Make it a Fair Play: Save Our Seats!

by Phil Pangrazio

One of the greatest things about living here in Arizona is spring. This is the time of year when we get to call our family and friends in the northern states and brag about our days spent soaking up that 70 degree sunshine. Not only that, but we are blessed with the good fortune of living in a region that hosts Major League Baseball's Cactus League Spring Training!

An exciting new addition to Spring Training this year is the new Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. This state-of-the-art stadium is the first to be built on Indian land and will play home to the Arizona Diamondbacks as well as the Colorado Rockies. This stadium, along with the others in the Valley, is accessible to people with disabilities.

Did you know that Arizona has one of the largest populations in the nation for adults with disabilities at nearly 20 percent? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established 20 years ago to allow accessibility options for people of all ability levels. It includes a set of guidelines for entertainment venues to comply with to accommodate people with disabilities. As a patron of baseball and other springtime entertainment, it's also important to know and respect these guidelines. The following are highlights of these guidelines.

Accessibility
The ADA requires that venues owning and operating parking lots must provide accessible parking - these parking spaces are reserved for people with disabilities who display the appropriate license plate or mirror tag. Additionally, sidewalks surrounding and leading up to the structures must also provide curb ramps if easily achievable.

Once parked, mobility in the stadium is essential. Many barriers to accessibility are often overlooked and could be as simple as merchandise displays or concession booths that block an aisle or entryway. Barriers have the potential to trip a customer who is visually impaired or prevent a person using a wheelchair from maneuvering around objects. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, they should be removed.

Seating
It is required by the ADA that accessible seating areas be an integral part of any fixed seating plan and that they provide people with physical disabilities a choice of admission prices and lines of sight comparable to those for members of the general public. At least one companion seat must be provided next to each wheelchair seating area. If you haven't purchased a ticket to sit in these areas, or are not accompanying someone who has, please do not occupy them unnecessarily.




Amenities
While, according to the ADA, all entertainment venues are to have accessible facilities such as drinking fountains and restrooms when easily achievable, this does not ensure they will always be available to persons with disabilities. It's important to forgo using the accessible restroom stall simply because it allows an individual without a disability more space. Please show appropriate consideration and reserve these facilities for the people who need them.

Communication
Effectively communicating with a person with a disability may require accommodation as well. For instance, writing on a notepad in order to converse with a person who is hearing impaired or reading signage to a person who is visually impaired are both simple adjustments. As far as baseball stadiums are concerned, some progressive major league stadiums are even including closed-captioning on their scoreboards. This is certainly a step in the right direction - one that I hope other public venues will follow.

The bottom line is this: the more accessible a venue is the easier the experience is for both individuals with disabilities and for their fellow attendees. Awareness is key to accessible sporting events.

Showing your consideration for the accessibility needs of others can be as simple as holding a door open for a person using a wheelchair when an automatic door is not present, passing up the open reserved parking space - even if you are only going to be a minute, or leaving that seat available for the person for which is was intended. We have made a lot of progress in the 20 years since the ADA was established, and small gestures like these will help us continue to work toward equal access for everyone. For more information on accessibility issues, please visit Arizona Bridge to Independent Living at www.abil.org.


Phil Pangrazio is the executive director of Arizona Bridge to Independent Living (ABIL). Established in 1981, ABIL advocates personal responsibility - by, and for, people with disabilities - as a means to independence. ABIL can be found on the Web at www.abil.org or by telephone at (602) 256-2245.