Metropolitan Opera Settles Disability Lawsuit Within an Hour of Filing

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Metropolitan Opera House settled a federal lawsuit Thursday that charged the theater with discriminating against people with disabilities.

Under the settlement, in the form of a consent decree, it has agreed to install additional wheelchair and companion seating, renovate its restrooms and concession stands, install Braille signs and add more wheelchair-accessible drinking fountains.

Lawyers for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that the settlement requires the Met to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. "The comprehensive measures agreed by the Met ensure that people with disabilities will have an equal opportunity to enjoy the performances offered by one of New York's finest cultural institutions," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

The Attorney filed the suit in the morning and settled less than one hour later.

The opera house, located in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, also lacked a visual alarm system required by law for the hearing-impaired, the suit said. Additionally, some elevators were not readily accessible to people in wheelchairs and the blind.

“We are pleased that this has been resolved and that the Met is now even more accessible,” said Met spokeswoman Lee Abrahamian.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires all new public theaters to provide equal access to all levels of seating for people with disabilities. It does not specify how this ideal is to be reached. The Met has been a tenant of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center since 1966.

Since the ADA's passage, several New York City landmarks have faced court orders to make appropriate modifications to their buildings including Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden and the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

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Comments [1]

Charles Fischbein from Washington D.C.

As a disabled Opera lover, I have fought with the Metropolitan Opera for years about what I felt was their backward attitude towards accomodating those patrons with mobility disabilities.
Several year ago I even had to go to an attorney and have him speak directly with Met General Council Sharon Grubin (sp?) about providing the needed accessability for their last complete Ring Cycle.
This year I was put off until it was too late for me to book a Met Opera sponsored tour to Europe due to lack of information regarding accessable seating in the overseas venue. Each time I called their administrative office I was transferred to another "manager" who would never return my calls. After another series of calls to Ms. Grubin my concerns were finally addressed, but by that time it was too late for my partner who works full time to get the needed time off for the trip.

During one call from the so called director of the tour for the MET, I was asked to provide my medical RECORDS to assure the tour operator that I was physically fit enough to do the trip.
How many non disable persons are asked for medical records before being allowed to purchase Opera tickets.
I have filed a number of complaints with the Justice Department and the New York City Civil Rights Office, and I hope that in some way I played a small part in making it possible for the met to do what it should have done years ago in making opera more accessable to many disabled persons.
It is good to know that I will not have to fax x-ray's, cat scans and blood work results to the box office before ordering my next set of tickets to the met.
With the Met suffering major financial problems, and many Met supporters questioning the direction that Peter Gelb is thking the Met in, I for one am thankful that the Met management can put this behind them and focus on the next major problem, buying back the pawn ticket for the Chagall's they used against a cash advance.

Apr. 16 2011 12:55 PM

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