Examining Venues for ADA Compliance

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)


Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Matthew 7:7


Almost 2000 years after those words were written, the Gospel became law in 1990 upon the Americans with Disabilities Act's signing.

The intent was to bar discrimination against the physically challenged "in all areas of public life," says the ADA National Network website.

Many doors thus opened.

The disabilities act is divided into five sections, called "titles," that break down according to that portion of public life.

Of particular interest here is Title III, the section that addresses access to public facilities.

So that introduced a query:

Q: How do the Roanoke Valley's various venues handle disability access and accommodations? I know people can get into these facilities and around them to a degree, but what more is provided?

Ross Hart, Salem

A: As purveyors of public entertainment and operators of facilities, the cities of Roanoke and Salem are major local players.

It is reasonable to assume most entertainees across the area and beyond have for one time or another been a customer at one of the civic centers, Salem's baseball and football palaces, or at other public facilities.

ADA compliance in both spirit and letter of the law is apparent at venues in both cities.

Roanoke's Berglund Center lists on its home page special entries, viewing locations, and parking.

Services include providing listening devices, wheelchairs, or interpreters.

At the Salem Civic Center, three wheelchair reachable decks are located between sections B-10 and C-10, adjoining C5, and to the front of B15.

"Also, all of our Row 5 seats are for limited mobility, those who can't do stairs," said Stephanie Coffey, a public relations associate for the civic center.

Mobility is not the only challenge addressed at Salem, the valley's oldest large indoor public venue.

"We also have sight and hearing impairment seat holds," Coffey said. "Those are usually closer to the stage. If you wear hearing aids or are legally blind, we usually try to put you on the first five rows on the floor."

Berglund Center accessibility areas are behind Boxes 1, 3, 7 and 9 and in front of Gates 2 and 11. There is no accessiblity for the floor.

At the Performing Arts Theatre, access is available at Orchestra Level, Row R.

Regular ADA parking at the complex is on Lot B. Accessiblity to the coliseum is Gate 2. At the theater, access is at the front entrance.

Salem touts the civic center's accessible interior corridors to those interested in facility rental.

Most interested customers know to call ahead to ask about what is available to those with challenges, Coffey said.

"Ticketmaster has taken a lot of our in-person sales. When you go on their website, it will ask if you need handicapped seats. Or you can call us and ask about them.

"That's always a good idea."

One civic center customer was more than careful before leaving home.

"She wanted to know if it was OK if she brought her cane with her. We said, of course it is."

The same advice about calling ahead goes for Roanoke as well.

Additional Berglund Center services to the hearing impaired include an assisted listening system, which is available to both coliseum and theater patrons.

Contact information to arrange service is through the Event Services Department or the ticket office at 540-853-LIVE (5483).

Also in Roanoke, wheelchairs are available in limited supply, first come first served. Calling as far in advance as possible is the best advice.

Along the same lines, a minimum of five business days is recommended to arrange for an interpreter.

As for service animals, rules govern their use. Berglund Center's home page defines these animals as "a dog (or, subject to certain limitations, a miniature horse) that has been trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability."

Those who require such assistance are advised that if such animal is prompted to become "unruly" or "is not properly housebroken," the handler may be asked to remove the animal and continue without its use.

Salem Stadium is under city jurisdiction for the Stagg Bowl, the Dec. 16 NCAA Division III football championship, and is therefore responsible for accessibility issues.

There is space for wheelchairs in every section except Section C on the west (press box) side. Viewing platforms on the east grandstand are in Sections B and D.

On both sides, chairs roll in level with Row 15. Viewing areas are near the portals.

"We always have a wheelchair platform with a companion seat to go with it," said Lavonda Snider of the civic center box office.

There is room on the press box side for 23 more wheelchairs in the top row at Section A.

That area is served by an elevator that goes all the way to the top.

"I don't think we've ever had to use all that, but it is there if we need it," Snider said.

Limited mobility seats are on hold and available to those who call ahead to make arrangements.

For high school athletic events, accessibility issues are the responsibility of the host schools.

Salem Stadium is home field for Salem High as well as host to the Virginia High School League Group 1 and 2A title games, set this year for Dec. 10.

Other local high schools have on-campus athletic facilities.

The tenant Salem Sox baseball club handles accessibility issues at Salem Memorial Ballpark.

If you've been wondering about something, call What's on Your Mind at 777-6476 or send an email to [email protected] Don 't forget to provide your full name (and its proper spelling) and hometown.

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November 29, 2016


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