A disabled woman faced several “physical barriers” when attending a concert at a winery in Washington, and after a settlement with the American With Disabilities Act (ADA), the venue has agreed to make changes to its tasting room and amphitheater.
U.S. Attorney Brian Moran explained the details of the settlement in a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western Washington. The woman, Char Blankenship, had reached out to him after her experience at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville.
Blankenship is forced to use a wheelchair after undergoing many knee surgeries for her osteoporosis. When she attended a Chris Isaak concert at the winery in 2016 with her daughter, the venue was not very handicapped accessible. The parking lot’s mobility spaces were taken even though they arrived early, she had trouble going down the rocky and muddy slope to get to their seats, and her chair barely fit in the aisle seat. Additionally, when they left the concert, her daughter couldn’t push her back up the slope and had to call for staff assistance which she described as “so humiliating.”
Blankenship, who is an avid concertgoer, never experienced this type of problem at other venues. When she asked for a refund from the winery, she was “dumbfounded” when they refused and decided to reach out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The release notes that investigators and a third-party architectural firm reviewed the company’s building plans in 2017 and found even more ADA issues than Blankenship originally noted.
Although the Chateau was built before the ADA emerged, it has obliged to make the necessary changes to improve accessibility. The Chateau will improve its tasting room bathrooms, change table heights, secure loose rugs, and increase the number of mobility spaces in their parking lot. Additionally, the winery agreed to improve the slope that leads to the amphitheater so all concertgoers can easily access the venue, and widen the amphitheater’a aisles and accessible seating areas. Blankenship will receive $500.
“I commend Chateau Ste. Michelle for recognizing the need to correct barriers to equal access in its facilities, so that all those who want to visit the winery or enjoy a concert can do so,” Moran said in the release. “Equal access is a bedrock of our society and seemingly simple things like heavy doors, loose carpets, or table heights can significantly limit access for people using mobility devices.”
The changes must be made by June, ahead of the winery’s annual summer concert series. Over the course of a year, the Department of Justice will monitor the winery’s compliance to make sure no other issues arrise. Blankenship hopes to return to the venue once the improvements are made, noting that she’s happy she had the ability to do something to help others in her similar situation.
Check out Chateau Ste. Michelle’s concert schedule here.