Supreme Court Could Decide To Hear Stadium Seating Accessibility
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 24, 2004
WASHINGTON, DC--The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday was to decide whether it will hear a case which could determine whether the Americans with Disabilities Act requires stadium-style movie theaters to provide accessible seating at varied locations throughout their theaters.
The case involves Kathy Stewmon, Tina Smith and Kathleen Braddy, three Oregon women who use wheelchairs. They sued Regal Entertainment Group claiming its Regal Cinemas failed to comply with the ADA by putting wheelchair seating in the front rows. They said the sharp vertical viewing angle cause them to experience nausea, headaches and blurry vision.
A federal judge ruled in favor of Regal, saying that the 1990 anti-discrimination law only required theater patrons to have a clear view of the screen.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned that ruling, saying that the first row seating areas are "objectively uncomfortable" because they require wheelchair users to "crane their necks and twist their bodies in order to see the screen." The appeals court said theaters must provide wheelchair accessible seating in locations giving the same viewing angles offered to all other theater-goers.
The U.S. Justice Department's Solicitor General, Theodore B. Olson, filed a brief in support of the movie-goers, saying the law and regulations keep theaters from "relegating all wheelchair users to the worst seats in the very front of the theater and excluding them entirely from the benefits of modern stadium-style theater designs."
A decision by the high court could affect thousands of cinemas across the country that have been built since 1995 with stadium seating, which places most of the seats on stepped risers rather than on sloped floors.
If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, it will be placed on the docket for argument and decision in the next term.
No. 03-641: Regal Cinemas v. Stewmon - Amicus Invitation (U.S. Department of Justice)