Friday, February 24, 2012

Don't Blame the New ADA Regs for the Green Bay Packers' New Ticket Policy

So, apparently the Green Bay Packers have decided that they are no longer going to sell tickets for accessible seating locations to customers with disabilities on a single-game basis.  Instead, accessible seats will be sold only as season tickets.  As I understand it, Lambeau Field sells basically no single-game tickets, except on the rare occasions when a visiting team returns a piece of its allocation -- in which case, I would hope, customers with disabilities would have an equal opportunity to purchase those returned tickets along with other customers -- so the new policy puts customers with disabilities in the same position as customers without disabilities in terms of their opportunity to purchase single-game tickets.  Still, a number of fans with disabilities, some of whom live on SSDI benefits or other fixed incomes, are understandably upset that the new policy makes it impossible for them as a practical matter to afford to go to Packers' games.  The Packers are claiming that their hands are tied, because the new ADA regulations require them to offer tickets to customers with disabilities on precisely the same terms that they offer tickets to customers without disabilities, no worse and no better.

Let me do my best Marshall McLuhan impersonation here:  There is nothing in the new ADA regulations that requires the Green Bay Packers to stop letting customers with disabilities buy single-game tickets to accessible seating areas, even if the rest of the seats at Lambeau are sold only to season-ticket holders.  The ticketing provisions in the new ADA regulations prohibit teams and stadiums from giving customers with disabilities less opportunity to purchase accessible seats than is afforded to nondisabled customers seeking seating generally.  So the team has to at least make the same sorts of tickets for accessible seats available to customers with disabilities, during the same hours, during the same stages of ticket sales, through the same methods of distribution, in the same types and numbers of sales outlets, and under the same terms and conditions as are available to customers seeking seating generally.  So the Packers are likely not violating those regulations by selling accessible seats on a season-ticket-only basis, if I'm right that nobody without a disability can purchase tickets on a single-game basis.

But to say that the ADA regulations require this result -- which is what the Packers are saying -- is just flat wrong.  The preamble to the new regulations is completely clear on this point (emphasis mine):
The Department interprets the fundamental principle of the ADA as a requirement to give individuals with disabilities equal, not better, access to those opportunities available to the general public. Thus, for example, a public accommodation that sells out its facility on a season-ticket only basis is not required to leave unsold its accessible seating if no persons with disabilities purchase those season-ticket seats. Of course, public accommodations may choose to go beyond what is required by reserving accessible seating for individuals with disabilities (or releasing such seats for sale to the general public) on an individual-game basis.
If the Packers want to keep selling some accessible seats on an individual-game basis, they can.  There it is, in black and white.

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