Stadium wins praise from disabled Facility 'should be model' for handicap provisions

July 17, 1998|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Some of the paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms are too high, the seat numbers for wheelchair-using fans should be mounted on the ground, and the reach for the faucets in the skyboxes is a bit of a stretch.

Other than these and a few other critiques, a gubernatorial task force on disability that participated in the design and construction of the new Ravens stadium yesterday proclaimed the job a success after their first tour of the building.

"To me, this stadium should be the model that others should come up to," said Philip Guntner, a blind fan who represented the American Council for the Blind on the task force.

He and about 25 other members of the task force spent three hours yesterday afternoon touring the building with representatives of the Maryland Stadium Authority, the Ravens and the architects who designed the building.

Several problems were found, but stadium authority project manager Alice Hoffman, who led the tour, said none are so serious that they can't be fixed by July 30, when thousands of season-ticket holders will attend a scrimmage.

For example, she will have workers check the dimensions of the handicapped toilet stalls. The one measured yesterday at the request of a task force member came in nearly 2 inches too narrow for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The partition wall will have to be moved, at the expense of the contractor who installed it incorrectly.

The mirrors in the bathrooms are also too high, as are some of the paper towel dispensers. The toilet paper dispensers are too close to the grip bars and will need to be replaced. Coat hooks on the inside of the bathroom stalls also will be moved, and additional baby-changing tables will be installed.

Questions about the slope of the pedestrian ramps -- which by law must provide five feet of level surface every 30 feet for wheelchair patrons to rest -- were also raised, and stadium authority officials promised to look into the matter. Some of the flat surfaces appear to be sloping, but Hoffman said they may need to be that way to keep them from becoming a tripping hazard to non-disabled fans.

Standards for accessibility have become much more stringent since Oriole Park opened in 1992. In fact, that stadium, which won accolades for its provisions for the handicapped, would not pass muster for a new building today under ADA rules, said Marian Vessels, a former Maryland official who runs the federal ADA Information Center for the Mid-Atlantic area.

The Ravens and stadium authority have also gone beyond the ADA requirements in some areas. "They've spent an awful lot of time thinking about this," Vessels said.

Unlike Oriole Park, where disabled fans have access to swing-away seats in selected areas, the Ravens' stadium will offer seating at nearly every price level though "infill" seats. These seats have tuck-away wheels and are bolted to a special, aluminum bulkhead.

These seats can be removed, and three layers of conventional seating installed, if no handicapped fans request seats for a given game. But the seats can be rapidly reinstalled to accommodate last-minute, handicapped ticket buyers.

The team has also built its ticket windows low, and with a lap-high flat writing surface, to accommodate buyers in wheelchairs, and, for the hearing disabled, will provide written game updates across the giant video board as well as special wireless headsets.

"No one is going to be 100 percent happy, but Maryland can hold its head up high for building one of the most accessible stadiums ever," said Joseph Singletary, the access coordinator for Howard County and a task force member. He uses a wheelchair.

Pub Date: 7/17/98

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