By Libby Smith
MORRISON, Colo (CBS4) – A lawsuit filed in federal court in December claims that the City of Denver is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act for the way it handles wheelchair accessible seating at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Because of the unique structure of the facility, wheelchairs can only access the first row of seats and the last row of seats. Out of 9,500 seats in the amphitheater, only 78 are accessible.
“Right now, the whole front row is supposed to be for people who use wheelchairs. We just want the city to actually enforce that,” said Alison Daniels, director of legal services at Disability Law Colorado.
The lawsuit asks that the city clearly mark the designated seats, and then enforce that only people with disabilities use those seats.
“So we want the city to make sure that concertgoers are on notice of the accessible areas, so they’re not taken up by people who don’t need them,” Daniels explained.
Disability Law Colorado is working with the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center as well as Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition to bring the lawsuit on behalf of six named plaintiffs. Kirk Williams is among them. He’s been going to concerts at Red Rocks for years.
“I’m just a huge music enthusiast and I just love live music. I always have,” Williams told CBS4.
Williams says in the last six years, since he’s been in a wheelchair, he’s found his access to the popular amphitheater greatly reduced. He says he usually ends up in the last row where the experience can be disappointing.
“It’s more being away from everyone, being behind everyone else, having all this other noise, and then not having the noise you want to hear, i.e., the band playing,” Williams said.
He says the front row seats are great, but they aren’t truly reserved for people with disabilities. Those premium seats sell quickly and then often get scalped to people without disabilities.
“We feel it’s a clear violation of the ADA,” Daniels said.
The City of Denver disagrees. Here is a statement they provided to CBS4 about this lawsuit:
“Arts & Venues has a long history of working with a number of communities to improve the patron experience for all, including complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. We continually monitor feedback and update venue operations in order to make all of our facilities, including Red Rocks Amphitheatre, comfortable, safe and accessible to all patrons. We will continue to work with groups representing disabled communities, in order to improve the experience of patrons with disabilities to the extent we are allowed by law, including the ADA, and the unique characteristics of venues like Red Rocks Amphitheater.”
The case will be back in federal court on Feb. 28.
Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you’d like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.