Three wheelchair users have sued the Baltimore Orioles and the owner of Oriole Park at Camden Yards over accessibility at the stadium, citing a broken wheelchair lift and frequently blocked views.
Each said they have been trapped when a lift on the club level of the stadium has malfunctioned.
And on the lower level of the stadium, they say the field isn’t visible from accessible seats anytime the crowd rises to its feet.
Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, an attorney at Baltimore law firm Brown Goldstein Levy who is representing the wheelchair users — one of whom is a partner at the firm — said that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The law says we have to have equal enjoyment of the services,” Krevor-Weisbaum said. “It can’t be accessible seating if it’s not the same kind of enjoyment.”
Representatives for the team and the Maryland Stadium Authority, which owns Oriole Park, could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, whose office represents the stadium authority, said officials do not comment on pending litigation.
Andrew Levy, a partner at the law firm, has bought season tickets since 1981. According to the lawsuit, he says he had discussions with stadium authority officials as early as 1989 about the importance of ensuring people in wheelchairs would have unobstructed sight lines at Oriole Park, which opened in 1992.
But he said that has never been the case along the lower tier of seats at the stadium. Wheelchair areas in those sections are directly behind the last rows of seats, but aren’t elevated, so if spectators stand up, the views of people sitting in the accessible area are blocked.
Levy says he has had continued over the years to share concerns with Orioles officials about accessibility at the stadium, and that those talks led the team to install a wheelchair lift in the club level section of the ballpark, where Brown Goldstein Levy has season tickets.
His frustrations over accessibility at the stadium peaked this year after repeated instances in which he says he or his guests have become trapped on the lift, in Section 242 of the stadium. For instance, the lawsuit says his family was celebrating his grandson’s birthday in August 2017 when Levy was trapped on the lift for several minutes, stuck between the concourse level and the seating area below.
The lawsuit’s two other plaintiffs, northern Virginia residents Kelly Buckland and Henry Claypool, described similar problems with the lift. In one case, engineers in May had to pry open the lift’s doors to free Claypool, who then still had to push his wheelchair up and over a ledge to reach the concourse, the lawsuit says.
All three described the experiences as frustrating and embarrassing, according to the lawsuit.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, has clear requirements for accessibility at stadiums — 1 percent of seating must be wheelchair accessible, and it must be dispersed around the facilities, with companion seating mixed in. That same year, as Oriole Park was being designed, advocates for people with disabilities praised plans for a new type of seat that folded up and allowed someone in a wheelchair to park in its space — and alongside a friend or relative sitting in a neighboring stadium chair.
Lauren Young, director of litigation for Disability Rights Maryland, said she could not comment on the specifics of the lawsuit and was not aware of any concerns about wheelchair accessibility at Oriole Park, or at M&T Bank Stadium, for that matter.
She said the federal ADA law leaves little room for interpretation, spelling out its intent and directions for facility design.
Maintenance of wheelchair lifts “can be an issue sometimes,” Young said, adding that facilities must offer elevators or ramps in case lifts malfunction.
Federal regulations approved in 1991 said that to be ADA compliant, new stadiums must “provide lines of sight and choice of admission prices comparable to those for members of the general public.” That provision has been used in court to force some stadiums, including the Verizon Center in Washington, to be redesigned.
The Orioles’ season ended Sunday. Krevor-Weisbaum said her clients want the problems they are citing to be addressed before the 2019 baseball season. Until then, all three say they can’t enjoy games.
The lawsuit also seeks damages of at least $75,000 for each of the plaintiffs.
“We want this resolved before the next season so they can all join us at the ballpark,” Krevor-Weisbaum said. “They’re all pretty avid fans.”