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The Oakland Press
Voices Of Disability
By Jerry Wolffe
September 14, 2008
The naysayers were wrong. Disabled football fans have spoken.
Behind the scenes, there was great concern whether people with disabilities would buy tickets to Wolverine games once Michigan Stadium had more wheelchair seats.
The fear was that even if the stadium added hundreds of seats for wheelchair users and their companions, disabled people still wouldn’t buy tickets.
Such an outcome would have put a big damper on adding accessible seats to other stadiums and public venues. That would tend to set back the civil rights movement for people with disabilities to pre-1990, when the Americans with Disabilities Act established a legal remedy for discrimination and segregation.
But the disabled community has come through, and folks are buying up all the accessible seats being offered by U-M.
In May, the University of Michigan and the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America signed a 30-page consent decree ending a two-year legal case to add 329 wheelchair seats throughout the stadium by 2010, and an additional 135 accessible seats in clubhouses to go along with the existing 88 wheelchair seats. This was part of the $226 million renovation.
“What we got out of it is what we were looking for all along,” said Mike Harris, the executive director of the MPVA of Novi.
“It was to have independent access to the stadium without having to encounter architectural barriers and more wheelchair seats and have them placed throughout the stadium,” he said.
The agreement now is a blueprint for all stadiums regarding accessibility.
The ADA requires 1 percent of seats in a stadium to be set aside for wheelchair users.
“These are the best seats in the house,” said attorney Richard Bernstein, who filed the lawsuit.
The U-M also is allowing disabled fans for this season and next to jump to the front of the line in buying season tickets. Those tickets cost $250, $500, $750 and $1,000 for a pair of seats for home games.
“These are great seats,” an ecstatic Bernstein said. “This is a great opportunity for wheelchair users to enjoy U-M football just like anyone else.”
He was especially proud of the response from the disability community, which grabbed up the accessible seats in the Big House that now can seat 106,201. It had 107,501 spectator seats before the renovation.
It is the second-largest stadium in the nation, behind Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, and the fourth-largest in the world.
“All our hard work has really paid off,” Bernstein said. The legal effort not only increased wheelchair seating capacity but also made concession stands, pathways, restrooms and parking accessible to wheelchair users as required by the ADA’s architectural guidelines.
Now, it’s time for people with disabilities go to Ann Arbor, do some tailgating and enjoy a game.
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