Hello, and welcome to the ADA Distance Learning Series, hosted by your regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center. Joining us today for today''s session, called "Two Tickets, Please" which is about access to performance venues, we have Betty Siegel with us. Hi Betty.
We are so excited to have you with us. We have talked about this topic for quite a while now, and so we are thrilled that you are joining us. For those of you who are interested, this session is also being real-time captioned on the Great Lakes web site at www.adagreatlakes.org You can log-in and follow the links for real-time captions. Betty is the manager of accessibility at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. When we put this session on the schedule more than a year ago, we were talking about policy and procedure issues, and originally when we were looking for somebody to address this topic we were looking for somebody possibly from DOJ or in the legal field that could talk about the legal cases and what the law says we have to do. But unfortunately, there is not a lot that is out there as far as guidance on access to performing arts centers and different types of entertainment venues, so what we wanted to do instead is bring Betty in, as she has an incredible background on access to performance venues, and really talk about best practices on policy and procedure and how you can do something, especially if you are a manager at a performance arts venue, what you can do to welcome visitors or patrons with disabilities to your center instead of that feeling that I have to do this because the law says I have to do this, but instead, how you can welcome people to your venue. Betty has been in this field for more than 20 years, in the performing arts and disability issues. She has helped to establish the accessibility program at Arena Stage in Washington D.C., which received an award from Gallaudet University for expanding theater accessibility for the deaf community. In Texas, Betty co-founded Access Arts Austin in the Box Office, which is a city wide box office service. In 1999 Betty returned to Washington D.C. to become manager of accessibility at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts where she continues to promote inclusion for people with disabilities. So we are thrilled to have you with us, Betty. What I was hoping you could do is give us an overview of what the Kennedy Center does to include people with disabilities, and then we will open it up for people to ask questions.
Okay. I may disappoint you, because I may spend more time just talking generally about accessibility and sort of a new philosophical approach to looking at access than about the Kennedy Center itself. I need to make clear to everybody to begin with, I am not a lawyer, and I do not come to this from a legal perspective. I come to this from a person who loves the performing arts and has been involved in the performing arts since I was five years old. And I bring with me the feeling and the sense that the performing arts really should be for everyone. So I approach accessibility from that perspective. Complying with disability laws and being accessible, as you know, is an ongoing process. No one in the world can give you a checklist that is going to protect your organization from the possibility of ever being successfully sued. Now, do not panic, because although there is no checklist, nevertheless there are good practices that can maximize the opportunity for compliance with laws while minimizing risks for organizations. Hopefully that reassures you. Where to begin. Well, the first thing that I always do when I approach an arts organization or a theater, movie theater or sports arena, performing arts center, is talk to them about what their organizational commitment to accessibility is, because if the organization is not willing to commit to accessibility at the top, you are going to just find yourself struggling and feel like you are running into brick walls over and over. When I started at the Kennedy Center with the approval of the president, we first put together an overarching organizational policy that makes a commitment to universal accessibility. And actually it is quite simple, because it is one sentence. So the Kennedy Center''s policy is-and I am going to read this-"to welcome people with disabilities and strive to be a performing arts center that provides arts for everyone." So that is our starting point for looking at access here at the Kennedy Center. We go on and we define that a little bit more. We say work is ongoing to ensure that programs, performances, events and facilities are fully accessible to people with disabilities. We talk about the fact that the Kennedy Center is eager to find solutions to challenges and remove barriers. We offer a wide range of accommodations that provide for ease of physical access as well as effective communication. And then we encourage our patrons who would like an accommodation that they do not see posted on our website or in our brochures to call the accessibility program, and we always give the accessibility program phone number and TTY number. The key to that overarching policy is the first line, to welcome people with disabilities and strive to be a performing arts center that provides arts for everyone. Make note we are not presumptuous enough to say even though I have been doing this for 20 years that the Kennedy Center is fully accessible, but we strive for that. Large places of public accommodations, many hundreds, thousands or millions of patrons a year cannot possibly anticipate every need of every individual who walks through the door. But we can strive for it and we certainly need to provide avenues for an ongoing exchange between our staff, our volunteers and our patrons. Most organizations I talk to, when they approach accessibility, start with physical access issues. They start asking themselves, do we have the right number of wheelchairs? Do we have the proper sight lines? Are the restroom accessible? Do we have the proper number of parking spaces? Then they move on to effective communication or programmatic issues; enough listening devices, sign language interpreters. Basically, what I call that process that they are doing is they are conducting a survey of their accessibility assets. And as