Northeast Ohio event planners add online ticket-buying options for accessible seating after 19 investigates brings up Massillon woman’s concerns

Published: Jun. 1, 2021 at 6:30 PM EDT
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MASSILLON, Ohio (WOIO) - A Massillon woman came to 19 Investigates, sharing details of her struggle to secure accessible seating online for events around Northeast Ohio, especially amid the pandemic.

Federal law requires venues to give people with disabilities the same ticket buying options as everyone else.

Rhonda Ochsenfeld tries not to let her rare motor neuron disease keep her from getting out.

“I can’t walk properly and it affects my speech,” she said. “I don’t like being limited just because I am differently-abled.”

She’s very much still on the go, wanting to participate in her community-- especially in events involving her son.

“I do. I want to be there for everything,” she said.

That’s difficult sometimes though, she says, because event planners don’t always seem to think of people like her when it comes to ticket sales.

“It’s not like we don’t all have money to spend,” she said.

She reached out to 19 investigates after finding several venues did not offer an option to purchase accessible seating online.

“Often I find that on their website, that I have to call,” she said.

For example, there hasn’t been an option to book accessible tickets to Canton’s Hall of Fame parade her son’s performed in the past few years.

She says it’s hard to call for answers in that type of situation.

“It feels somewhat belittling,” she said. “My speech is rather strained and I speak slowly.”

She says ran into the same issue trying to book tickets to an Indians game this year. A representative told her in an email that “this season, the only way to purchase ADA seats is by calling in.”

“In the past, the Indians, have had no trouble until this year,” she said.

According to ADA law, venues must make sure “individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to purchase tickets for accessible seating.”

Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III regulations under Subpart B – General Requirements, 36.302 – Modifications in policies, practices, or procedures; (f) ticketing; (ii)Ticket Sales;

(A) A public accommodation that sells tickets for a single event or series of events shall modify its policies, practices, or procedures to ensure that individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to purchase tickets for accessible seating –

(B) During the same hours;

(C) During the same stages of ticket sales, including, but not limited to, presales, promotions, lotteries, wait-lists, and general sales;

(D) Through the same methods of distribution;

(E) In the same types and numbers of ticketing sales outlets, including telephone service, in person ticket sales at the facility, or third-party ticketing services, as other patrons; and

(F) Under the same terms and conditions as other tickets sold for the same event or series of events.

Ochsenfeld takes that to mean that if others can buy tickets online, she should be able to purchase her tickets there as well.

“I just really want them to comply with the law,” she said.

The good news is, after 19 Investigates reached out to the venues in this story, we got some action.

Just Tuesday afternoon, the Hall of Fame parade organizers added an option for ADA seats to be purchased online.

Collyn Floyd with the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce said, “This allows persons in need of Accessible Seating to purchase an Accessible Seating ticket and up to three Companion tickets per order. The ticket holder will also receive a parking pass for an Accessible parking area.”

Also, the online option to book accessible seats at Indians games is coming back soon too.

A spokesperson for the Cleveland Indians told us, “Due to the pod-style seating we had to implement with COVID restrictions at the ballpark, the online functionality wasn’t available for ADA seating as well as other ticket offerings, and fans had to call in. With the ballpark reopening at full capacity on June 2, the ability to purchase ADA seating online will return.”

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