A family in Oklahoma City are speaking out after they endured an unpleasant encounter at the Chesapeake Energy Arena over accessible seating.
Taylor Shirley, an 18-year-old country fan who is wheelchair bound, attended Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty Tour 360 last week. However, when Shirley and his family arrived at their seats, a camera was set up in place of their designated seats, Oklahoma’s News 4 reports. The family explained that they had to stand outside in a concourse area to wait for a supervisor to help them.
Shirley’s sister said the supervisor kept telling them that their seats were in a different section during the first hour of the concert, and eventually, they said that the group had purchased multiple companion seats behind the handicapped platform. Shirley’s dad, Ryan Hukill, noted that it “shouldn’t be that difficult” for the venue staff to let Shirley sit with his family.
“It’s not fair not just to me, because I know I’m not the only person that has a disability or has a wheelchair, it’s also not fair to my family who was just there to spend some quality time with me,” Shirley told News 4.
The venue released a statement to News 4 about the incident, noting that some of the seats purchased by Shirley’s family were on the wheelchair-accessible row, while others were purchased in a separate transaction in another row.
“The setup for this show was a little different beings it was a 360-degree stage, but we did not oversell the platforms or violate any of the ADA rules that we follow,” officials with the Chesapeake Energy Arena said. “We did our best to accompany the large family to sit as close together as possible, keeping in mind that the other seats on the ramp were purchased by other patrons who needed them as well.
“Our staff focuses on providing a positive experience for our guests and accommodating relocation requests as best as we can.”
Seat accessibility is often a concern among disabled concertgoers and is something that many fans believe the industry still needs to improve upon. One concertgoer in Australia, who is also a music journalist, was told that she could not stay in the general admission area with her wheelchair at a Pink concert, and this past summer, a Janelle Monae fan was told that accessible seating is first-come first-serve at a music festival, despite already asking the venue to have an accessible seat ready.
However, many people are working toward a more accessible industry; earlier this year, a woman faced many “physical barriers” at a show in Washington and after settlement with the ADA, the venue agreed to make changes to help disabled concertgoers. Additionally, a UK charity Ticketing Without Barriers has been created to improve the live concert experience for Deaf and disabled fans, and concertgoers in Australia are demanding more inclusion by bringing petitions to politicians.