When tickets to an event, concert, theater or sports event are sold, is that covered by the ADA?

The 2010 regulations issued by the Department of Justice, which were effective as of March 15, 2011, make it clear that ticketing is a covered activity under the ADA. Prior to that, entities that sold tickets were covered by the ADA, but there were no specific regulations or guidelines related to ticketing. The regulations can be found at 28 C.F.R. §36.302(f) and 28 C.F.R. §35.138.

What does the ADA require in terms of ticketing?

An entity that sells tickets for a single event or a series of events has to modify its policies, practices, or procedures to make sure that individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to buy tickets for accessible seating:

  • During the same hours;
  • During the same stages of ticket sales, including, but not limited to, pre-sales, promotions, lotteries, waitlists, and general sales;
  • Through the same methods of distribution;
  • In the same types and numbers of ticketing sales outlets, including telephone service, in-person ticket sales at the facility, or third-party ticketing services, as other patrons; and
  • Under the same terms and conditions as other tickets sold for the same event or series of events.

Exactly what does the term “accessible seating” mean?

“Accessible seating” is defined as wheelchair spaces and companion seats that comply with sections 221 and 802 of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (“2010 Standards”), along with any other seats required to be offered for sale to the individual with a disability, as outlined in the regulations.

What information must be available regarding accessible seating?

Individuals with disabilities, and those purchasing tickets for accessible seating for individuals with disabilities, must be informed of the locations of all unsold or otherwise available accessible seating for any ticketed event at the facility.

Features of available accessible seating must be identified and described in enough detail to reasonably permit a person with a disability to decide independently whether a given accessible seating location meets his or her accessibility needs.

Materials, such as seating maps, plans, brochures, pricing charts, and other information that identify accessible seating, must be provided to the same level of specificity as other seats, if such materials are provided to the general public.

Can the entity charge more for accessible seating?

No, entities cannot charge more for accessible seating, and they are not required to charge less, either. They must provide individuals with disabilities with the opportunity to purchase tickets at all price levels. To do that, they may price accessible seating tickets in proportion to the price of other tickets in the venue. They may not price tickets for accessible seating any higher than the price of other tickets in the same section for the same event, though. For example, if the venue has three different price zones, but all of the wheelchair accessible seats are physically located in the most expensive price zone, then the venue has to figure out what percentage of seats in the venue are priced in each of the zones and then price the accessible seats to that same percentage.

Who is eligible to purchase tickets for accessible seats?

Individuals with disabilities who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices may purchase tickets for accessible seats. Other individuals with disabilities are eligible to purchase tickets for accessible seats if they require the use of the features of accessible seating. A ticket purchaser may, for example, have a service animal that requires the additional space offered by accessible seating. Or a ticket purchaser may, for example, be unable to navigate stairs, necessitating the need for accessible seating. Tickets for accessible seats may be sold to individuals who require accessible seating themselves or to someone purchasing on their behalf.

May someone purchasing accessible seating purchase non-accessible seating for family/friends?

For each accessible ticket purchased by or for an individual with a disability, an entity must allow the purchase of up to three other tickets for companion seats immediately adjacent to and in the same row as the wheelchair space, so long as there are three such seats available at the time of purchase. The additional seats may include wheelchair spaces.

If people are allowed to buy at least four tickets, and there are fewer than three such additional seat tickets available for purchase, a seller has to offer the next highest number of such seat tickets available for purchase and must make up the difference by offering tickets for sale for seats that are as close as possible to the accessible seats.

If ticket sales are limited to fewer than four seats per patron, then the obligation is to offer as many seats to buyers with disabilities, including the ticket for the wheelchair space, as would be offered to buyers without disabilities. If buyers are allowed to purchase more than four tickets, then buyers with disabilities must be allowed to purchase up to the same number of tickets, including the ticket for the wheelchair space.

If a group includes one or more people who need to use accessible seating because of a mobility disability, or because the disability requires the use of the accessible features that are provided in accessible seating, the group must be placed in a seating area with accessible seating so that, if possible, the group can sit together. If it is necessary to divide the group, it should be divided so that the people in the group who use wheelchairs are not isolated from the group.

When can accessible seating be released for sale to people who don’t need accessible seating?

Tickets for accessible seating may be released for sale in certain limited circumstances. Unsold tickets for accessible seating may be released only under the following circumstances:

  • When all non-accessible tickets (excluding luxury boxes, club boxes, or suites) in the venue have been sold out (the venue gets to define what “sold out” means);
  • When all non-accessible tickets in a designated seating area have been sold out and the tickets for accessible seating in that same area may be released in the same designated area; or
  • When all non-accessible tickets in a designated price category have been sold out and the tickets for accessible seating in that designated price category may be released within the same designated price category.

A facility is not required to release tickets for accessible seating to individuals without disabilities, but it may under the three conditions above.

When series-of-events tickets are sold out, and the entity sells the accessible seats to people without disabilities for a series of events, the entity must establish a process by which those seats are not automatically reassigned to those ticket holders for future seasons or years. Individuals with disabilities who need accessible seating, and who become newly eligible to purchase tickets when these series-of-events tickets are available for purchase, must be given the opportunity to do so.

When series-of-events tickets with an ownership right in accessible seating areas are forfeited or otherwise returned to an entity, there must be a process in place so that individuals with mobility disabilities, or individuals with disabilities that require accessible seating, have the chance to purchase such tickets in accessible seating areas.

What if I buy tickets for accessible seating and then want to transfer them to someone else?

Individuals with disabilities who hold tickets for accessible seating must be permitted to transfer tickets, meaning to give or sell, to third parties to the same extent as other individuals holding the same type of tickets, whether they are for a single event or a series of events.

Do these ticketing rules apply to the secondary ticket market, too?

People with disabilities may use tickets purchased on the secondary ticket market under the same terms and conditions as other individuals who purchase tickets on the secondary ticket market for the same event or series.

If a person with a disability gets a ticket to an inaccessible seat through the secondary market, the individual must be allowed to exchange the ticket for one to an accessible seat in a comparable location, if such a seat is available at the time the ticket is presented to the venue.

Since most ticket sales are online or by phone, there could be people who claim they need accessible seating when they really don’t. What can those sellers ask about disability?

Individuals with disabilities may not be required to provide proof of disability, such as a doctor’s note. For the sale of single-event tickets, it is permissible to ask whether the person purchasing the tickets for accessible seating has either a mobility disability or a disability that requires the use of the features of the accessible seating, or is purchasing the tickets for a person who meets those criteria.

For series-of-events tickets, it is permissible to ask the person purchasing the tickets for accessible seating to attest in writing that the accessible seating is for a person who has a mobility disability or a disability that requires the use of the features of the accessible seating.

This page contains information provided by The ADA National Network Disability Law Handbook created by Jacquie Brennan Southwest ADA Center. http://adata.org/publication/disability-law-handbook