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Buying accessible tickets to...anywhere


Harp teacher, able-bodied, spend my life opening doors for my fiance and pretending to like baseball.

If you use a wheelchair, you know that for any venue, concert, or event, you have to make sure there is accessible seating. We certainly appreciate that these options are out there, but dealing with accessible seating is often limiting and frustrating. Here are some of the problems we've run into:

  • You can only sit with one of your friends or family. Typically accessible seating entails one wheelchair-user and one companion. We went to a musical last week with my mom, who was in town on a visit. Because all three of us couldn't sit together in the wheelchair section, one of us had to sit in a different row. Generally, we don't abuse this rule (you could lie and say you have two wheelchairs) because we know what it's like to run out of room in a wheelchair section due to others lying about the rule. And since we don't have other options in places to sit, we always try to make sure other wheelchair-users don't run into this problem. 

  • Accessible seating is rarely enforced. How many times have you had to find an usher because someone was sitting in your spot? How many times have they told you to just sit anywhere in that section? What if you bought a specific area because you knew it had a better view? Why should you have to adjust because someone else got there first? First come, first serve should not apply to assigned seats, but in wheelchair sections, it often does. Additionally, because we are usually near the front, we have to constantly deal with able-bodied people, often children, standing at the rail blocking our views or invading our personal space. Where are the ushers when their jobs actually need them?

  • You can't order online anywhere but the actual site venue. Ticketmaster, StubHub, and other discount or alternate websites often require that you call the box office in order to get accessible seats. This may mean, in the case of Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, that you have to call during business hours, or several weeks later when the box office starts selling the tickets. Meanwhile, other people are buying up all the tickets online, and it may be sold out by the time you can reach someone.

  • Box offices may have alternate offices for accessibility-and don't always know what it is! I just tried to buy tickets to see Billy Elliot last week. After the main box office listed on the website referred me somewhere else, I left three messages on an answering machine with the accessible ticket office. Receiving no return calls, I talked to the main box office again, which gave me an extension line to add to the phone number I was initially instructed to call. Then I had to be put on hold and press through an automated system before I could finally reach a person and get my tickets figured out. Having to jump through several different sections of automated voices, answering machines, and then having to call the main office twice does not make it easy to buy tickets (major fail Broadway in Chicago)!

  • You have fewer seating options. Many events have limited areas for accessible seating, so you often end up in the way back of a venue. This is particularly annoying if it's a concert or game, where the crowd will often stand up. Suddenly, you can't see anything. 

  • You have fewer price options. At Northwestern University football games, you have one option for accessible seating: the sidelines. These are prime seats, that cost more as we get to more important games. What we end up doing is buying cheaper seats in the stands and exchanging them once we get there, but we have an argument every year (they don't learn from past experiences) over whether we have to pay the price difference. Legally, they have to offer accessible seating in every price range. However they don't offer accessible seating in the end zones, which has cheaper seats. Several talks with a manager later, they usually give in to letting us buy end zone seats while sitting on the sidelines. If they would like us to pay more, we would love for them to give us more seating choices.



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Blueagave said:

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I walk with a cane and have continuous troubles getting seats. In large stadiums and ballparks, the stairs are too much for me and I have to walk all the way around to get to the one elevator.

I too have trouble because Ticketmaster says it's the Venue that has control, only to get kicked back to TM. Alpine Valley has been great in addressing this by having a lawn area specifically for limited access people which has a great view AND the will cart you down form the handicap lot!

I have gone on scalper's (yes, no PC here... Scalper's) sites and have actually seen handicapped accessible seates available to the general public... Hmmmmm.

Sherry said:


I too, am severely mobility limited, don't "want" to use a w/c yet, but i can't climb stairs, it's harder going down even, get nervous with people waiting behind me and find not one venue sympathetic to this...what can we do? must we file a class action suit? or pay a politician to sponsor another useless law? any ideas, anyone?

Derin said:


That's a good point that I forgot about, it's a huge hassle to even find the accessible seats in most sporting venues. It's incredibly frustrating to be tossed back and forth between the online box office and the actual venue, both accusing the other of being in charge.

MarkPloch said:

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You raise good points, but there are also benefits.
Wheelchairs got to sit on floor at the old Stadium right next to the celebrities at a fraction of the price.

Wheelchair seating at older venues is hard because the venues are so old. We often can get tickets to sold-out shows too.

In my 45 years the only place I would really complain about is Wrigley Field. I haven't been there in awhile because their setup was so bad. Actually carrying wheelchairs to their seats. And good luck if the guy behind you needed to pee.

Being disabled sucks and we just have to deal with this stuff. The venues get it right more often than not in my opinion.

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