Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Disability Discrimination at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Image: photo of an outdoor amphitheater shot from the back row with the audience between the camera and the stage, with the foothills of Colorado in the background.A coalition of local disability-rights organizations filed a class action suit in Colorado’s Federal District Court yesterday claiming that the City of Denver has acted to deny those who use wheelchairs the opportunity to meaningfully access to Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  CREEC and its co-counsel at the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) and Disability Law Colorado (DLC) filed the suit against the City of Denver, claiming disability discrimination for failure to make reasonable accommodations to allow people who use wheelchairs to access and enjoy Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

If you are a wheelchair-user and have had problems purchasing tickets to Red Rocks, specifically to the front row, please contact us at info@creeclaw.org.

Red Rocks, owned and operated by the City of Denver, is a unique Colorado venue carved into a mountain. The only accessible seats at Red Rocks are in the front row or at the very top and back of the theater (Row 70). In fact, of the 9,525 seats at Red Rocks, only 78 seats are accessible to wheelchair users — 40 seats short of what is required by the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the suit, despite the limited numbers of accessible seats available, Red Rocks and its contractors routinely engage in practices that further decrease the number of seats available for wheelchair users. For example, Red Rocks does little to ensure that tickets for accessible seats are sold or given to people who actually need accessible seating. What’s more, when people who do not need accessible seating end up in the front row and those using wheelchairs ask to be seated in the accessible section, Red Rocks refuses to require that a switch occur even though they could, by law, require it.

Another issue according to the class of wheelchair-using plaintiffs, is that tickets to accessible seating are regularly unavailable within minutes of going on sale and then are only available on theImage: front row of the amphitheater consisting of a wooden bench attached to rows made of stone. On top of the front row a tape measure is extended. secondary market. Because many of the accessible seats at Red Rocks are in the front row, they are highly sought-after and typically resell at a significantly increased cost – up to four or five times the face value. In comparison, those who are not competing for the coveted 78 accessible seats, can much more easily buy a ticket to one of the remaining 9,447 seats that are not accessible to wheelchair users. Thus, according to the suit, those who use wheelchairs and wish to attend a concert at Red Rocks are routinely forced to pay a much higher price than other concert-goers who do not use wheelchairs.

The plaintiffs also claim that even getting to the seats at Red Rocks is a challenge for those who use wheelchairs and the City has refused to fix the problem, amounting to disability discrimination. Specifically, there is only one accessible parking lot to serve the majority of concert-goers at Red Rocks – the upper south lot. Travelling from the upper south lot to the accessible seats in the front row of the theater requires visitors to traverse a steep incline – which is difficult, if not impossible, for those using wheelchairs. Thus, as a result of a prior lawsuit brought against Red Rocks in 2000, Red Rocks provides a shuttle service to assist those trying to get from the upper south lot to the front of the theater. Specifically, according to its website policy, “Red Rocks Ampitheatre operates shuttle vehicles to transport guests with disabilities or mobility impairments that posess [sic] tickets for the front section of the amphitheater.” However, in practice, Plaintiffs claim that Red Rocks staff demand that concert-goers with disabilities produce a Row 1 ticket in order to access the shuttle – something that is not required of those without visible disabilities. Furthermore, Plaintiffs claim that because the shuttle is not clearly identified as being only for those who have mobility impairments, it is routinely used by able-bodied concert-goers. This forces those who use wheelchairs to wait long periods while able-bodied concert-goers are being transported.

Plaintiffs assert that they have taken these issues to management at Red Rocks and the City of Denver, but to no avail. They claim they had no option left other than to take this to court. They also point out that this is not just about complaining about not getting to see a particular show on a particular day, but rather this goes to the heart of the meaning of the ADA. As President Obama proclaimed on the anniversary of the ADA just this year, “The ADA sought to guarantee that the places we share – from schools and workplaces to stadiums and parks – truly belong to everyone. It reflects our Nation’s full commitment to the rights and independence of people with disabilities, and it has paved the way for a more inclusive and equal society.”

Plaintiffs are asking the court to require the City of Denver to implement systems that ensure that tickets in the accessible section actually be sold to, given to and used by people who require accessible seating. Plaintiffs are also asking that shuttle service be provided to all concert-goers with mobility impairments who need it. The Plaintiffs are not seeking monetary damages. In the words of Kirk Williams, one of the named Plaintiffs, “This is not about money. All I want is to be able to go to shows at Red Rocks with my friends like I used to. Now, my friends get to go enjoy themselves, but often I can’t even get a ticket. Attending concerts at Red Rocks is a unique Colorado experience and I shouldn’t be denied that opportunity just because I ended up using a wheelchair.”

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