The Definitive Safety Guide to Attending US Music & Sporting Events with a Disability

What's Included

    1. Booking tickets for an event when you have a disability
      • How to make a disabled access booking
      • Questions to ask the venue
    2. Preparing for an event with a disability
      • Finding nearby accommodation
      • What to bring with you
    3.  Attending an event with a disability
      • Attending a music gig or sporting event
      • Tips for hosting an event with disabled access
      • Accessibility requirements for venues
    4. Further reading & FAQs



The Definitive Safety Guide to Attending US Music & Sports Events with a Disability

Having a disability shouldn’t stop you from being able to go out and enjoy yourself. All it takes is a little extra preparation. This guide will give you a full understanding of how to book, prepare, and attend a music or sporting event.

Booking Tickets for an Event When You Have a Disability

Buying an accessible ticket often isn’t too complex, but it can require a slightly different set of steps during the buying process than a regular seat. Let’s find out what differences you might experience.

How to Make a Disabled Access Booking

Naturally, all ticket-buying journeys are different. It depends on the seller’s website and the nature of the event you’re heading to.

Let’s look at an example taken from the buying process on the MLB website for Kansas City Royals tickets.

When looking for seats that will match your needs, it’s often as simple as clicking on a button for "accessible seating," which will highlight the right kind of seating options for you. In this example it comes under the ‘additional options’ tab.

From here, you can carry on the ticket-buying process as normal. When you get to the final screen, before making a payment, you’ll be able to check if the seats in question are going to cater to your needs.

Click on ‘buy now’ or any other prompt you’re given, and the tickets should be on there way to you.

Usually it’s really as easy as that. In some instances though, you might also need to fill out a form. Ticketmaster will often require anyone looking for accessible seating to do this when they purchase through their site.

This won’t be too complicated. You’ll just need to let them know:

  • What your disability is
  • Any special requirements you might need
  • How many tickets you’d like

Once this has been sent off, a fan support rep should be in touch to confirm your order. If there’s any reason problem with it, they’ll be sure to let you know straight away.

Questions to Ask the Venue

As you’ve probably experienced, when a venue advertises itself as having disabled access, it’s pretty vague as to what that means. While you can assume they have the necessary capabilities to help someone see a show, it doesn’t mean they cover all your needs.

If you have your sights set on a sports game or a gig, but aren’t sure about the arena, ask some of these questions before you commit.

  • Is there a functioning stair lift? At any location where disabled seating is present, there needs to be a viable way of accessing it. Make sure you or anyone you’re attending with is able to reach their seats.  
  • What kind of handicap parking is available? It’s the duty of the venue to ensure there’s enough space for all attendees. That includes those with a disability. If there’s no spaces, you may need to think about planning ahead with public transport.
  • Is a shuttle bus required? Some shuttle buses will be required to drop people off at an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) entrance. If this is the case, you might also want to ask how far this drop-off point is from the main gig itself.
  • Are service animals allowed? If you’re someone who requires the help of a service animal, check to see if they’ll be allowed. Most arenas are expected to accommodate for service animals. Think about noise levels when considering if you want to bring a helper along.
  • Are there different meal options? If you have any specialist dietary requirements, ask ahead of time. If you have an allergy this will becomes even more important to check. Ask about how chefs are intending to prevent cross-contamination when they prepare food. Also be sure to give a list of your allergies to find out if any of them are used as ingredients.

It’s important to have complete peace of mind when attending an event. Prepare before booking by finding out as much as you can ahead of time.

Preparing for an event with disability

If you’ve made the leap and decided to go ahead with purchasing tickets, it’s time to start prepping for the day itself.

Finding Nearby Accommodation

If you’re planning on attending an event that’s a long way from home, you'll probably want to find a place to stay for the night.

It’s not always easy to find disability-friendly accommodation. Some locations might not have been renovated in years, making them less accessible for someone in a wheelchair.  

