Tony Lance
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Grow arts and culture revenue

Ask Me Anything: ADA Rules

Ask Me Anything Question

"Can you fill us in on the current ADA rules regarding pricing? Do tickets at all price levels need to be available for wheelchair seats?"

Tony Lance’s Answer

Let me clarify some basic ADA rules for you, but remember that customer service matters. While you need to follow these technicalities for pricing and seating locations, you should always remember that when in doubt, err on the side of a better customer service experience and make an effort to ensure patrons of all abilities have access to your programming. Everyone benefits from diversity and inclusion, especially in the arts. 

Just over 27 years ago, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act ensuring equal opportunity for people with disabilities. From employment opportunities to accessible design, this civil rights act has also been key to providing access to seats in all pricing zones throughout performance venues. The rules have been updated as recently as 2011, so it's understandable to be a little foggy on them.

Here are some key rules to know:

  • What are ADA seats and how many should be available? Accessible seats are spaces specifically designed for wheelchairs and include features such as an accessible approach, location at grade, clear floor space, and larger dimensions. The number of accessible seats is based on house size:

Number of Seats

Minimum Number of Wheelchair Spaces

4 to 25


26 to 50


51 to 150


151 to 300


301 to 500


501 to 5,000

6, plus 1 for every 150, or fraction thereof, between 501 through 5,000

5,001 and over

36, plus 1 for every 200, or fraction thereof, over 5,000

  • How should ADA tickets be sold? Venues are required to sell tickets for accessible seats in the same manner and under the same conditions as all other ticket sales. This means during the same hours, through the same methods of sale (phone, box office, web, and third-party vendors like Goldstar and TodayTix), and during the same stages of sale (pre-sales, promotions, general sales, wait lists, or lotteries/rush).
  • Where should ADA seats be located? Venues cannot charge higher prices for accessible seats than for non-accessible seats in the same seating section. You must offer accessible seats in all price categories available to the public. Understandably, most older venues do not have accessible locations in a balcony where seats may be less expensive. To accommodate this, balcony-priced seats must be located in ADA accessible locations elsewhere in the space. You cannot relocate these accessible seats to a section where seats are less expensive than the balcony seats.
  • What about companions? People purchasing a ticket for an accessible seat may purchase up to three additional seats for their companions in the same row and these seats must be contiguous with the accessible seat. If seats aren't available next to the ADA locations, the venue should make an effort to seat companions as close as possible.
  • When can ADA seats be released for the general public? Generally speaking, tickets for accessible seats may not be sold to members of the general public. However, there are three specific instances when this rule is lifted:
    • When all non-accessible seats have been sold.
    • When all non-accessible seats in a particular seating section have been sold, unsold accessible seats in that section may be released.
    • When all non-accessible seats in a price category have been sold, unsold accessible seats in that category may be released.

For more information on these rules, please visit the ADA website. Some information has been sourced from the ADA National Network.


Do you have a question for the team at JCA Arts Marketing? Submit it here. It could be featured in an upcoming Ask Me Anything post.

JCA Arts Marketing collaborates with cultural organizations to increase revenue, boost attendance and membership, and grow patron loyalty. We provide consulting and software services to hundreds of cultural institutions across multiple genres, including dance, museums, opera, performing arts centers, symphony, and theatre. We can help you achieve your marketing goals.

Tony Lance, Consultant, JCA Arts Marketing

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