Jennifer knows, this is my keyword for the year, is assets. The thing, the perspective that I need to get you to change, or that it is my mission to get you to change today, is to stop looking at accessibility as a legal issue and start looking at accessibility as something that is an asset to your organization. So what is an accessibility asset? These are the things an organization already does or already has in place that make the facility, the programs accessible. Let us think of an easy one. Can your box office staff clearly and succinctly explain how to take public transportation to the facility or to the accessible parking? Can they describe that succinctly and clearly? If they can, that is an accessible asset, because transportation is one thing people with disabilities frequently struggle with. Is the front door accessible? That is an asset. Does your staff receive accessibility training? That is an asset. At the same time that you are looking at all of your assets, you are going to be looking at your liabilities. And you are going to be coming up with strategies for minimizing those liabilities. For example, one many of us face is that the wheelchair accessible seating is not dispersed in older facilities. That is a liability. Strategies for minimizing the liability might be to find another possible seating area, renovate another area, plan to accrue the funding necessary and then provide that additional accessible seating within two years. Meanwhile, and this is what we are going to focus in on today, the organization should look at what policies they need to ensure that they are not inadvertently discriminating and creating unequal access. Am I going too fast, Jennifer?
I think that you are good so far. I was just going to start teasing you about calling them "Betty''s assets." Go right ahead. And also, Betty, if you could also talk a little bit about the group of professionals that you had at the center two weeks ago, too.
I would love to. We had a meeting last weekend here at the Kennedy Center. It is a new initiative to bring together ADA/504 accessibility managers in the performing arts to talk about these issues exactly and to provide an avenue through which people like me, who are providing accessibility in entertainment venues, can get footing in an open environment and share resources and discuss how we do things. We came up with a lot of issues that we all share in common. We all share in common the issue of wheelchair accessible seating, how do we handle that, what are our policies for selling those seats? We all share in common the issues of whether to discount or not discount tickets for our patrons. We all share in common issues about marketing and audience development. This is an exciting initiative and anyone who wants more information about it can contact me directly, or Jennifer, I am sure, would be happy to pass on my phone number. I want to talk about policies, if that is okay with you, Jennifer.
Sure. Go ahead.
I just recently got a call from a patron who was purchasing tickets to a performance here at the Kennedy Center. It was not a Kennedy Center production, because like many of you, the Kennedy Center is not necessarily a producing entity, we are more of a presenting entity. And we use our facilities to rent to other arts organizations in our community. We have eight theaters. They range in size from 400 seats to almost 3,000, and so we have a lot of activity going on throughout the year, and a lot of people using our space over whom we have minimal control, but contractual agreements. One policy that I would recommend again that you look at after you look at your overarching sort of accessibility policy for your entity is the one that says how are you going to interact with renters in your space or people who lease or use your space. We have it in all contracts with all outside producers that they must comply with all federal laws. Under that one statement, it is hidden of course, the issue that they must comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehab Act. But that gets pushed a lot. The call I got recently was from a patron who wanted wheelchair accessible locations and the only accessible locations in the theater that she wanted, because it is one of our older spaces that has not been renovated, but it is slated to be renovated in 2002, are in the box seats. Those, of course, as many of you know, are probably the most expensive seats in the theater. The outside producer had told the patron that they could purchase those seats through what we call our SPT program. That is Specially Priced Ticket program. It is a discount program that we have offered for over 30 years. The patron, of course, pushed and said even at half price, a $200 seat is $100, and there are balcony seats available at $30. I do not want to pay $100 to sit in the only accessible location in the theater. When these things happen the Kennedy Center policy in a sense is to bump those types of issues over to me and the outside producer bumped this issue into my lap. We had to have a talk about the difference between what is a policy and what is a program. Our discounted ticket program is a program, it is not a policy of the Kennedy Center. The policy for the Kennedy Center is to sell our wheelchair accessible locations at whatever is the cheapest rate in the theater. Now, that is the Kennedy Center''s policy. It is not necessarily the policy that everyone needs to adopt. As a matter of fact, at our meeting last week when we talked about these kinds of policies I heard lots of different recommendations. Some people priced them at half price, some people hold their wheelchair accessible locations at the lowest price available in the theater. There are more complex ways of handling the tickets. One recommendation would be to have a policy in place whereby the wheelchair accessible locations are available at whatever the lowest price ticket available in the house is. In other words, if you have a $12 dollar balcony seat, your wheelchair accessible places in orchestra are $12 until that balcony is sold out. Once there are no longer any $12 seats, the wheelchair accessible locations bounce up to the next highest price level that you have seats still available, so they might become a $20 seat until all of those are sold out. And so on and so forth.
