When you're trying to get tickets for a hot concert, you usually go online, pick a good seat and buy your tickets. But if you are in a wheelchair, the process isn't always that easy.
Fleetwood Mac is coming to TD Garden in Boston next year, but getting tickets for the show was a struggle for Dawn Oates.
"Nothing was offered for me to purchase at that point," said Oates.
She got a pre-sale opportunity through her credit card, and she went online as soon as the sale opened. But she says she couldn't identify the wheelchair-accessible seats, and she needed one for her friend, Bob Burres.
"So here I am, trying to get two tickets for this concert that I think are going to go fast, and I can't even get to the point where I can see what seats I can purchase," said Oates. "I have to send an email, and now I have to sit on hold."
Oates, whose daughter uses a wheelchair, has been in this situation before, so she kept trying.
"I ended up calling back and talking to a supervisor, and the supervisor said, 'Well, looks like they are all sold out,'" explained Oates.
Frustrated but determined, Oates picked Burres up. They drove into Boston and they appeared in person at the TD Garden box office, where a supervisor eventually sold them wheelchair-accessible seats.
"She said, 'We usually don't do this, but I'm going to try to help you out," said Oates. "We knew we met someone who got it."
She had her tickets, but wondered what would have happened if she couldn't drive to the box office. Oates continued her email exchanges with Ticketmaster to see how long it would take. And it took three days.
"I think there were 12 emails in total before I could get a choice of tickets in different price points and different locations," said Oates.
This experience didn't surprise Burres.
"It almost seems like the juice isn't worth the squeeze," said Burres. "It's difficult enough just to get there, but then to show up, and either it be a bad seat or no seat, or if you have more than one person you want to go with – it's difficult."
It was situations like this that led the Department of Justice to change the Americans with Disabilities Act Regulations regarding ticketing in 2011. According to the law, ticketing agencies must ensure that individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to purchase tickets for accessible seating at the same times and in the same way that other patrons do.
"We get a variety of calls about ticketing," said Jason Angel of the New England ADA Center, which educates the public about the law. "It's because people aren't aware of what their rights are, or venues or ticket agencies aren't aware of what their obligations are."
According to the ADA website, 13 years ago, Ticketmaster entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to resolve complaints regarding ADA violations. One of the complaints listed was that people trying to buy tickets for accessible seats online had to do so through a series of emails with a sales agent, and that people were unable to purchase tickets for accessible seats in a pre-sale.
NBC10 Boston contacted Ticketmaster and TD Garden regarding Oates' experience. Ticketmaster tells us the matter was resolved successfully, but they would not address what may have gone wrong or discuss the matter with us further.
TD Garden also responded.
"Our mission is to ensure that TD Garden is accessible to everyone," the venue said in a statement. "We are sorry to hear that this particular experience with Ticketmaster caused so much frustration. We are pleased that ultimately the guest was able to purchase tickets both online and at the box office.
"We appreciate guests bringing these issues to our attention and will continue to work with Ticketmaster to improve processes for everyone."
"It's not just Ticketmaster, it's every ticketing agency and every venue," said Oates. "Think about the 20 percent of Americans who have disabilities. Think about the business case of not including them. You're not only losing the business of Bob and me, you're losing the business of all of our friends who are upset that we were treated a certain way."
If you have experienced this problem, the ADA encourages you to understand your rights, suggest that the ticketing agency or venue contact the ADA so they understand their obligations, and file a complaint with the Department of Justice or the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.