# 196 October 22, 1996

Mr. Allan H. Selig Acting Commissioner Major League Baseball Office of the Commissioner 350 Park Avenue New York, New York 10022 Dear Mr. Selig: My office is charged with the responsibility for enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. I write today to enlist your aid in a matter affecting the interests of the Major League Baseball and all of its major and minor league clubs. As you may know, the ADA requires that newly constructed public accommodations and commercial facilities, including sports stadia and arenas, be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Since the ADA has been in effect, the Department of Justice has received numerous complaints regarding the accessibility of new sports facilities, including a number being built by or for major or minor league baseball clubs. In addition, several private individuals and organizations have filed lawsuits involving such facilities, alleging a variety of failures to comply with the accessibility requirements of the ADA. We are committed to providing full and accurate information to baseball owners about the ADA's requirements for new stadiums, and to alert them to the potential legal exposure of failing to comply with those requirements. It is our hope that, as acting commissioner of Major League Baseball, you may be able to help. We believe that by working together we can achieve a higher level of understanding of, and compliance with, the law. To that end, I have set forth in this letter a brief overview of some of the most common issues that arise in new stadium projects and have enclosed a document entitled "Accessible Stadiums" which discusses relevant accessibility requirements. I invite you to distribute these materials and this letter to your members. I

also propose that we meet to discuss the best ways of accomplishing the goal of compliance with the law, once you and your members have had a chance to review these materials. Coverage. The ADA requires that all newly constructed public accommodations and commercial facilities, including sports stadiums and arenas, be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. In the case of existing facilities, the ADA has similar requirements conditioned on the practicality of achieving accessibility. New construction, however, is accorded far less latitude under the law, on the theory that building the facility right in the first place is easier than retrofitting an existing structure. Lines of sight. Without question the single most prevalent issue that arises in new stadium projects involves the lines of sight afforded to patrons who use wheelchairs and sit in the stadium's wheelchair seating locations. The ADA's Standards for Accessible Design -- the architectural requirements applicable to new stadiums -- require that wheelchair seating areas provide people with disabilities with lines of sight comparable to those for members of the general public. Thus, we believe that facilities like sports stadiums, where spectators can be expected to stand during the event, must provide wheelchair locations with lines of sight over those standing spectators. This can be accomplished in various ways, including placing wheelchair locations at the front of a seating section, or by providing sufficient additional elevation for wheelchair locations placed at the rear of seating sections. The Number and Location of Seats for Companions of Wheelchair Users. The Standards require that there be at least one fixed companion seat next to every wheelchair location. Thus, the total number of companion seats must be at least equal to the total number of wheelchair locations, and each companion seat must be in the same row as and next to the wheelchair location. It is not acceptable to designate seats in a different row, whether in front of or behind the wheelchair location, as "companion seats." Dispersal of Wheelchair Seating Locations. With respect to the placement of wheelchair seating locations throughout the stadium, the Standards require that people with disabilities must have a choice of admission prices and lines of sight comparable to those for other spectators. In order for the design of a

stadium to comply with this requirement, the stadium's wheelchair locations must be proportionately distributed among each of the stadium's categories of seating. Thus, if half of the stadium's seats are in the lower level of the stadium, then approximately half of the wheelchair locations must be in that level as well. It is not acceptable to place a disproportionately large number of wheelchair locations in the stadium's highest seating levels. Designs for Temporary Seating. The Standards recognize that not every wheelchair location will be sold for every game. Wheelchair locations may be filled in with temporary, readily removable seats if they are not needed for wheelchair users. Before wheelchair locations can be replaced with other seating, however, all other seats in the stadium must first be sold. It is not permissible to sell a seat in a wheelchair location to someone who does not use a wheelchair if there are other seats still available, even if those other seats are not as desirable as the wheelchair seating location. One of the problems that has frequently arisen stems from a design in which several adjacent wheelchair locations are replaced by a platform or series of risers with multiple standard seats. This design can cause significant operational difficulties, as it prevents placing any readily removable standard seats in a wheelchair seating area whenever even one wheelchair user requests to sit in that area. It is not, of course, an acceptable alternative either to attempt to discourage wheelchair users from sitting in that area, or to "steer" them into areas where seats have already been purchased by other wheelchair users, or to conceal from wheelchair users who seek tickets that locations are available in wheelchair seating areas where no wheelchair users have yet purchased tickets. Thus, while this is not strictly a design problem, it is well worth considering carefully the design of the "readily removable" seating to be used in wheelchair areas. Accessibility of Private Suites. The Standards also set requirements for a new stadium's private suites. Because these suites fall within the Standards' definition of a common use space, every toilet room in every suite must be fully accessible. In addition, if the suites have fixed seating, then each must provide at least one wheelchair seating location and one companion seat. Finally, because there are accessible spaces and features within the suites, the Standards require that each of the suites must be on an accessible route, and accessible routes

cannot include steps or stairs. Team Locker Rooms and Similar Areas. Because team locker rooms and shower areas also fall within the definition of a common use area, the requirement that all common use toilet and bathing facilities be accessible applies to team locker rooms. Moreover, the Standards specifically require that there be an accessible route connecting wheelchair seating areas with performing areas, including stages, arena floors, dressing rooms, locker rooms, and other spaces used by players and performers. Assistive Listening Systems. Given that new stadiums are frequently multi-purpose facilities that also host concerts, conventions, and other events, those developing these stadiums should be aware that the Standards require any facility in which audible communications are integral to the use of the space to have a permanently installed assistive listening system. * * * In addition to the four-page document entitled "Accessible Stadiums," I call your attention to the Department's recent settlement agreements with the organizers of the Olympic Games covering the new Olympic Stadium and other facilities constructed for that event. These facilities reflect practical design responses to many of the requirements of the Standards. You may review these documents on-line at the Department of Justice's World Wide Web site http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm. We are certain that Major League Baseball shares our commitment to ensuring that all of its stadiums are fully accessible to all baseball fans, and look forward to working together with your members to make their stadiums models of accessibility. I would urge you or your general counsel to contact John Wodatch, Chief of our Disability Rights Section, at 202-307-0663 at your convenience should you wish to schedule a mutually convenient time for us to meet and discuss these or other related ADA issues. Sincerely,

Deval L. Patrick

Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division Enclosure