High School Need Not Rebuild Old Bleachers
(CN) - A small California high school need not rebuild its 42-year-old bleachers to accommodate football fans in wheelchairs, the 9th Circuit ruled Friday.
Timothy Daubert sued the Lindsay Unified School District in 2009, alleging that the inaccessible bleachers at the Lindsay High School football field kept him from enjoying the "social experience" of the games.
Located in the small San Joaquin Valley town of the same name, Lindsay High School conceded that its bleachers, which were built in 1971, do not comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Instead, the school has long provided three separate field-level areas for fans that use wheelchairs.
Daubert argued that these accessible areas did not allow him an unobstructed view of the action, and that he missed the "social experience" of sitting in the bleachers with other Lindsay High School fans.
Finding that the 42-year-old bleachers are exempt from the ADA because they were constructed long before the law went into effect in 1992, U.S. District Judge Gary Austin in Fresno ruled for the school district on all points.
A unanimous appellate panel affirmed on Friday.
"The School District offers football games as a public program, and the bleachers are one part of the facility in which that program takes place," wrote Judge Milan Smith for the three-judge panel. "While sitting in the southside bleachers may offer a particular social experience, this experience is merely incidental to the program the government offers (i.e., football games), and providing this experience is not fairly characterized as 'a normal function of a government entity.'" (Parentheses in original.)
Any further accommodations would require the district to make "structural alterations," which they are not bound under the ADA to do, the panel concluded.