But how do you know if somewhere is going to be suitable?

  • Check images. It sounds like a fairly basic thing to consider, but looking at images of a hotel room can make a huge difference to your choice. Does it look like the bed is easily accessible? Is there anything in the bathroom which suggests you might struggle to use the facilities? Can you see an elevator in the lobby or corridors? Keep all of this in mind.
  • Find out more about all aspects of the room. You’ve looked at the photos, but there’s only so much you can work out from those. Talk to the manager to find out more.
  • Ask questions about communal areas. These sorts of questions will be similar to those you’ll be asking venue owners. It will include things like:
    • What kind of parking is available?
    • Is there step-free access to the main entrance?
    • Is the washroom in the lobby accessible?
    • Does the main door open automatically or do you need assistance with it?
    • Is the swimming pool (if it has one) accessible to everyone?

It might even be worth checking to see how they’ve dealt with disabled visitors who have a similar condition in the past. If you have any specific requirements, it’s at this stage you’ll need to bring them up. If they don’t effectively answer your queries, it might be worth looking somewhere else.

While it might not seem like a top priority when preparing for a gig or sports event, knowing what your plans are for the evening can bring you a great deal of peace of mind.

What You Should Bring with You

Other than your tickets, there’s a lot of other stuff you can take to an event to make your day a bit easier.

  • Accessible map of the area. While your tickets might come with a map of the venue, it won’t necessarily give you a clear picture of the surrounding area. Most arenas will provide you with one if you contact them ahead of time. This will be very useful, as it’ll show which routes are and aren’t accessible. You can also find details online.
  • Visual or audio aids. If you have a disability that impacts your hearing or vision, you can bring devices to help boost these senses. These are particularly useful at newer sporting stadiums. They’ll often offer small devices to help the hard of hearing follow a game. This is particularly helpful in NFL to know what down a team is on or in MLB to know how many outs there are.
  • Contact and medical information. Bring contact and medical information and wear it on your person. That way should something go wrong, people will be able to react quickly and get you the medical help you need. This will also enable them to reach out quickly to your nearest and dearest to let them know what’s happening.
  • Medication. Make sure all medication you bring with you is cleared with the venue ahead of time. Keep it in its container, and then place the container inside a clear plastic bag. Basically, make the job as easy as possible for the security staff when you get there.

Understandably, there’ll be specific things you need to bring along which might be personal to you or your condition. As always, check with the arena ahead of time.

Attending an event with a disability

We’ve learnt more about booking and preparing for an event when you have a disability. But what about attending?

Attending a Music Gig or Sports Event

You’ve taken the plunge by buying your tickets, and have a set plan of how you need to prepare for the big day. To make the most of it, follow our advice.

  • Have someone lead you to your seat. In a crowd of people it can be a challenge to pick out exactly where you’re meant to be. If you’re concerned about this, ask for someone to escort you to your seat. If you check with the venue ahead of time there may even be someone who’s specifically assigned to carry out this role.
  • Ask for specialist equipment. This will be part of your preparation, but needs to be collected on the day. This can range from anything like an auditory device to a ramp that allows you to access your seating area (this should ideally be set up by the venue).
  • Stay hydrated. It's vitally important you stay hydrated during any event you're attending. Music concerts in particular can be extremely hot places. Dehydration isn't uncommon. This is always bad, but can be particularly extreme in the case of people with chronic illnesses and other diseases. In severe cases, it can lead to fainting, confusion, and even seizures.
  • Know your entrance ahead of time. There’ll be several entrances that lead to the area your seat is in. Make sure you know which is the most readily accessible from the gate you’re going through. Having that aforementioned map of the arena will be really useful for that.
  • Think about arriving early. Finding and settling into your seat early is a great way to help you ease into an event. You’ll feel comfortable and prepared when things do kick off. This should help decrease stress levels and alleviate any anxiety you have about the day.  

