ADA Takes On Ticketing

A recent webinar addressing last year’s revised regulations to the Americans with Disabilities Act featured some important news for venues and ticketing companies: If your websites aren’t accessible to patrons with disabilities and you don’t offer an option to purchase wheelchair-accessible seats online by March 15, you could be found out of compliance with the law.

It’s traditionally been common for venue and ticketing sites to direct disabled patrons back to the box office to purchase their tickets, but that practice just won’t cut it anymore.

New regulations state that disabled patrons must be provided with equal opportunities to purchase tickets through both the box office and the Internet.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Betty Siegel outlined the new rules during the presentation and explained that even if venues use third-party ticketing companies like Ticketmaster, they must do due diligence in informing those companies of the regulations.

“It is the venue’s responsibility to be compliant,” she said. “Venues need to make sure that they give third-party ticket companies the locations of their accessible seats and ensure those tickets are sold in a non-discriminatory fashion.”

Specifically, this means that when a patron visits a website to secure tickets, they should be able to easily find wheelchair-accessible seating on maps and charts, and at the same price levels as non-accessible seating.

The old rule of one companion seat per wheelchair-accessible seat has also been revamped. Now, disabled patrons should be able to purchase up to three adjacent companion seats if available at the time of purchase. If not, the venue can offer close seats nearby.

Even secondary ticketing gets addressed in the new regulations as disabled patrons must be afforded the opportunity to transfer tickets or purchase through the secondary market where legal. Venues are also asked to make reasonable modifications to exchange a disabled patron’s ticket for an inaccessible seat to an accessible one, if available.

Although opening up online ticket offerings to disabled patrons raises issues about fraud prevention, the rules address that too.
Venues aren’t allowed to require proof of a disability before selling tickets to a patron, but they can inquire whether an individual purchasing tickets for accessible seating has a mobility disability or is purchasing for someone who has a mobility disability.

Further, they can ask an individual to attest to this in writing.

Venues can also investigate cases where they think accessible seating has been purchased fraudulently.

As for hold and release policies, the new rules state venues can release unsold tickets for accessible seating for sale to individuals without disabilities under three circumstances: when all other tickets are sold out; when all non-accessible tickets in an area have been sold; or when all non-accessible tickets in a price category have sold out.

While the new regulations may seem complex, Siegel essentially chalked them up to venues providing quality service to all visitors of their buildings.

“These regulations don’t impede buildings from providing good customer service to their patrons,” she said. “Ask what patrons need – a seat that doesn’t need steps? Would you like us to remove the chair from that location? You can ask those questions without worrying about overstepping in asking which disabilities patrons have.”

An archived recording of the webinar and additional materials regarding the regulations are available at