Betty, I want to clarify. That is because the wheelchair seating for that particular theater or auditorium is all in one location. Is that right? It is because you do not have wheelchair seating at the different price points?
That is correct. Frequently what you are dealing with when you start to look at the wheelchair accessible locations and start discounting them for some reason, it is because you are trying to compensate for the lack of accessible seating scattered throughout all of your different pricing zones.
So again using the Kennedy Center as an example, we just recently renovated our concert hall. We were fortunate to have the father of universal design, Ron Mace, as one of the architects on the project. So that venue is quite accessible and there is wheelchair accessible locations in all of the price ranges, from the very top balcony down to the orchestra. So we do not offer that discount for seats in that theater because we feel someone who needs accessible seating, wheelchair accessible seating specifically, has to purchase tickets in any price range. The opera house has not been renovated yet, we have one wheelchair location and that is in the boxes. And those we do offer at the lowest price possible. Those are the kinds of policies and issues and questions that come up on a regular and routine basis for me. We always are approaching them by saying, the question we always ask ourselves when we look at our policies is, we say does this policy allow us to provide equal access for everyone? And by equal access we mean it is as close as possible to being the same for everyone that is functional, safe, convenient and provides dignified access. We have policies for everything, not just wheelchair accessible seating, but policies for how we handle ticketing for patrons who are deaf and use a sign language interpreter. Policies for patrons who use service dogs. Policies for just about every possible contingent that I have been able to anticipate. However, believe me, even after 20 years, some days I get a phone call and it is a brand new issue and it means that I have one more policy to create. Do we want to open it up to questions?
I have a truckload of questions right here. Let us go over a couple of these first and then we will open it up to all of our sites. And one of the first ones is interpretive performances, or when do you provide a sign language interpreter for a performance? Many venues practice this, on Wednesday nights will be the performance that we provide the sign language interpreter for, and if you want to go, that is the one that you will have to go to, even though the performance is showing for the next three weeks. How do you handle those types of requests?
That is an excellent question. It is actually an issue that has been challenged recently by people I know and deaf individuals that we know here in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. For 20 years we have always felt very comfortable saying that we have been providing effective communication by predetermining and scheduling specific interpreted performances. We do that because we are able to get interpreters who are qualified, who have time to rehearse the show. We are able to block off really good seats for our deaf audience where we know they can see the interpreters and have good sight lines with the stage. I think that is still a good way to go about it, to schedule performances. However, the Kennedy Center''s policy is also to do what we call upon request services. If a patron calls me and says well, I cannot go on Wednesday when you have the interpreted performance scheduled, I can only go next week on Thursday, then our policy is to make every effort to accommodate that patron''s need. Sometimes that means they do not get to be in the front row with the interpreters right there in the front. Sometimes it means that we offer them box seating and the interpreter in the box with them. Sometimes it means they are halfway back in the house, and the interpreter may be in the aisle somewhere. But our effort is always to provide effective communication. We cannot rely on saying we have got something scheduled. We have a secondary pathway we go down, which is to also accommodate requests if they are made within a reasonable time frame. And that, of course, is going to vary from region to region. In Washington D.C. I know that the Warner Theater states that they must have at least 10 days advance notice in order to provide a sign language interpreter upon request. The Kennedy Center says two weeks.
Good. Thanks, Betty. Next topic: Service animals. Many patrons, you probably have a number of patrons that come in each night for different performances there with service animals, and one of the questions that we received was: How do you provide space for the service animal? Is it okay for them to stay in the aisle? What about the event that the person does not necessarily have an aisle seat?