Ultimately, the most important thing is to remember to have fun. The best way to do that is by making sure you’re ready for the day and have everything you need with you to manage your condition.

Tips for Hosting an Event with Disabled Access

Nobody should be prevented from going out and enjoying something they love. That’s why it’s so important that venue owners make their arenas as accessible as possible to everyone. 

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, it’s their legal requirement to ensure an event can be easily enjoyed by all attendees, regardless of their condition.

If you’re hosting an event, regardless of size, here are a few tips which could help make all the difference to your attendees.

  • Plan for easy movement. Make sure there’s always a clear and accessible path for anyone with a disability to travel through. As they’ll have less ability to freely move throughout the venue, you need to make sure they have a clear route.
  • Think about ground transport. Organize ground transportation to get people where they need to go. Public transportation can only get a person so far. Make sure shuttle buses are on hand to ferry people to their final destination if there isn't an obvious or easy route.
  • Clear signage. This applies to both disabled and non-disabled attendees. Point them in the right direction and let them know where to go with the use of clearly visible signs.
  • Accessible restrooms. Different requirements include a bar for easily getting on and off a toilet, as well as an emergency alarm should they need to get someone's attention.

Make sure to keep these tips in mind if you’re planning on hosting your own event.

Accessibility Requirements for Venues

As we’ve discussed, the Americans with Disabilities Act has changed the way venues have to approach their seating requirements. ADA compliance has become a huge part of how arenas are set up. But what is it?

  • Accessible seating in the same stage of the buying process as general seating. It’s the requirement for anywhere selling tickets to make the buying process as fluid as possible for accessible seating. That means making it as easy as a click of a button to change the type of seats you’re after.
  • Ample seating rates must be provided. That doesn’t just mean making sure there’s enough seating for someone with a disability. There should also be up to three spots available for any able-bodied companion who’s with them.

When it comes to the number of spots available in proportion to general seating, the figures should match up with the following:

  • In a 500-seat venue: 1% of the total capacity, plus 1 seat
  • In a 501–5,000-seat venue: 6 seats to start, plus 1 seat for every 150 above 500. (An 800-seat venue should have 8 ADA seats)
  • In a 5,000+ seat venue: 36 seats to start, plus 1 seat for every 200 above 5,000. (A 6,000-person venue would have 41 ADA seats)
  • If there are over 300 seats in the venue, ADA seats are required in more than one location.
  • Venues cannot require proof of disability. You are not allowed to explicitly check the validity of someone’s disability. If it’s obvious the attendee does not need the advantages provided with the inclusion of the seat, the ticket holder can be moved to a non-accessible seat.
  • ADA seats can only be sold as non-accessible in certain circumstances.
    • Those circumstances include:
    • If all non-accessible seats are sold out
    • If all non-accessible seats in the same section as the ADA seats are sold out
    • If all non-accessible seats in the same price level as ADA seats are sold out

Some arenas are way ahead in the fight to provide their guests with the best accessible experience possible. Some of the names leading the way include:

  • Madison Square Garden (NYC). This stadium holds up to 20,789 people and hosts a variety of events, from concerts to multiple different types of sport. Assisted listening devices are available to all attendees in the Hulu theater.
  • Mercedes Benz Superdome (NO). The 74,000+ Superdome offers a similar policy, with hearing devices available to hire. An ID is required to take out the device and these need to be pre-booked up to 30 days before you need one.
  • Camp Nou (Barcelona). Barcelona CF’s policy is to give a free ticket to anyone who’s attending a game with someone who has a disability. They also provide hearing aids to anyone who needs them.

Further Reading

Disabled World delve into the impact dehydration has on the body:

EEOC discuss the Americans with disabilities act of 1990:

Hopetree Care discuss how to make music events more enjoyable for disabled people:

TripAdvisor highlight a disabled hotel checklist:

Sports Facts highlight the best way to approach a sporting event when you have a disability: