# When or when NOT to sell Wheelchair seats...

#### Chris Chapman

##### Active Member
Okay, here is an interesting quandry. Dust off your law books and look up your copy of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

All of our spaces have sections in the house for wheelchairs only. When do you decide to fill those seats with temporary seating for a sold out event?

If it's sold out, how could you put those seats in you ask? Let's say all of your fixed seating is sold out, but your handicapped accessible spaces are not.

Do you not sell those spaces, holding them for a wheelchair that never shows? OR do you sell them, and then deal with a wheelchair that shows up at the last minute.

This riddle is based NOT on advanced sales, but tickets at the door the night of performance.

Annnnnnd.......... DISCUSS!

-Chris

#### soundlight

##### Well-Known Member
At a community venue that I used to work at, we left wheelchair spaces open for reservations that required wheelchair slots, and then a few more. If our tickets sold out in the house, and no one had taken the extra wheelchair slots yet, we sold them, becasue wheelchair or not, we wanted to sell the seats. Ticket costs the same whether you have a wheelchair or not, and just because you have a wheelchair doesn't entitle you to have a seat over someone who doesn't have a wheelchair. Basically, we filled based on who showed up. If you reserved a wheelchair slot, you were garunteed it, but if the rest of our seats sold out, and there's still a line, we weren't gonna go through the line to find any wheelchair folks, we just took as many as we can fit in the space that we had left, first come first serve. But anyone with a reserved ticket that needed a wheelchair slot got it, and you had to indicate so when ordering tickets, because we had to arrange seating differently depending on how many wheelchairs were coming.

#### icewolf08

##### CBMod
CB Mods
This actually brings up fire code issues. A designate wheelchair spot may be capable of fitting more than one portable chair, but fire codes may prevent you from having more than X number of fixed seats plus Y number of wheelchairs, or just XYZ total capacity. If by putting chairs in the wheel chair seats you exceed the capacity rating for the theatre you could be in big trouble. In fact, in some places just putting in temporary seating can be a violation of fire codes.

#### soundlight

##### Well-Known Member
I was actually the person in charge of having the fire marshall come inspect our seating arrangements, so nothing was done out of fire code.

#### thebikingtechie

##### Active Member
I agree with sounlight on this one, if you have people who want the seats and there's nowhere else to put them, put them in the wheelchair spots. As long as everyone who has reserved seats gets seats it's all good. Just as long as you're not letting in non wheelchair patrons for last minute while denying seats to wheelchair patrons who come at the same time.

#### icewolf08

##### CBMod
CB Mods
I agree with sounlight on this one, if you have people who want the seats and there's nowhere else to put them, put them in the wheelchair spots. As long as everyone who has reserved seats gets seats it's all good. Just as long as you're not letting in non wheelchair patrons for last minute while denying seats to wheelchair patrons who come at the same time.
Only if by adding seats you are not breaking fire codes. In soundlight's case where the fire marshal signed off on it, it is fine. But you can't go sticking temporary seats in the house without making sure it is legal.

#### jwl868

##### Active Member
Just a follow up to my last post.

The text of the law (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 [42 U.S.C. 12181]) says:

"No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation."

This is the primary feature of the law. It is about discrimination.

So, if all of the regular seats are sold out, then the unsold wheelchair seats are open to everyone, but on a first-come, first-serve basis (which is presumably non-discriminitory.)

What is less clear to me is the case where all the "good" seats are sold out, but there are plenty of "cheap" seats and all of the wheelchair seats are available. Some, and maybe all, of the wheelchair seats are in the "good" section [as required by the law]. If, just prior to curtain, you sell all the wheechair seats to able-bodied people, what do you do if a handicapped individual arrives a few minutes late?

[I haven't looked into this - the law has been around for so long, I'm sure its come up.]

Joe

#### Chris Chapman

##### Active Member
Thanks to everyone on some great responses. If we do go this route, we plan on replacing our wheelchairs with the same number of temporary seats. The foot print is smaller, and then doesn't move out into aisles. Fire Marshall is okay with this.

This comes from a vendor who wanted to sell all seats possible, and would sell our ADA seats to anyone. Our current rules reserve adjacent seats as companion seating for wheelchairs.

Joe, your quandry about the good sections and selling the seats and then have a handicapped indivudal arrive late is exactly what my debate with some of our ticket vendors is. I guess the darkside answer is if they show up late, and the venue is sold out, it IS sold out. I don't think too many patrons would actually argue their way into a sold out event, especially if they didn't secure their tickets in advance. Everyone runs the risk of an event being sold out and not getting admission to an event because the patron waited too long to buy their ticket is a risk everyone in every audience runs.

This is the kind of discussion I love from this site.

Thanks guys.

-Chris

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#### tenor_singer

##### Active Member
I'm thinking about this from a marketing point of view. How much do you stand to make selling that space versus the cost of public image spin you'd have to go through because you upset a special interest group. Once your company's reputation is damaged, it is very expensive to gain it back. IMHO you'd be better served reserving those spaces. People are quick to jump to the aid of special needs people and upsetting enough of them can cause a loss in seating revenue.

