events. Without venue accessibility, people with disabilities are denied their right to enjoy music, sports, theater, etc., like their non-disabled counterparts.

Ensuring their venue is accessible is a challenge many venue management groups face. What makes accessibility seem complicated and challenging is the fact that there are so many different kinds of disabilities, thus each person with a disability has their own accessibility needs. Regardless, it’s possible to account for almost everyone’s accessibility needs, or at the very least, provide additional service during events to patrons with disabilities.

One way venues could tackle accessibility issues is by addressing each phase customers go through while attending, and looking at specific accessibility features that apply to that phase. We plan on doing showing this with a series of blog posts.

Today, we’re going to focus on seating at venues.

Accessible Seating – What to Consider

Accessible seating doesn’t necessarily apply to all venues or live events. For example, many concert halls do not have seating. That doesn’t exclude those venues from providing accessibility and we’ll get to that in a second. However, stadiums, theaters, and most other large venues do have seating. For venues with seating, they must provide accessible seating.

Often, accessibility seating at stadiums consists of a platform at the top of a seating section, with space for wheelchairs, mobility devices, and folding chairs. There are usually additional built-in seats in this area as well for those with disabilities who do not use mobility devices but still require accessible seating.

For this section to be accessible, venue management must consider a few things. First, there cannot be any steps leading to the accessible seats. That atomically makes them inaccessible. If there is a ramp, the incline must not be steep. Often, there is a railing at the front of these sections. These railings cannot be tall or built in any other fashion that would block the view of the field or stage. In fact, the accessible seats must be situated so that a clear and equal view is available. If the view is blocked, even just partially, it is inaccessible. The view must be equal to that of other seats in the section. Ideally, staff will be on-hand for the accessible seating area to assist customers with disabilities – be it regarding concession stands, restrooms, or other services provided. Lastly, there must be space for a companion to sit, as well.

For venues without seating, accessible viewing still must be assured. While the lack of seating does make it difficult, there are things that can be done. Accessible viewing platforms are a popular solution, especially at music festivals. These viewing platforms are reserved primarily for wheelchair users or others with mobility devices. However, they should be available to those with disabilities that cause fatigue, for example. The platforms are usually somewhat elevated and provide a view to the event. To ensure accessibility, there must be a clear exit and entrance to the platform, void of steps. The railings cannot obstruct the view either. Admittedly there are issues with viewing platforms – mainly that they isolate from the rest of the crowd.

The accessibility of people with disabilities who do not use mobility devices still needs to be considered. For example, concert halls can set aside zones that are meant to serve as safe spaces, or have seating. These areas cannot have steps. Additionally, staff must be on hand to assist anyone with a disability. These staff members need to be knowledgeable about disability and accessibility.

As mentioned above, accessibility might be a challenge but it is far from unsolvable.

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Josh Appel
jappel@disabledspectator.com
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