What’s Up With the Lack of Accessible Seating at Concerts and Shows?


This is our reality.  ADA requires a limited amount of wheelchair accessible seats at venues.

Susan, a wheelchair user, wants to go to this concert with her date.  Ticketmaster would not allow her to buy her tickets online and she had to call a special number and wait to get assistance.

When they finally gave her the right person to speak to, they informed her all the wheelchair seat were sold.  There were plenty of seats left, but since only 10 were wheelchair accessible, she could not go. They have no way of confirming if these 10 seats, (which are in a better view of the stage) are actually wheelchair or mobility issue (canes or walkers) users until the night of the event. 

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Susan could just buy the open inaccessible seats in the back…show up and make a scene and force management to move the offending fakers who purchased those tickets to get a better view.

What would you do?

One of the joys and pleasures people with physical disabilities can still partake in is concerts and live music as well as cultural events.  But the access to these events, especially if popular, is nearly impossible.

Why is it so hard it is to get tickets that are wheelchair accessible? If you have a date for Friday night and you use a wheelchair, you can pretty much forget getting tickets as you have to reserve them months in advance and grab them before the scalpers buy them all up for resale sites. If you are going with a group, most places allow you one caregiver ticket. For me, this is difficult for those who want to attend and have more than one young child for whom they ARE the caregiver.

It would not be difficult to put more handicap accessible seating in the venues or more restrictions on who can purchase the seats so that they are not abused by people simply wanting more space.

Like the example above, at many venues, the seats are not available online, so you have to call to which they transfer you many times, and you often leave the phone call without the ticket.

Other times, as a wheelchair user you cannot sit with your party because the design on the theater is not inclusive. It’s almost as if the wheelchair accessible seats are an afterthought. The accessible seats are often completely separate from the other seats. This makes traveling with a group or family nearly impossible to be included in the group. Families are broken up or simply cannot attend family functions.

The ADA states that:

Over the past 20 years, some public and private venues, ticket sellers, and distributors have not provided the same opportunity to purchase tickets for wheelchair-accessible seats and non-accessible seats. The general public has been able to directly and immediately purchase tickets for non-accessible seats, whether through a venue’s Internet site or its box office or through a third-party Internet-based vendor.

However, these direct purchase options have simply been unavailable to many individuals with disabilities because transactions frequently could not be completed. Instead, the purchaser was directed to send an e-mail or to call a separate telephone number to request tickets and wait for a response.

These burdensome policies still exist, making it difficult or impossible for those who require accessible seats to purchase tickets, especially for popular events that sell out in minutes. As of March 15, 2011, venues that sell tickets for assigned seats must implement policies to comply with the new ticketing requirements (ada.gov).

Gina Schuh, Legal Editor and founder of Advocacy Organization Accessible Arizona and facebook page Gina is on a Roll provides her perspective as to why this is an issue today for most of us.

“First and foremost, the lack of enforcement of ADA standards is at the forefront of the problem with accessible seating. Venues have failed to meet the requirements from the actual access to buying tickets to the extremely limited seating itself, very few venues have accountability.

This lack of concern contributes to the dismal amount of tickets available and poor locations for seating. Then on top of all that, we have the challenge of fighting off the public who buy the wheelchair accessible seats without a true need, and once again no accountability for them as well. These seats need to be seen as wheelchair only seating, and available to companions.

Many people do not understand there is a separate place for handicap seating versus wheelchair seating which is equipped with a removable chair. Ticket companies, venues, and the public are in dire need of education and reform on the topic of accessible seating.”

These policies still exist especially on sites such as Ticketmaster.com. Obtaining seats can be a real chore and then when you get to the person you need to talk to the seats are gone. We need to find a way for people with disabilities to be included fully in society. This needs to be talked about; we should not have to say that we have the same desires as our able-bodied peers. It is 2018; the fact that all people are equal and have the same desires should be embedded in every part of our society.


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Carmen Slatton

Carmen earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology with a double minor in Sociology and Human Resource Management from Mary Baldwin University. Her Masters of Teaching and post graduate degree in Educational Leadership come from Liberty University. Currently, she is pursuing her Masters in Professional Writing at Liberty University while working as a writer, educator, editor, and Graduate Writing Coach at Liberty University. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their two children. Their family enjoys traveling, attending Broadway shows and studying. Carmen particularly enjoys learning about other cultures and engaging in any conversation that moves society forwards towards a more inclusive community for everyone.

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