When I ran our local theater, I happily took the loss of 8 ticket sales (that amounted to $80.00) on the off chance that we did receive a last minute wheelchair patron. Why? It showed that we were caring enough to hold seating for special needs people... even if it meant taking a slight loss of revenue. Personally I think the$640.00 per show run was a worthwhile investment in the positive image of our company.

#### jwl868

##### Active Member
I'd have to agree with tenor singer's comment (though I intentionally left that out of my previous replies.)

From a negative PR aspect, nothing like a physically-challenged-patron being denied a seat in a theater to attract a TV local news crew.

Joe

#### Spikesgirl

##### Active Member
We have a large number of senior citizens that make up our customer base. We have designated spots to accomodate four wheelchairs in our house (total seating 300). Those spots are left empty if we don't sell them. We would rather lose the money than have to turn a patron away by not being able to accomodate them or their wheel chair. Very rarely is the spot left open anymore, espcially as we age as a country.

In another theater that I worked in, the seats lifted out to accomodate the wheelchair. If they weren't sold, ushers used them, but we wouldn't sell them to A/B folks.

Charlie

#### Pie4Weebl

##### Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Those spots are left empty if we don't sell them. We would rather lose the money than have to turn a patron away by not being able to accomodate them or their wheel chair.
So you would rather turn away people who don't use a wheelchair?

I don't see why it is wrong to say to some one in a wheelchair that "sorry we have no seats left" and have it absolutely be true.

PC pansies!

#### Footer

##### Senior Team
Senior Team
So you would rather turn away people who don't use a wheelchair?
I don't see why it is wrong to say to some one in a wheelchair that "sorry we have no seats left" and have it absolutely be true.
PC pansies!

Yes, but say you have people show up and there are 3 seats left in the house, and the 3 people that show up are all in wheel chairs, you can not sell them a ticket because the seats you have left are in the upper balcony, back row. You are denying them service because they are in a wheel chair, which you can not do.

#### derekleffew

##### Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
You are denying them service because they are in a wheel chair, which you can not do.
Sure you can. When the tickets went on sale, the wheelchair seats were only for wheelchairs. Once those have been sold to wheelchair patrons, anyone else in a wheelchair has to come another time.

What happens when an "alter-abled" person drives up to the mall and all the handicapped parking is filled? Is the mall denying that person service? The person either parks in regular parking, goes to a different mall, or comes back another time.

#### Spikesgirl

##### Active Member
"So you would rather turn away people who don't use a wheelchair?"

Absolutely! It has always been the policy of our theater that the H/C seats be reserved for H/C.

"Sure you can. When the tickets went on sale, the wheelchair seats were only for wheelchairs. Once those have been sold to wheelchair patrons, anyone else in a wheelchair has to come another time.

What happens when an "alter-abled" person drives up to the mall and all the handicapped parking is filled? Is the mall denying that person service? The person either parks in regular parking, goes to a different mall, or comes back another time"

Sorry, haven't gotten the hang of the quotes box yet.

Once the seats are sold to H/C, they are sold and folks who need the spot, but can't buy the seat will have to come back. However, if we sold the seats just to sell them and then denied entrance to someone who needed the space, well, that's just not going to happen.

Not sure what you mean by 'alter-abled', could you clarify?

Charlie

#### Pie4Weebl

##### Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
Now hang out, what I am asking about is, if you sold out every other seat you still wouldn't sell off those seats?

If a wheelchair bound person came up to me five minutes before a show that otherwise was sold out for a long while, I would not feel morally object at all telling them it sold out and having converted those spaces to seats 30 min ago when the space filled and a non hadicapped person still wanted a seat.

#### derekleffew

##### Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
...Not sure what you mean by 'alter-abled', could you clarify?...
(Rather that hit <reply>, click the <quote> button instead. The entire message will appear between two sets of [bracketed] HTML tags. Edit out the portions you do not wish to quote, but replacing with ellipses...)

"Alter-abled" is the newest Politically Correct term for "handicapped." Just like short people should be referred to as "vertically challenged," and fat people are "non-height/weight proportionate," myself included. (Six feet and 245#, but it's all muscle, mostly in the head!)

#### Spikesgirl

##### Active Member
Thanks, derekleffew, for the instructions on 'quoting' and for the explaination of alter-abled. In France, they call it being 'priviledged'. Humph, I feel neither alter abled or priviledged - I feel jipped, but I guess we can't call it that.

The real problem with putting A/B people into H/C seats is that the A/B people aren't as likely to slap the theater with a lawsuit as is the opposite. We actually had a H/C person shut down one of the city's most popular restaurants because the H/C toilet was 2" more narrow than the law said it should be. Those are the folks who worry me and why I'm glad of the theater's policy.

Charlie