Faces of the ADA
Lee Page -- "Thanks to the ADA,
theres a new standard of access for stadiums."
Sitting in a stadium watching a ball game, yelling for your team, eating a hot dog. One of Americas great pasttimes. Lee Page, a wheelchair user from Virginia, goes to ball games to see the action in person and to be a part of the crowd, like everyone else. But for years, accessible seating was usually located far away from the action with a bad view, or was so isolated from companions and other spectators that interaction was difficult at best.
Page recalled experiences in stadiums built before the ADA where "All the accessible seating was located in the end zone part of the stadium. Wheelchair users sat up on a cement slab with a railing in front. Your companion, the person you came to the event with, would sit in a fixed seat in front of you and the railing, but at a much lower level. I didnt really feel part of the crowd and it was difficult to interact with my friend."
The worlds largest athletic event, attended by hundreds of thousands of spectators, is the Olympic Games. In 1996, Atlanta, Georgia hosted the Olympics and the Paralympic Games, an international competition of more than 3,500 world class athletes with disabilities. Several venues were constructed specifically for the Games, but many were not designed to be accessible to wheelchair users because they did not provide integrated accessible seating, with adjacent seats for companions, in various locations throughout each facility. Also, wheelchair users lines of sight were routinely blocked when spectators stood up in front of them, usually at the most critical and exciting times in a game - when players score a touchdown, slide in with the winning run, or block a basketball shot.
Following investigations of complaints filed by people with disabilities from the Atlanta metropolitan area, the Department of Justice entered into agreements to ensure full accessibility of five newly constructed venues for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, including the Olympic Stadium, the site of track and field competitions and the opening and closing ceremonies. Under the agreements, the facilities designated at least one percent of the total seats for wheelchair users dispersed throughout the facility; provided a companion seat adjacent to each wheelchair space to allow spectators with disabilities to sit next to family and friends; and ensured that accessible seats provide lines of sight comparable to other spectators, so that wheelchair users can still see the playing surface even when spectators in front of them stand up during the event. Accessible routes from parking and transportation areas to accessible seating that connect to all public areas of the facilities were provided, as well a full access to all concession stands, restrooms, automatic bank machines, and other amenities.
Lee Page attended the Paralympic Games. "Opening ceremonies was a capacity crowd ... the Paralympics is pretty much the pinnacle of sports for persons with disabilities ... we were there early, and then the crowd filled in and they sang the Star Spangled Banner, and the crowd stood up, and for us in the accessible row, we were able to see over the standing spectators as the anthem was sung. I could see the flag and everything that was happening down on the field. They released a bald eagle, and it flew from one side of the stadium to the other. It was a very emotional and fulfilling night. I finally felt like a part of the crowd. Thanks to the ADA, theres a new standard of access for stadiums. Now, people with disabilities should be able to sit where they want to sit, see the game, and really be a part of the crowd - in every new stadium that is built anywhere in the United States."
July 24, 2000