Having talked to a lot of different people who use different types of service animals, primarily service dogs, first of all, we absolutely allow service animals anywhere and everywhere in the building, whether it is into our restaurants or into our theaters. We understand that it is the patron''s responsibility to control and handle their service animal. It is not ours. Most service animals are not allowed to pass guide dog 101 until they have learned to behave in big crowds and under a lot of stressful conditions. So we have never had a problem with service animals in the building. When they are in the theater, most likely the service animal will go under the seat of the person they are with. I have seen some very large dogs go into very small spaces. So we always tell our ushers not to worry about the dog. The person controlling that service animal will take care of it. We do occasionally find that a service animal, if they are on an aisle seat, will sort of spread out into the aisles, because I would not want to stay under a seat for a two-hour show. If the ushers find that the service animal has spread out into an access aisle, they ask the individual controlling the service dog-not really ask them, more inform them that the animal had sprawled out and usually the person gets it back under the seat.
Thanks, Betty. Let us open it up for questions.
We have a basketball arena that also gives concerts and other rental things. But the wheelchair seating is along the top between the expensive and the non-expensive seats and it is used by folding chairs. We would like to know how do you control those individuals who call in and are not wheelchair users but they say that they are. How many people do you allow in your wheelchair seating?
That is an excellent question. I am going to pull a Department of Justice response on you all. It is sort of a joke that whenever you call the Department of Justice hotline, you ask them a question, they always say "it depends." So this is one of those "it depends" answers. First off, we do not control our patrons, and it has been the Kennedy Center''s policy to accept people at their word. Overall, I have not found we have had a lot of abuse. I know that this is maybe different in the arts arena than in sports or large concert venues, that there is a great deal more concern about people scamming or taking advantage of the system. I had a person in Arizona who was dealing with that exact issue and we had a little e-mail exchange. I actually anticipated someone would ask this question, so I pulled up our e-mail exchange. One suggestion, and this again is just a suggestion, is when a patron requests wheelchair accessible seating, that the box office could engage in a dialogue. We would never ask them what is your disability, because that would be illegal. You are not allowed to ask that. But you could start a dialogue by saying oh, well, do you require a wheelchair accessible space or is there another accommodation we can make for you? And in doing that, first of all you might find that the scammers and schemers will back down because they are not expecting you to engage them in a dialogue. Secondly, you may find that people who think that they need wheelchair accessible locations just need accessible locations, a location where there are no steps, a location closer to the bathroom. But that is a very sticky issue and I do not really have a black and white answer for you. Again, I lean towards accepting people at their word, and then the number of people that we put into a space is the number that we can accommodate. You know, a wheelchair accessible location needs to be-Jennifer, you can correct me on this-I think it is 48 inches deep by 30 wide, or something like that. And so we sort of measure off those spaces and that is how many wheelchairs we would try to get there. Then we also have to account for companion seating. So you have one companion seat per wheelchair location.
Very good. Thanks for your question.
This is Judy calling from Illinois. We had a request for guidance from an individual whose family member had vision impairment. They wanted to go to a rock and roll concert at the local university assembly hall. They wanted the child-the teenage child to have seating real close to the stage, but they wanted to pay for a ticket way up in the-whatever section you call that way way up. I did not know how to guide them because I do not know how the ADA covers vision impairment with performing arts.
I think we bet money on whether or not this question was going to come up. It is a really good question, but it comes up all the time. And unfortunately there is not really clear guidance on this. What do you do at the Kennedy Center?
The Kennedy Center, again because we have our overarching mission is to strive for accessibility, we tend to be fairly liberal in trying to make accommodations. It is my understanding that the ADA does not require that we discount tickets. It only requires that we provide effective communication. So it is in a very gray area as far as I am concerned. I would rather look at it, instead of whether we have to do this, I would rather look at it as a PR marketing issue, which is really more the case. You have a person who wants to buy tickets, probably not just one because that teenager is probably not coming by themselves, and you want to sell them tickets and you want them not only to buy tickets to that one show but you want them to keep coming back again and again. So our philosophy is to attempt to accommodate people to the best of our ability. We do not have a policy that specifically says that we will offer a reduced price ticket, but we will if we are asked to do so.
Great. Thanks for your question. I think that it is an excellent question and I think that it exemplifies the issues of so many issues or policies that are not clear-cut and that we do not have good guidance on. And I think that is why the group that you have facilitated to bring people together on a national level to discuss these issues, why that is such an important group of people. And for those of you that are listening today, if you are connected with entertainment or performance venues or sports arenas or that, I would encourage you to get connected with Betty and their group of accessibility and 504 coordinators that have come together. And at the National Center on Accessibility we are also looking to support this group and helping them to identify the issues and identifying the best practices that are out there. Maybe there are other venues out there that have addressed this in a different way and how can we identify all of those best practices so that people can learn from them and maybe modify their policy or procedure as needed. But it is a great question.
