ADA requirements refer to requirements set in place by the Americans With Disabilities Act. In other words, it means making sure you have taken every step possible to create reasonable options for those who have disabilities. If you own a venue that plays host to theater, music, spoken word, or even comedy, it is going to be your responsibility to make sure you are compliant with everything the ADA might demand of you.
While this does mean suitable wheelchair ramps, and other accommodations for those with noticeable physical disabilities, keeping up with ADA requirements can also mean considering groups you may not have thought about. For example, you may have a wheelchair ramp, but do you have accommodations for the deaf? For the blind? Are these things you need to worry about?
ADA Basics for Theaters
Do you produce or operate a venue or venues that offers films, music, or any kind of performing arts? If so, then you need to take ADA requirements seriously. It doesn’t get much simpler than that, but there are several things within that larger thought that you will want to keep in mind.
For example, solely in terms of ticketing, there are several elements to consider. You will need to offer accessible seats at your venue, which refers to a space that is specifically designed for a wheelchair. Tickets for these accessible seats will need to follow all of the guidelines and conditions that apply to all other types of seating. Prices for these seats cannot be higher than prices for other seats/spaces. Furthermore, you will need to provide the same type of information for this seating that you would provide for anything else. There are also considerations for purchasing multiple seats, selling tickets to groups, and the practice of holding and releasing tickets for accessible seats.
Fraud prevention, ticket transferring, and the secondary ticket market are further elements to ticketing that you may need to address.
You may also need to train your staff in all of these matters. As you can imagine, the degree to which you will need to consider all of these things is going to be determined by the size of your venue, the number of individuals who normally come to your venue, and the number of employees under your management.
ADA Considerations for Theater Managers
As a theater manager, you are going to have to consider a number of ADA factors.
When there are problems regarding the ADA compliancy of a venue, it generally doesn’t fall to the owner of the venue to deal with the problem. The company that manufactured the equipment that allows you to meet ADA requirements will not be there to address any potential problems. In a great many cases, it is going to be the responsibility of the theater manager to handle things.
It is worth remembering that generally speaking, problems with ADA requirements are not specifically the fault of the theater manager. Even so, common sense, proper training, strong employee support, and an eye for anticipating potential problems can help you avoid a number of headaches. Having a procedure in place to address problems in a proactive fashion is also a good idea.
ADA compliance will cover several different aspects of your venue. Make sure you are consistently meeting the compliancy demands for your entrance, your parking lot, your box office, your concession counter, your water fountains, your path of travel, and more. You will also need to address demands and ongoing challenges with your restrooms, assistive listening system, and your exits.
Finally, remember that different types of buildings will have different considerations, some older structures are not subjected to the ADA.
Are You in Danger of an ADA Lawsuit?
You may have accessibility and seating taken care of for disabled patrons, but are you taking care of everything? A growing number of lawsuits that are currently hitting the theater world revolve around the subject of closed captioning for hearing-impaired theater attendees. Theaters by law must provide their customers with auxiliary hearing aids and other measures. However, some argue that making such demands of theater/venue owners is in fact a violation of first amendment rights.
Ultimately, it is your call to make with hearing aids and other measures. Consider erring on the side of caution, where it concerns matters of ADA compliance, and make sure to consult with counsel to determine if you structure is subject to the ADA, and what can be done to ensure compliance.