Disability Awareness Groups Sue Denver

A coalition of groups that advocate for the rights of the disabled is suing the city of Denver claiming it’s discriminating against people who use wheelchairs by failing to provide necessary access for them at concerts at

Disability Law Colorado, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center and the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition represent six plaintiffs in the federal class-action lawsuit.

AP Photo
– Red Rocks Amph.
Mary Wilson, of Denver, works out by climbing the rows of seats at Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Morrison, Colo.

KUSA-TV in Denver reports that Red Rocks only has two wheelchair-accessible rows, one in the front and one in the back.

The lawsuit alleges the city is failing to prevent people who aren’t disabled from getting space in the front row at Red Rocks. It demands the city clearly mark the accessible rows as being for disabled customers to discourage others from occupying them. It also seeks to require city staff to ask people occupying space in the front row about their disability needs and to move them elsewhere if they’re not disabled.

Frank Mango is one of the plaintiffs. He said he’s been going to Red Rocks for 30 years. Accessibility became an issue for him three years ago after a fall in a home-improvement accident. He’s now in a wheelchair.

“It’s just frustrating, because I’m a big, huge, monster concert fan and I’ve always been even before my accident,” Mango said. “Now being in a wheelchair, a lot of my passions are out of my reach. That’s the least I can do (go to concerts), one of the easy things I can do now. It should be fairly easy. It’s just frustrating that it’s almost impossible to get front row here.”

Mango said he doesn’t like sitting all the way in the back. He said seats in the first row are almost always sold out for face value and available only at inflated prices on third party sites.

Mango said that ticket sites may warn customers when they’re buying front-row tickets that they’re buying accessible seating. However, he said that hasn’t stopped people who aren’t disabled from buying them.

“I know that’s a lot of people coming in fraudulently, buying the front row seats,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest concerns, as they have no morals or no ethics. I can go in and press this button, they’re going to let me buy the ticket, when I get to Red Rocks, they’re not going to question me whether or not I need those seats or not for disability.”

Alison Butler Daniels, director of legal services at Disability Law Colorado, said the city is allowed to ask people who buy front-row seats if they have a disability that requires them to be in the seats. “They can’t further inquire about their disability, but they can ask that simple question,” she said. “And if the answer is no, then they can be re-seated to one of the other 9,000 plus seats within Red Rocks and people who actually needs those seats can be reseated to those accessible seats.”

Butler Daniels said the plaintiffs aren’t asking for money. “We’re asking them to make the necessary changes so that people who use wheelchairs can enjoy this amazing Colorado treasure,” she said.

“We think a lot of self-policing would happen if everybody understood that was in fact the accessible section,” Butler Daniels said.

Jay Blakesberg
– Trees At Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Brian Kitts, spokesman for Red Rocks, said the city does what it can to provide access for people with disabilities, including those with hearing and vision impairments. “What the real problem is that people knowingly buy those tickets knowing that they are for accessible patrons,” he said.

However, Kitts said that tickets will be more clearly marked starting with the 2017 season. “When you buy those tickets you know whether you’re about to take someone’s accessible seat and whether you’re willing to do that,” he said.