The Americans with Disabilities Act: Is your Outdoor Venue Compliant?

An in-depth look at the Americans with Disabilities Act and three main compliance issues for outdoor facilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been around since 1990 in the US. President George H. W. Bush signed the ADA into law, making it illegal for employers to discriminate against persons with physical or mental handicaps. The ADA also applies to State and local governments, public accommodations, commercial facilities and transportation companies.

The Americans with Disabilities Act - 25th Anniversary

Though there have been changes, the main idea of the ADA has always been the same. As facility managers, it’s extremely important to understand Title III of the ADA.

Title III

The third Title in the ADA governs public accommodations and commercial facilities. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodations and commercial facilities. Public accommodations include places like restaurants and schools. Commercial facilities include privately owned facilities like offices and sports stadiums.

Step Up Your Safety Game

In 2010, the US Department of Justice added revised requirements to the ADA. Is your venue compliant? Step up your safety game by reviewing three main components of Title III.

Staff Training

The first area you can improve compliance is with staff training. A critical component in making your facility safer is ongoing staff training. Venues of all sizes are strongly encouraged to educate all staff members, especially those who interact the most with persons with disabilities. These positions include venue managers, box office staff and customer service individuals. Facility owners and managers often overlook ongoing training, even though it is the best way to ensure successful compliance.

Ticket Sales

The next area where you can improve compliance with the ADA is in ticket sales. Basically, venues need to make sure that the ticket-buying process is the same for individuals with and without disabilities. Accessible seats are spaces specifically designed for wheelchairs and include features such as location at grade, clear floor space and larger dimensions.

Americans with Disabilities Act - Title III - Ticket Sales

Tickets for accessible seats must be sold during the same hours, through the same methods of purchase and during the same stages of sales as regular seats. Remember, venues cannot charge higher prices for accessible seats than non-accessible seats in the same section.

Emergency Evacuation

The final area where you can be more compliant is when it comes to emergency evacuation. More than 57 million Americans live with disabilities. That means there’s a chance they will be at your sporting venue in the case of an emergency. In the case of severe weather or any other type of emergency, your staff must recognize that people with disabilities may need additional assistance.

Individuals with mobility disabilities may take extra time to move while individuals with communication disabilities may have a hard time understanding an emergency. Your emergency management team must have protocols in place to ensure the success of complying with the ADA in these situations.

Severe weather is one of the most common emergencies at outdoor facilities. Since people with mobility issues can take longer to move, advanced alerting of dangerous weather is key. For those who cannot hear or see, systems that include both strobe lights and sirens are a critical differentiator.

Are you Storm Ready?

The National Weather Service’s StormReady program is designed to recognize communities that have reached a high level of severe weather preparedness. NWS will only consider your facility if you meet the criteria outlined on their website and then interact with your local NWS office.