It really is. And the other side of that is that there is not one right answer to it. So you would want to sit down and think through all the options that you might have. Sure, what does it hurt you ultimately when you look at the overall revenue that is generated by a performance to take six of your front row seats and sell them at half price to people who are blind or have low vision. What really is the cost to you overall? Or what is the cost to you to have binoculars and passing those out? You have to start thinking outside of the box. The most important thing is you have to include the consumer in the conversation.
Absolutely. Do we have our next question?
I have a couple questions. Do you believe it is a requirement to have a sign language interpreter to the performances once a week?
Do you want me to answer your question first?
Let us answer the first question, because we are getting feedback from your speaker phone there. We will go ahead and drop the line so we can answer both questions.
Do you want me to respond to that?
Let us hear what the second question was and then we will drop the line.
What type of alternative formats do you provide for your written material that you hand out when a performance is going on?
Okay. That is a good question, too, because I think that during your meeting we had about an hour conversation about the appropriate size of large print.
That is right. I will address the first one, because actually it is an easy question to answer, and I think the question was do I feel that we are required to provide sign language interpreters. Oddly enough, the answer to that is no. What we are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide is effective communication. What is effective for one person may not be effective for another. I will just give you an example of the range of things that the Kennedy Center offers in order to provide effective communication to our patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing. We have assistive listening devices, we do offer sign language interpreters, we offer qued speech transliteration. We offer something that is relatively new out in the community but been done regularly in New Jersey, New York and Houston, captions of performances. We offer oral interpreters if we are asked, and we offer scripts on request. That is seven different ways to go about complying with the requirement to provide effective communication. So the answer is no, I am not required to provide a sign language interpreter. I am required to provide effective communication. That is why the dialogue with the patron is so important. What does that patron need for effective communication to happen.
Do not forget about that alternate format.
I know that people are not always thrilled when that is the answer to that question. Alternate formats are lots of fun. Again, we have lots of different people who come through the center and have different levels of vision and vision loss. So the Kennedy Center always has available at every performance a Braille and a large print version of the stage bill. Large print, we tend to do 18 point font size. It can get kind of thick. Braille and large print for every show. You walk in, you ask the usher, you will receive it. Upon request we will also e-mail people our brochures and text materials. We make them available-we are starting more and more to move towards making them available on the Internet. Of course then that assumes that your Web sites are accessible to people who are blind or have low vision. We also provide information on tape, if people request it, and I will also mail someone a computer disk with the data on it.
Betty, one of the questions that we had during your meeting of the accessible coordinators was how many to provide in that alternate format. Any suggestions on that?
It varies from show to show. We have found that we do not use a lot of large print or Braille for our purely dance events. So we tend to cut back and not produce as many copies for that. We find that for the Washington opera and our national symphony orchestra performances we have a high demand for large print and Braille. For about a two-week run of an opera, we will produce almost 200 large print versions of our stage bill. And we will produce about 10 or 15 copies in Braille. That is one of our biggest shows. Normally, on average for a run of a show that is going to only be around for one or two to three days, we will do three copies in Braille and 25 in large print.
Good. Thanks, Betty. Do we have our next question?
Hi, Betty. It is Greg Dunn in Minnesota.
Are you a plant?
No. We are here from the VSA Arts Office in Minneapolis. It was mostly back to the-when you talked about the alternative format of real-time captions, and the problems can just be lighting that can ensue in something like that. People around them having the clicking of the typer going on, just the management of that accommodation. I guess how often you have had a request for that, too. Also tactile interpreting?
