Wheelchair seating an issue at Riverbend; organizers to evaluate - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Wheelchair seating an issue at Riverbend; organizers to evaluate

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

People with disabilities are complaining about the seating arrangements at Riverbend. They say it doesn't meet federal disability regulations but officials with Riverbend said it is the best they can do.

The issue isn't the view, the problem is the large platforms for wheelchairs, making it difficult for people in wheelchairs to get up by themselves. “It is violating the Americans with Disability Act. Unintentionally, but none the less it is a violation,” said Jill Hindman.

Jill Hindman has relied on a wheelchair most of her life. That hasn't stopped her from attending Riverbend in the past, but this year she said the handicap seating is making that a challenge. “Those blocks are about two inches off the ground. The issue with us is that you need someone's help to get on and the person who is with you, assuming there is someone with you may not be able to do that.”

Hindman said it's hard to see the stage from the designated area. Nearby concrete slabs offer a better view, but they are not accessible. “For someone like me, if you are standing in front of me, in that area, I can't see and I don't have the option to stand up.”

It's a change from previous festivals when Hindman said the VIP area offered a clear view. Hindman contacted Channel 3 after she said she complained to a festival organizer. A Riverbend spokesperson said no one has contacted her about the issue, but she's open to the feedback. “Our intent, of course, is to make it the best experience we can for the fans and the people who are here,” said festival organizer Amy Morrow.

The Americans with Disability Act ensures people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. Amy Morrow said seating at Riverbend is compliant, but she will look into the compliant. “We can make it more comfortable, more pleasurable for the folks who are down there.”

Hindman is hopeful organizers will rethink next year's seating. “It shouldn't be that much of a struggle. I should be able to come down here if I choose to, by myself and not need any assistance.” Until then, she plans to skip the rest of this year's festival. “If you are not willing to make a simple adjustment, no I can't support that.”

Hindman has a lot of ideas for Friends of the Festival. She said adding someone with a disability to the board, or having them check seating plans for accessibility before Riverbend would help ensure the festival is easy to access. Festival organizers say they will consider that.

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