FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CR
MONDAY, APRIL 27, 1998 (202) 616-2765
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH ARCHITECT OF NEW SPORTS ARENAS
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The nation's largest architectural firm has agreed to design all new stadiums and arenas so that spectators who use wheelchairs will be able to fully view stadium events, under an agreement announced today by the Justice Department.
The agreement, approved Friday by the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, requires Ellerbe Becket to ensure that all new stadiums and arenas are designed in compliance with the new construction guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Stadiums and arenas constructed after January 26, 1993 are required to provide seating locations for wheelchair users that allow for lines of sight to the floor or field that are comparable to the lines of sight provided to other spectators. When fans stand up during the exciting portions of a game, wheelchair users often are blocked from seeing the event.
"Fans who use wheelchairs should be able to see the action on the playing field, rather than just the backs of the people in front of them," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "Equal opportunity means more than just being able to attend an event, it also means the opportunity to watch it."
Under the settlement, Ellerbe, which is based in Minneapolis, has agreed to provide comparable lines of sight for wheelchair users, including lines of sight over standing spectators. Ellerbe will take into account the likelihood that other spectators will stand up for some or all of many events including, for instance, basketball games and rock concerts and to calculate lines of sight for wheelchair users so that they are still able to see the floor or stage when other spectators stand.
The agreement includes detailed measurements for the average heights of standing spectators, and the average height of a person seated in a wheelchair. If these measurements are used to calculate sight lines for wheelchair users, the Justice Department believes that the lines of sight for wheelchair users will be comparable to those for other spectators.
"Now people with disabilities will be able to see what they're paying for," added Mr. Lee.
The agreement resolves a Justice Department lawsuit filed in October 1996, charging that Ellerbe had designed several well-known sports stadiums and arenas improperly. All of the facilities, which had been constructed after the ADA went into effect in 1992, did not provide wheelchair users with lines of sight over standing spectators. The stadiums included, the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.; the Fleet Center in Boston; the Corestates arena in Philadelphia; the Rose Garden, in Portland, Oregon; the Gund Arena, in Cleveland; and, the Marine Midland Arena, in Buffalo, New York.
Individuals with disabilities and disability advocacy groups have filed lawsuits against several of these arenas, seeking to force the owners of the arenas to modify the wheelchair seating areas. In Washington, D.C., the Paralyzed Veterans of America prevailed in a lawsuit against the MCI Center, and several modifications have been made to the wheelchair seating in that arena. In Portland, Oregon, a federal district court ruled that wheelchair locations in the Rose Garden were not required to provide lines of over standing spectators. Lawsuits filed in Boston, Philadelphia, and Buffalo are still pending.
A copy of the Department's agreement with Ellerbe, along with other information about ADA accessibility requirements for stadiums and arenas, will soon be made available on the Justice Department's ADA home page on the World Wide Web, located at http:/www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.html. The ADA home page also provides a variety of other information about the ADA, and other lawsuits filed by the Justice Department.
# # #