Real-time captioning is relatively new, being used in live performance venues, and there are several ways to offer it. Most of us are familiar with the way the operas do surtitles, and that is not very intrusive on the patrons because everything-all that noise and clicking and typing is going on in a booth with a very long wire that attaches to the actual surtitle screen above the stage. So I do not find that intrusive at all. We here at the Kennedy Center have two different ways that we have delivered captioning, one is with a regular television monitor and the captioner in the auditorium. To this point we have not had any complaints about noise bothering people. The other way we have done it is with a four foot long LED sign that scrolls about two to three lines at a time and the captioner can either be sitting in the audience or you can wire the theater up and send that person back to an enclosed booth. They do not have to be physically with their sign. They just have to be attached to their sign with their wire. So I think you can minimize the intrusion issue of sound from a keyboard by simply investing in really long cable. The lighting has not been a problem. A television monitor just does not throw off, if you have got a black screen with white print, does not throw off that much ambient light. The LED throws off significantly less. We just did captioning with one of Disney''s shows, Beauty and the Beast, and they have a lot of special events and a lot of concerns about lighting and we just asked the captioner to be sensitive to that, and he tried not to have anything up on the screen during that. How many requests do we get for it? At this point, we have gotten maybe three or four a year, but we want to be proactive and reach out to that audience. We have been providing sign language interpreters. That is great for patrons who know sign language. We have been providing assistive listening devices, that is great with people with mild hearing loss. There is a huge potential market out there of people with more severe hearing loss that do not benefit from either of those other two accommodations that I think are going to want to keep coming to the theater, first off, because they are our older patrons. They do not want to give up something they love. Captions allow them to maintain their status as theatergoers for a long time. I think we will get a lot more requests for that. The third thing you asked about, tactile interpreting. That is an intensive one. Usually it is one on one. We will provide it upon request. That is it, Jennifer.
Thanks, Betty. Do we have our next question?
We have two quick questions. One: We have discussed a little bit about the one plus one policy, one companion to one wheelchair. What do you do in the cases of families who one member of the family is in a wheelchair and they require their children to be near them, obviously. Do you reserve more seats around the wheelchair spot?
First, you have to be careful about the differences between a policy and what is required. ADAAG, which is the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines, specifically requires that you have a wheelchair location with a companion seat. That is the law. But what about your marketing perspective? That patron with the wheelchair is coming with two or three children, their spouse, their friends. I want them to be ticket buyers for a long time, and so our policy is to go out of our way and accommodate people as best as we can. That is our policy, as opposed to what the law, what ADAAG requires us to do. So we will hold seats close to our wheelchair locations and we will make every effort to seat parties, larger parties together. Sometimes I know that is not possible when you have clustered wheelchair seating. It is much easier when you have got dispersed and integrated seating.
I think that it raises the point of how important dispersed seating is so that you can sit with your family and friends that you are going to these special events and venues.
It is a tough-the issue is hard in terms of box office management because you do not know, you cannot anticipate how many people are coming that will need your wheelchair locations, and you cannot anticipate whether they are going to have one or five companions. So your safe bet is just hold onto some seats and then create your policies around at what point will you release those seats as you get closer to the performance or closer and closer to a sellout.
Thanks for your question. I am going to go over to Beverly in the chat room to see if you have any questions there.
Do you count limited mobility seats as accessible seating?
I am trying to think about what exactly-
Would that be a standard seat that you had transferred into that might not necessarily be a wheelchair space? Something that would not be on steps, but it would be on an access route?
We have two different types of seating in our box office lexicon. One is there are the wheelchair accessible locations. In other words, this is the location where a wheelchair can actually get in, turn around, maneuver and be, and where the individual who is using that wheelchair stays in their wheelchair. Then we have transfer seats, seats that a patron who uses a wheelchair can easily transfer to if they choose. And then we have something that we call easy access seats, which are seats for patrons who use walkers or who have had hip replacements or who cannot do steps very well. So we also have what we call the easy access seats, which are separate and different from our wheelchair accessible locations.
Thanks, Betty. We have time for one or two more questions, and then I am going to also throw it back to you, if you have a brief closing comment for us. Do we have our next question?
I am at Logan, Utah, our question is: When a person needs a personal assistant aide, when does the aide have to pay or not pay?
Again, I have to rephrase the question and take it away from when does the assistant have to or not have to pay and move it back into whether you value that patron''s ability to attend the performance frequently or not. And we have what we call a half price ticket program, basically, and so we will sell a patron two tickets at half price, or you can look at that as one free and one full price ticket, whichever way you care. But the truth of the matter is we do let personal assistants in for free because we want that patron to come back and buy more tickets from us, and giving up one seat or even three to five seats over the course of a run or in an evening of performances just is trivial in comparison to the number of seats that go dead anyway in our performances. But again, that is our policy.
