Stadium Signage and Other Important Accessibility Features
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Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses of all types are required to have certain accessibility features in place. Facilities that are open to the public must follow ADA guidelines to avoid restricting the rights of individuals with mobility issues, visual impairments, hearing difficulties, and more.
Though most establishments are legally required to adhere to the ADA, it’s also worth highlighting a few types of facilities that are at an especially high risk of being hit with massive fines and lawsuits if they don’t comply—facilities such as stadiums.
With it being the middle of football season, now is a good time to take a look at stadium signage and other important accessibility features that should be installed to achieve ADA compliance.
First, however, let’s explore why it’s so important for stadiums to be compliant…
The Importance of ADA Compliance for Stadiums
Stadiums are specifically designed to give athletes room to play while also allowing huge crowds of spectators to watch from their seats. Every year, especially during football season, millions of people flock to stadiums to catch their favorite players in action. For reference, the average attendance at home games of the Dallas Cowboys was 92,721 last year.
Additionally, stadiums are frequently used to host events other than sports games, such as concerts and expos.
When you consider the sheer number and variety of people who visit stadiums each year, it makes perfect sense as to why such facilities should be ADA compliant. Many of the individuals who enjoy watching games and performances live are protected by the ADA, as they have hearing, mobility, or vision impairments. That’s why it’s so important for stadiums to follow ADA rules and regulations to the letter. In doing so, facility managers and owners can…
- Create a welcoming and inclusive environment for visitors, showing that they care about the safety and enjoyment of all who come to their establishment.
- Avoid being hit with ADA-related fines, which can be especially costly when you consider the size of the average stadium and the number of accessibility features required.
- Prevent potential lawsuits from visitors, which can result in both a huge settlement and negative PR.
- Expand their visitor pool, as having ADA-compliant seating and restrooms may encourage more individuals to visit the facility.
To ensure compliance and reap the benefits of following ADA rules, those in charge must familiarize themselves with what accessibility features are required.
What Accessibility Features Are Needed at Stadiums?
- Wheelchair-accessible seating is required at stadiums, with at least 1% of seating being wheelchair-seating locations.
- Accessible seats should have views of the field comparable to those of all other spectators.
- Companion seats must be provided next to all wheelchair-accessible seats.
- Wheelchair-seating locations must be dispersed throughout all areas when there are more than 300 seats in the stadium.
- Wheelchair-seating locations must be on an accessible route that allows access from parking and transportation areas and that connects to all public areas.
- Every public and common-use restroom must be accessible, which means that restrooms must have handicap stalls, sufficient space for wheelchair movement, adequate sink height, and more.
Parking & Drop-Off Areas
- Accessible parking spaces for both cars and vans are required.
- Accessible parking spaces must be the closest spaces to accessible entrances.
- If a drop-off area is next to a curb, a curb ramp must be provided.
- Stadium signs that identify restrooms, exits, and other permanent spaces must have Braille and raised letters or numbers.
- Signs should be able to be read and understood by all individuals
- Stadium signs identifying permanent rooms and spaces must also meet requirements for mounting location, color contrast, and non-flare finish.
- Signs that provide directions or general information are only required to comply with requirements for character proportion, character height, and finish and contrast.
- Stadiums located in California must follow stricter guidelines for signage.
It should be noted that these are just a few of the features required at stadiums. The ADA website provides a more comprehensive list of rules for accessible stadiums.
What Are the Potential Consequences of Noncompliance?
Without ADA-compliant stadium signage and other accessibility features, sports teams, stadium owners, facility managers, and other responsible parties can face a number of consequences, such as…
A bill passed in February of 2018 made it so that individuals are unable to sue a business for ADA noncompliance issues until the business has a chance to correct the violations. However, lawsuits filed for noncompliance issues are still common. By ensuring that ADA-compliant stadium signage and other features are put in place beforehand, parties can avoid paying a hefty settlement and costly renovations.
Just a few years ago, a man sued the San Francisco 49ers for $10 million in damages after allegedly being ejected from a November 2015 game for having his service dog with him.
Even if an individual doesn’t lodge a formal complaint about a stadium’s lack of ADA-compliant features, there’s still a significant risk of being hit with fines. Under the rules established in 2014, the maximum penalty for a first-offense Title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) violation is $75,000, and $150,000 for a second offense.
Though a large and popular stadium located in a metropolitan area may not suffer as much from these fines, those in charge will still want to avoid such financial losses.
Loss of Status
Failing to install ADA-compliant stadium signage and other accessibility features could potentially hurt a team’s or stadium’s reputation. Moreover, if a stadium doesn’t meet ADA compliance guidelines, it may not be eligible to host a large-scale event such as the Super Bowl.
Despite the fact that all public facilities should adhere to ADA guidelines, parties in charge of stadium construction, renovation, and management should pay particularly close attention to the rules regarding accessibility.
At the very least, sign professionals tasked with fabricating ADA-compliant stadium signage and contractors hired to handle the actual building should be familiar with both federal and state laws.