The Georgia Dome
December 27, 1998- The Falcons were 13 in 2 going in the last game of the season against another playoff contender, the Miami Dolphins. Everybody was excited caught up in the thrill of the moment. I went to experience 'the dirty bird" with my dad, Sara, and a good friend, Bart. A chilly winter day, I decided to brave the cold thinking it would be fun to be present at such unique time in falcon history.
I bought the tickets as Christmas gifts, excited to be at the Georgia Dome newly constructed, a beautiful structure outside and in. When we arrived at our seats, I noticed that there would be a problem. Though we were at the top of the first level with seats stretched out for wide angle view of the entire field, I knew when crowd piled in I would not be able to see. The problem-- no consideration was taken into the fact that during most of the game, everybody that is able body is up standing, shouting, and yelling.
I was utterly disappointed because the design construction of a new multi-million dollar stadium had overlooked the fact that 1) people with disabilities cannot stand up to peer over crowds and 2) often we come with more than one person. It was ridiculous, not only could I not see, but because the seating terraced the flat where huge stone columns separated accessible seating, just 2 persons were allowed to a section. My father was forced to stand the whole game just to be with us.
I paid my 33 dollars a ticket, and 25 dollars parking to see the falcons play, but instead, I purchased the backs of oversized gentlemen, who themselves had to stand to see over crowds. It wasn't fair for me to ask them to sit because then they couldn't see. Instead, I watched the game through the cracks of heads trying to glance play. There were times when the crowd mellowed, and I was able to see. But It would've been nice to experience the whole game with bird's eye direct viewing, instead of monitors draped from ceilings smaller than the set at my house.
I would have had better seating from the comfort of my own living room. I paid for that experience because I thought it was going to be rewardable to be part of the energy of the crowd. Instead I found myself again discriminated against by inconsiderate ignorance on the part of somebody, somewhere, who designed and approved the construction of this auditorium. One would think that in the evolution of the actual design, somebody would've said, hey, wait a second, This isn't going to work for people seated in wheelchairs. We need to elevate them above the crowd so that they can view without obstruction, share in equal experience.
To think somebody approved this stadium with ADA accomodations. It's so obviously designed wrong, all it would have took was a simple question to somebody who lives and experiences disability on an intimite level everyday. Anyone using a wheelchair would have been able say immediately, hey, this isn't going to work. I saw others in wheelchairs in the hallways looking at monitors because there was no room for proper viewing. Yeah, we were there and part of it, but unable to witness the actual event, the whole reason why we came to begin with.
That's why I'm going to use this article as a letter of disapproval to the GA Dome, it's constructive design, builders, investors, owners, any that approved the design flaw that discriminates against me and others like myself, who because of our disabilities, can't stand up and join the crowds to look over shoulders. I encourage everybody that goes out to the GA Dome or wants to, to write a letter of inquiry, asking them why they designed the Stadium like it is, in such a way that we are unable to view the entertainment purchased.
We do realize that small scale, individual businesses cannot afford luxury accomodations like elevators or esculators. But, a newly constructed multi-million dollar facility, that is funded by billion dollar corporations, that will make a billion dollar profits off of it's existence; for them to discriminate against us in this day and age, so many years after the passing of the ADA; there is no reason for that.
So, it is up to us, to speak out, let our voices be heard, because they didn't ask us, and didn't care to hear our recommendations in the beginning, they must do something about it now which will cost so much more. Accomodation is not expensive it's the inconsideration that creates later re-modification that is expensive, but is that our fault or theirs?
Here is a reply I got...
Don't think the advocates you know and love in Atlanta were hiding out under
a rock while the Dome was being planned and built! About 15 of us were on a
commission called the Commission on Disability Affairs for the 1996 Olympics
and the Dome was part of that project. We even had the U.S. Dept. of Justice
down here and one of their attorneys stayed here for about
three months to try to ensure the Dome would be built right. We were knowledgeable,. we were assertive, we reiterated and reiterated, and then did it some more. We met with the Head of everything we could think of, we walked the building with all the suits, we argued , we were mad and madder, we contacted the media, stories were written and broadcast, we
marched, we occupied the inforum (their headquarters) until we were granted an audience with Billy Payne. We fought the "line of sight" issue (Big Mouth Bruce-me-was heard shouting in the face of the manager fo the Dome-I
can't rememer his name-"I got a 42" tv in my bedroom. I could lay in bed and look at the games on TV, why the h--- would I want to come here if I can't see?)
We were led to believe the plans had been changed, and we had an oversight
committee of CODA to follow up, but they got us anyway. We met with Andrew
Young, Shirley Franklin, and many others who led us to believe they were on
our side, but the Olympics people (local) screwed us all. Please continue
the fight, take it to court, have them rebuild the damn
thing. I'm too old and too tired.