Know Your Rights: Accessibility at Theaters, Stadiums, and Performances

A darkened concert crowd with people's hands waving in the air.

Everyone should be able to experience the world around them. People with disabilities enjoy musical performances, taking in the performing arts, or rooting for a favorite sports team just like other people do. Here’s a snapshot of your rights to access shows, games and other entertainment, and receive accommodations.

Table of Contents

Before the show

Your right to buy tickets

The first step is purchasing tickets. If the venue makes tickets available online, it needs to use a website that you can use. For people who are blind or who have limited vision, that means the website should be compatible with screen readers and allow for large print or magnified versions.

Examples of common website accessibility issues: Often, websites don’t have accessible online forms for entering your credit card information. The seat maps that describe different seating options may be images without an alt-text. This prevents people using screen readers from understanding what the images show.

Your right to accessible seating

When can I buy accessible seats?

Accessible seats must be made available on the same terms, at the same time, at the same price, and in the same way as other seating.

At first, accessible seats should only be available to people requesting them. They cannot be available to the general audience until the nonaccessible seats are sold out. Then, they become available to the general public.

How do I know which seats are accessible?

Ticket sellers should make it clear which seats are accessible. They should allow you to select the seats that are appropriate for you and the people sitting with you.

Where are accessible seats in the venue?

The placement of accessible seats must preserve similar lines of sight for people in wheelchairs as for other members of the audience. You should be able to see the performers, even if the people in front of you stand up during the performance, if standing up is typical.

If a venue is large—more than 300 seats—there must be more than one accessible seating area. The seats should be in a variety of locations that reflect the variety of consumer desire for prices and views.

For more information, visit these websites:

Your right to bring companions or personal aides

Can I reserve an accessible seat for my social companions?

When you buy the tickets and choose your seats, accessible seats should be available to you and your social companions. Companions include friends or family members there to enjoy the show with you, even if they don’t experience a disability. You should be able to request at least three other tickets with your accessible seat. Those seats should be in the same row and next to your accessible seat.

Do I need to pay extra to bring a personal attendant or aide?

The concert venue must allow you to bring an aide or personal attendant, and may not charge extra for the aide or attendant. Some people with disabilities need assistance from someone else to help them attend the concert or performance. In some cases, that may be a personal attendant or aide who assists with managing medication, accessing the restroom, or performing other personal services. An aide does not include social companion.

Many venues are still developing policies around when an attendant or aide can be admitted without purchasing a second ticket. Reach out to Disability Rights Oregon if you have concerns about a specific venue or performance.

Can my attendant assist me in the restroom?

Attendants should be able to enter restrooms with you if necessary, even if they are of a different gender.

 

At the show

Your right to accessible routes and parking

If the venue offers parking generally to customers, there must be an adequate number of accessible parking spots, as close to the venue as possible. At least half of the entrances to the venue must be accessible.

Your right to accessibility within the venue

Part of the concert-going experience, especially outdoor concert festivals, is the opportunity to try different food and drink, to buy t-shirts, and to visit other vendors. Having access to a restroom is important for everyone, when attending a performance that may last hours or all day. Concertgoers with disabilities have the same rights to visit vendors and restrooms as everyone else.

The venue should ensure the following:

  • Routes to and from the entrances, the performance space, and major amenities (concessions, restrooms, etc.) are as accessible as possible.
  • Routes between these elements should be smooth enough and wide enough for wheelchairs.
  • The venue uses clear signage explaining location of accessible facilities.

Access to vendors

People with disabilities should have the following:

  • A clear, level route to reach vendors.
  • Access to credit card readers and other payment systems that are easy to reach and interact with.

Your right to bring your service animal

Some people with disabilities have a service animal that is trained to perform a specific service for them. The venue is generally required to accommodate service animals, and they may not charge extra for bringing a service animal.

For more information, visit these websites:

Your right to supertitles, subtitles, headphones, and auxiliary aids

For some performances (plays, operas, movies), understanding the words being spoken or sung is an integral part of the experience. People who are deaf or hard of hearing should be able to attend performances and enjoy them.

  • People who are hard of hearing should be able to request amplification of the performance, usually through headphones or some other auxiliary aid.
  • Auxiliary aids should be provided at no additional cost and at a location that does not interfere with their ability to see the performance.
  • For people who are deaf or not helped by amplification, theaters should make subtitles or supertitles (or, ideally, sign language interpreters) available to transcribe any dialogue, lyrics, or narration.

For more information, visit this website:

Department of Justice rule on movie theater subtitles: bit.ly/dojmovies

 

What if I have an access issue with a performance?

If you believe you have experienced discrimination in a place of public accommodation, you can contact the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) to learn more about their discrimination complaint process. Please note that questions are confidential, but if you file a formal complaint it is a public document under Oregon law:

Bureau of Labor and Industries, Civil Rights Division
971-673-0764
Email: crdemail@boli.state.or.us
Web: bit.ly/bolicivilrights

For other questions or concerns, you can contact Disability Rights Oregon:

Disability Rights Oregon
511 SW 10th Ave., Suite 200
Portland, OR 97205
Phone: 800-452-1694
Web: www.droregon.org