We often read about accommodations in the workplace and in housing. Rarely does the media delve into accommodations issues when it comes to “public accommodation” like at a movie theater or a restaurant especially when it comes to hidden disabilities.
I’m trying to tell those stories. Your stories. My stories.
Eleven months ago, I contacted Stage AE about their accommodation policies. While they do a fine job with access to seats and avoiding long lines, they refuse to allow customers with disabilities to have access to free drinking water. We have to buy it. And that’s apparently legal. We aren’t allowed to bring in outside cups, we aren’t able to request a cup of water and sometimes we have to go into the bathroom for water because there’s no easily accessible water fountain to refill the bottle we already paid for (and drank.) I have spoken with PA Disability Rights Network and they determine that access to free drinking water is not covered under the ADA.
Unfortunately, Stage AE has ignored my inquiries for the past year. I’d really like to talk with them because I think many of these issues can be addressed proactively without much cost to the venue. It could be a win/win, but after eleven months of no response … it undoes all of the good that they do with the other side. I can’t afford to spend $20 in bottled water on top of ticket prices, but I can’t afford to not have drinking water. One need only look to what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Detroit to know that water is NOT a human right in the United States of America – but being well-hydrated is considered one of the most essential tools for our health.
Water is pretty darn critical to most people. And for many folks living on some form of disability income, spending $5 for a bottle of water is not viable on top of the cost of the ticket. But for someone like me, going 4 or 5 hours without water is a danger to my health because of the medication I take. So I’m hyper aware of how this issue can be a barrier to my participation in public. And possibly yours.
I also recently wrote about how my need for an aisle seat is handled by various local movie theaters. AMC Loews ignored my inquiry because they assumed I already had attended the movie. They did get in touch with me 30 minutes after that post was published, but had no concrete answers on how to request an aisle seat. The Manor Theater just said ‘no.’ So last night, I patronized the theater (and nearby restaurant) that does offer me a reasonable accommodation and doesn’t assume it is “too late” to return my call – South Side Works, a Cleveland Cinema facility.
Accommodations are murkily understood. I am often told to “use the back door” which is one of the most insulting and degrading comments I’ve experienced. I’m rarely asked to participate in creating a solution to the barriers. And it is even more rare that someone has an adequate grasp of the laws that apply – even my question about water required the input of several lawyers.
Isolating people with disabilities (and their caretakers) is a bad idea – it prevents them from fully enjoying life and it prevents you from the chance to engage with us. I’ll be delving into how this plays out in other posts, so please come back to learn more.
Frankly, if I had three wishes to give away, I’d use one of them to find better ways to make community spaces accessible. I don’t think it is asking too much for a company like American Eagle or the promoters who run Stage AE to give people access to water. And a cup.
While I’m writing on my experiences seeking accommodation information from other venues such as Pride In the Streets, ToonSeum, Homestead Music Hall and Club Cafe, I’d like to hear from you.
- Do issues like limited seating, access to water and admission lines impact your decision to attend events because of a health concern or condition?
- Have you ever requested an accommodation? What happened?
- Are there venues that go over and above what’s required by law?
- Have you ever contacted a group like the Disability Rights Network for assistance?
Please email me pghlesbian at gmail dot com if you are willing to discuss your situation. I’m specifically interested in the Pittsburgh region, but if you live elsewhere I’d be happy to hear from you. I’m writing about all sorts of accessibility, with a special focus on “hidden disabilities.” And I’d love to hear about success stories like the Cultural District creating special performances of “The Lion King” as well as working out on a microlevel.
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