By Benjamin Roussey
Ticket sales for events are a covered activity under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). When a venue for an event provides tickets for sale to third-party vendors (which includes online ticket vendors), the venue is required to include tickets for accessible seats. The vendors also have an obligation to sell the accessible seat tickets as per ADA regulations after receiving them from the venue.
Sometimes the venue may provide a portion of the tickets to discount-price outlets if the seats are unsold. They are required to follow the same process for accessible seat tickets as well, if a number of these remain unsold. It is not mandatory for the vendors to ask for accessible seat tickets if they do not receive it from the venue, but they may do so if they want.
However, the ADA isn’t as prescriptive as one might think about overall event accessibility, so an element of best judgment is involved. Amy Pinder, Executive Director at Accessible Festivals, said,
The ADA guidance on event accessibility is vague, leaving a great deal of interpretation up to event organizers. Oftentimes, the organizers we talk with truly want to do the right thing, but don’t have all of the resources and information needed to create a truly inclusive environment.
Equal opportunity to obtain accessible seat tickets
The ticket selling agency for a single or multiple events must maintain practices and policies that enable persons with disability to purchase accessible seating tickets:
- During the same ticket sale hours
- During the same ticket sale phases, such as general sales, promotions, pre-sales, waitlists, and lotteries
- Using the same distribution channels
- Through the same number and type of ticket sale outlets
- With the same terms and conditions for sale as other tickets offered for the said event
Providing information about accessible seating
The selling agency must provide information about the location of the available accessible seats to persons with disability and anyone buying those tickets on behalf of persons with disability.
The seller must describe the accessible seating features in sufficient detail so that person with disability can make an informed decision whether the available seating location matches with their accessibility needs.
If information material is provided to the general public regarding seating plans, maps, pricing details and brochures, etc., materials with the same level of detailing must also provided for accessible seating.
“When we work with organizers, we suggest providing detailed FAQ pages, clear and accurate venue maps and seating charts, information about how companions can support attendees, considering sensory needs, and more,” Pinder said.
Buying tickets from the secondary market
Individuals with a disability can buy tickets from the secondary market under the same rules as other people for the same event. If an individual with disability purchases an inaccessible set ticket from a secondary source, they must be permitted to exchange it with a comparable accessible seat, if one is available at the time when they present it at the venue.
What the seller may ask about the buyer’s disability
A majority of the event tickets nowadays are sold through websites or by phone. It is possible that a buyer might claim tickets for accessible seats when actually they do not have such a need. To prevent this occurrence, the seller is allowed to ask for single-event tickets whether the buyer in this case has a disability that necessitates the use of accessible seating, or is buying it on behalf of an individual who meets the criteria.
In the case of tickets for a series of events, the seller can ask the buyer of accessible seat tickets to provide a written attestation to this effect. In any case, it may not be necessary for persons with disability to submit a physician’s note or any other such proof of disability.
Ticket costs and eligibility for accessible seats
Ticket selling agencies or venues for single or multiple events are not allowed to charge more for accessible seats. At the same time, they do not have an obligation to charge less, either. People with a disability must have the opportunity to buy tickets for accessible seating at all price levels.
Someone with a disability who uses a mobility device, such as a wheelchair, can buy a ticket for accessible seating. Other people with a disability can also buy accessible seat tickets if they need to use the features associated with such seating. For instance, a person with a service animal may need to obtain extra space that an accessible seat provides.
Buying tickets for companions
A person with a disability is permitted to buy up to three non-accessible seat tickets for their friends, family, or other companions with one accessible ticket. The ticket seller must offer the companion seats in the same row and adjacent to the accessible seat, provided such seats are available on sale at that time. In a situation where fewer than three companion seats are available, the selling entity is required to make up for the difference by offering seats at the closest possible location to the accessible seat.
Beyond ticket sales and minimum event accessibility requirements, Pinder says event organizers can do more to promote inclusion. “Truly inclusive environments consider not only basic needs and requirements like wheelchair ramps and accessible restrooms, but also things like the event culture, attitude of the staff working, and information available at and ahead of the event.”