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Fans in wheelchairs will see the action: ADA stadium controversy resolved.

A major designer of sports stadiums and arenas announced last week that it has settled a lawsuit alleging noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1996.

The suit accused Ellerbe Becket, the nation's largest architectural firm, of violating the ADA by not designing major sports facilities in six cities to allow spectators in wheelchairs to view events on the field when other fans stand up.

Ellerbe Becket countered that all of its facilities provided elevated sight lines for wheelchair spectators, but that ADA regulations were unclear as to precisely what was required.

"Today's action has clarified ADA compliance for our entire industry," Ellerbe Becket President Rick Lincicome said in a prepared statement. "From day one we have been dedicated to establishing an agreed-upon interpretation of comparable sight lines and to providing facilities, that promote equal use for all patrons."

The agreement--a consent order approved by a federal judge in Minneapolis--established. new construction guidelines, jointly developed by Justice and Ellerbe Becket, which specify how architects should measure sight lines for spectators in wheelchairs. The guidelines include detailed measurements of the average heights of standing spectators and spectators seated in wheelchairs.

"Fans who use wheelchairs should be able to see the action on the playing field, rather than just the backs of the people in front of them," said Bill Lann Lee, acting assistant attorney general for civil rights and a speaker at the NLC Congressional City Conference last March. "Equal opportunity means more than just being able to attend an event; it also means the opportunity to watch it."

The agreement imposed no civil penalties or fine on Ellerbe Becket, even though the government had sought both.

The six facilities named in the lawsuit were the Fleet Center in Boston, the Marine Midland Arena in Buffalo, the Gund Arena in Cleveland, the Corestates Arena in Philadelphia, the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore., and the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.

Individuals with disabilities and disability advocacy groups still have lawsuits pending in Boston, Philadelphia and Buffalo that would force stadium owners to modify their facilities.

In a similar lawsuit filed in Portland, Ore., a federal district court ruled that wheelchair locations in the Rose Garden were not required to provide lines of sight over standing spectators.
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Title Annotation:new sight line specifications for wheelchair spectators agreed to by the Department of Justice and the Ellerbe Becket architectural firm; Americans with Disabilities Act
Author:Bershers, Khris
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:May 11, 1998
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