Leadership / 09.28.22
When Can You Release Accessible Seats in the United States?
There have been many recent and important discussions in the INTIX community about providing equal opportunities for people with disabilities to access live entertainment. Ticketing professionals are eager to share knowledge and help their peers create the most equitable experiences possible. They have been doing so with increasing regularity through one-on-one discussions, social media conversations and during our weekly Wednesday Wisdom calls.
One of the questions that has come up more than once relates to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules around ticket sales and accessible seats. Specifically, when can those seats be released if they remain unsold?
“I have a show this Sunday, and every seat in the house except the ADA sections are sold,” Lenore Schwartz Heller said in a Women in Ticketing Facebook post. “If I understand [the ADA] correctly, at this point I can open the accessible seats up for sale [to the general public].”
This, replied several ticketing industry colleagues, is correct, but there are caveats to consider.
The best place to start is the ADA Requirements document on ticket sales. These updated requirements were published in 2010 and provide guidance on the “nondiscrimination requirements that apply to selling tickets for assigned seats at events such as concerts, plays and sporting events.” Among the areas addressed are the hold and release of tickets for accessible seating.
“Generally,” the document states, “tickets for accessible seats may not be sold to members of the general public who do not need the specific features of accessible seats. However, in three specific circumstances, unsold accessible seats may be released and sold to members of the general public.”
These three circumstances include:
- “When all non-accessible seats have been sold (excluding luxury boxes, club boxes, suites and seats the venue holds back when declaring a sell-out); or
- “When all non-accessible seats in a particular seating section have been sold, unsold accessible seats in that section may be released; or
- “When all non-accessible seats in a particular price category have been sold, unsold accessible seats in that price category may be released.”
It is important to have a full understanding of the regulations and how they should be applied by your venue or organization.
As an example, “You can also define sold out for your venue,” Lindsey Whitfield said. “For ours, it is when we are down to single seats in that price zone.”
Dani Rose, one of our community’s valued accessibility experts, added her thoughts to the conversation. She notes that “all manners of sale” includes walk-up sales. “So, yes, you can define sold out,” she says, adding that if you have last-minute tickets at the window, you should also have last-minute accessible seating. “Accessible seating [must be sold] at all times, methods, modes and manners of sale [as non-accessible seats].”
“We generally follow the rule that we make accessible seating available at all price points,” Matt Cooper said during a Wednesday Wisdom call. “If we are sold out at our least expensive price, we are sold out for everything at our least expensive price, and that would include accessible seating. In general, if somebody needs seats and tells us that they have a need for accessibility, we follow that rule and will offer them at the appropriate price, not necessarily at the price of the section in question. Several of our venues were built well before the ADA and are not accessible on all levels. In these venues the only seats we can offer would typically otherwise be P1 or P2 seats, so we are more generally in the practice of repricing those when necessary.”
The ADA Requirements state that venues are not required to release accessible seats for sale to the general public in the three specific circumstances it outlines. They may choose to hold back all or some of their remaining accessible seats.
The ADA rules also apply to accessible seats for a series, a subscription or season tickets. These may be sold to the general public in the same three circumstances — when all non-accessible seats are sold, when all non-accessible seats in a specific location are sold or when all non-accessible seats in a specific price category are sold. Venues and organizations are, however, required to ensure that accessible series, subscription or season tickets sold to the general public do not auto-renew. This ensures that accessible tickets will be available in future years.
“One way venues can accomplish this result is by advising an individual ticket purchaser who is receiving accessible seating, at the time of purchase, that, whenever other patrons in non-accessible seats fail to renew their subscriptions, the venue will only allow this particular individual to renew by switching that individual to non-accessible seats in the same section or price level,” the ADA Requirements document on ticket sales states. “Of course, if no comparable non-accessible seats become available, the venue may, but is not required to, continue to allow this individual to renew the use of the accessible seats until comparable seats become available.”
To learn about additional ADA Requirements for ticket sales, including ticket transfers, pricing, secondary markets, identification of available accessible seating, purchasing multiple tickets and fraud prevention, please visit: https://www.ada.gov/ticketing_2010.htm.
Editor’s Note: The INTIX Access team is planning future coverage of issues pertaining to accessible seating in other countries. If you would like to contribute to or recommend an accessibility expert for this continuing conversation, please reach out to us via email@example.com.
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