Entertainment

Lawsuit: Jazz Fest not friendly enough to people with disabilities

KEITH SPERA

The New Orleans Advocate

Matthew Hinton/The Advocate
Horace Sanders, from Alexandria, enjoys a seat in the WWOZ Jazz Tent where aisles are also kept clear for wheelchairs.
Matthew Hinton/The Advocate Horace Sanders, from Alexandria, enjoys a seat in the WWOZ Jazz Tent where aisles are also kept clear for wheelchairs.

Over the years, organizers of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival have made the festival more accessible to patrons with disabilities. But a lawsuit filed this week in federal court contends that the festival hasn’t gone far enough.

Plaintiff Mitchell Miraglia is a quadriplegic who suffers from cerebral palsy and requires a wheelchair. His suit alleges that the festival has not fulfilled the requirements of a 2001 settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. That agreement sought to bring the festival into compliance with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The suit cites a litany of specific infractions, from the number and location of reserved wheelchair spaces at various stages to the height and width of counters at craft, food and beer booths.

Attorney Andrew Bizer, whose firm represents Miraglia, said his client “is not trying to get money out of Jazz Fest — he’s not seeking damages. He just wants a better experience for all disabled folks.”

The suit lists the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit that owns the festival, and AEG Live, the national concert promoter that co-produces the festival, as defendants.

Quint Davis’ Festival Productions Inc.-New Orleans, which co-produces the festival with AEG, is not named in the lawsuit.

Don Marshall, the Jazz and Heritage Foundation’s executive director, said he had not seen a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment on it.

Seventeen years ago, the festival launched the Jazz Fest Access Program to better accommodate people with disabilities or limited mobility. The program has gradually expanded over the years and has earned national recognition as a model for event accessibility.

For more of this story, visit The New Orleans Advocate's website.

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