And I will tell you that in our region, we have had a situation with a letter going out to movie theaters saying that you have to let in the personal care attendant, and the issue that we have always gotten back to with DOJ has been the question of whether or not the personal care attendant would also be benefiting from the program.
It is funny, because sometimes the personal care attendant does not want to see the show and sits out in the hallway. Our policy overall, if it were not a personal care attendant, our policy is that every person that walks into the theater, if they are breathing, which most people are, must have a ticket. That applies to babies. If you breathe and you are physically in the theater space, then you must have a ticket. And then our policy with personal assistants is to offer them a ticket at basically a free ticket, but they still have a ticket.
Thanks, Betty. Our next question?
We have talked mostly about accommodations for the spectators, but for areas of public performance what are the obligations to make the performing areas accessible to performers with disabilities?
Jennifer, you want to jump in there from a legal perspective?
Are you going to throw that one to me?
I can answer it, if you want.
Why don''t you go ahead. Let us hear your answer, first.
See if I am right. Again, if you go and look at ADAAG you find requirements that say things like a person who uses a wheelchair must be able to get in and get out of work spaces. But you also have the employment titles of ADA that basically says that you must make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities who are qualified to do the jobs. So, yes, I would say the answer to your question is that you need to be ready to make your back stage areas and your work spaces accessible.
Absolutely. Even in the event of dressing rooms as well, those would be considered common use areas that people would need access to as well. That is a great question. I think that one of the difficulties that you get into is whether or not it is an existing facility or whether or not it is a new construction.
If you are doing new construction, I would say that you should go ahead and make everything accessible, period, the end.
If you are in an existing facility, there are a lot of creative things you can do. I worked for a very old theater in Austin, Texas, the dressing rooms were in the basement, as were the bathrooms, and when they brought in a wheelchair dance company to perform there, they created dressing rooms on stage. They rented port-a-potties that were wheelchair accessible and put them off in the wings, but on stage. So they just created accessible spaces where they could.
That is a great question. Betty, I am going to turn it back to you. Thank you so much for joining us today. Do you have a couple of brief closing comments for us as we come up to the top of the hour?
I wish I could be really brilliant here, but I have to reiterate what I started with, which is that there is no checklist for doing this and the best protection against confronting people who are angry or against lawsuits is to think in advance about what your policies are, because your good practice maximizes your opportunities for clients and they minimize your risks.
Absolutely. Thanks so much for joining us. And again, I would reiterate to people, if they have interest in this topic, to contact Betty. Do you have plans for a meeting next year?
Yes. We will be meeting again. Probably in August. Unfortunately, August in D.C. is really hot. This year we had a rainstorm. But that is usually when most performing arts venues have their slow season, so we will be meeting August 2002 here at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
Let me just point out for people, too, it was a really great meeting because so many times you will go to a training or a workshop that you sit there and you do not get to talk for two or three days. I think one of the unique parts of this was that everyone had common interest and you had presenters. We were involved with that. You had the Department of Justice, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Mid-Atlantic DBTAC was also involved. There was such a great opportunity for dialogue with colleagues to talk about the different issues. And so, again, even if you are from a Center for Independent Living and maybe you are working with a theater in your community, to connect with the theater with-we call it the friends of Betty group, I think, to connect to them with Betty so she can get you information on that next year''s workshop.
The one thing I want to add is that I have been very lucky to be able to talk with you as though I know everything. The nice thing about this group is that we acknowledge that everybody in that room-if you have been doing accessibility at your facility, then you are an expert on these issues. You have probably already confronted all the tough questions and you have already thought your way through them. And that is one of the reasons why we try to keep this conference much less focused on presenters who are experts in the field and much more focused on us sharing what we have done and how we have done it so that we can learn from each other.
Good. Very good. Thanks so much again for joining us today. If you have additional questions about either today''s session or about the Americans With Disabilities Act, please contact your regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center at 800-949-4232. We hope that you will be back to join us next month as we wrap up this season of the distance learning series, John Salmen from Universal Designers and Consultants will be back to join us when we talk about Designing Accessible Lodging Facilities. John joined us about a year ago to talk about the Principles of Universal Design. So we were thrilled to have him back talking with us about lodging facilities. So if you have more interest in that session, it is September 18th, and you can read about it on the Great Lakes web sight, www.adagreatlakes.org. Thanks for joining us today.