Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ruling allows for accessible viewing at NASCAR speedways

From The Wall Street Journal Law blog:

A recent Ninth Circuit ruling that means Robert Miller, and other disabled NASCAR fans, are entitled to an unimpeded view of the racetrack.

When Miller, a quadriplegic, purchased NASCAR tickets for races at the California Speedway, he always sat in one of the speedway’s two areas for wheelchairs, though he still had problems seeing the best parts of the races when fans in front of him sprung to their feet. The court said that the California Speedway Corp. had violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a DOJ interpretive rule requiring that wheelchair areas at auto racing and other public venues provide “lines of sight comparable to those for members of the general public.”

The Ninth Circuit overturned a federal district court, which had granted summary judgment to the speedway, and, notes the National Law Journal (NLJ), added to a circuit split over the following issue: Do the ADA rules merely require a line of sight for disabled fans when the spectators were in their seats or did they go further—requiring a line of sight for the disabled when the rest of the fans were standing?

However, the issue may not make it to the High Court. The DOJ has issued proposed new regulations, its ADA Standards for Accessible Design, which would, if approved by the Bush administration, codify the requirement of disabled seating with lines of sight above standing fans—in regulations promulgated after a rulemaking proceeding.

Not everyone’s happy. Turner Madden, a partner in Washington’s Madden & Patton who represents a trade association for stadiums, arenas and convention centers, noted legal and practical problems in the DOJ rule. In addition to the line-of-sight requirement, Madden said, current ADA regulations require that 1% of all seating be designated for the disabled. “In a 70,000-seat stadium, that’s 700 seats put aside for wheelchairs,” Madden said. “That’s a lot of seats that just aren’t being used. DOJ just pulled that number out of the air.”