Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, et. al., v. City and County of Denver, Colorado, et. al., 06-cv-00865-LTB(bnb)
CCDC and several members filed a lawsuit to rectify accessibility problems at the Denver Performing Arts Complex that is owned by the City and County of Denver, as well as the Denver Center for Performing Arts, Colorado Symphony, Colorado Ballet and Opera Colorado who also produce events at the Complex.
The Ellie, Denver’s new opera house opened with several accessibility problems. One level of seating is accessible only by a platform lift rather than a ramp or elevator. The City requires people who use wheelchairs to cram their wheelchairs into a tiny, enclosed lift that barely has room for an individual using a wheelchair. Non-disabled patrons enter the orchestra level via lavish stair cases with ornate finishes. People who use wheelchairs must hope they can find the isolated alcove where the tiny lift is located and take the lengthy, claustrophobic trip to the orchestra. Additionally, all of the wheelchair accessible seats in the lower orchestra level are on an incline.
Throughout the opera house, wheelchair accessible seating locations are filled with “removable” seats that are very difficult and time-consuming to remove. Participants on the ABLE tour were told wheelchair users must purchase tickets at least 48 hours in advance, afterwards, the “removable” seats cannot be removed. While able-bodied Ballet and Opera lovers can purchase tickets on the day of the performance (sometimes at a discount) wheelchair users are unable to do so. Wheelchair users similarly will be unable to take advantage of a last minute gift of a ticket from a friend who is unable to use their ticket.
In addition to the problems at the Ellie, other DPAC venues including, but not limited to the Buell Theater, Boettcher Auditorium and common areas have access problems. DCPA patrons cannot purchase wheelchair accessible seats through the website. And the DCPA, Opera Colorado, Colorado Ballet and Colorado Symphony websites are not accessible to individuals who are blind and others who utilize screen reader technology.
On February 23, 2009, federal district court judge Marcia Krieger ruled at the Final Fairness Hearing granted the Joint Motion for Order for Final Fairness of Class Action Settlement (see settlement agreement below) and approved the Unopposed Motion for Attorneys Fees and Costs. The City and County of Denver has made the changes to the Opera House required by the agreement. Improvements to wheelchair seating, improvements to the wheelchair lifts, new accessible tables in the Kevin Taylor Restaurant and access improvements to the restrooms have been accomplished.