Photo: Wrigley Field. Source: Wikimedia Commons
David F. Cerda has been wheelchair-bound ever since he was 10 years old. This was caused by muscular dystrophy. Muscular dystrophy is a disease that affects the muscular and skeletal system by weakening the muscles and causing the loss of muscular mass. Mutations or abnormal genes in the muscle stand in the way of proteins being produced in order to create healthy muscles.
One type of muscular dystrophy, Duchenne, is much more common in males. Many complications accompany the weakening of muscles such as scoliosis, difficulty in walking and breathing, swallowing problems, and heart problems. The disease has no known cure, but many organizations push forward to extensive research to find a cure for muscular dystrophy and raise awareness.
Americans with Disabilities Act
The American with Disabilities Act of 1990 or also known as ADA is a law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination in any and all public places. This includes schools, jobs, transportation, and all other spaces that are generally open to the public. This was implemented to assure that people with disabilities experience the same basic rights that any other individual has.
The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act or ADAAA amended the Americans with Disabilities Act ADA and other laws that concern non-discrimination towards people with disabilities in 2008. It was then effective the next year. The act modified parts such as the definition of “disability” by broadening who would be considered as disabled and defining certain situations.
The lawsuit: Wrigley Field vs. Cerda
Wrigley Field is facing a lawsuit filed by 20-year-old David F. Cerda, a Cubs fan with muscular dystrophy. Cerda, with the help of his father, Attorney David A. Cerda, filed the lawsuit that states that the owners have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by demolishing wheelchair-accessible areas. The renovation priced at $750 million demolished the areas located behind the home plate and in the right field bleacher. The wheel-accessible areas in the right-field bleachers were replaced with a bar. And, also the area behind the home plate was pushed back, making the view obstructed when other spectators before him stand up. In 2014, bleachers located in the right-field and left-field were demolished to construct 300 more seats, and with recent renovations, added the ticketing area and bar where the wheelchair-accessible areas were.
Due to the new arrangements, the father and son sit in the standing-room-only section under the grandstand. Cerda claims that the current arrangements are unsatisfactory and has “obstructed views.” According to Attorney Cerda, the owners of the field are far more concerned with profiting than the being mindful of their disabled fans and complying with the law.
This is not the first time the ballpark received a complaint regarding accessibility. In 2015, Marla Donato, wheelchair-bound during that time due to a leg and ankle injury, was told that it would cost an extra $60 for a seat near a restroom. The elevators were not working during that time, forcing her husband and a staffer to use the ramps and push her to their seats.
Donato and her husband were seated in the terrace reserved section, and her wheelchair was situated in the aisle behind the last row. Staff at the stadium later moved their seats to the upper deck behind the home plate, but the couple no longer pushed through and left early due to the unavailability of the elevators. Donato reported the incident to an online branch of The Atlantic. Donato, an avid watcher since 1968, was incredibly dissatisfied with the event and said she would have a hard time coming back despite the fact that she already recovered.
The stadium is already on its way with more than halfway of the renovation project. The expected renovation is projected to finish after five years. The renovation includes an additional video screen, a plaza, and a hotel with almost 200 rooms. This hotel is planned for its debut this year.
The father and son filed the lawsuit to force the field to bring back the accessibility to the field’s facilities. The duo asserts that the owners must comply with the ADA by providing people bound to wheelchairs the choice of where to sit without compromising the disabled spectator’s view and/or experience.
Wrigley Field and the ADA
The Wrigley Field is a baseball field, home of the Chicago Cubs, located at 1060 West Addison Street in a residential area. The Chicago Cubs own and operate Wrigley Field, and its known for its many ornaments like its brick wall adorned in ivy and a manual scoreboard that is hand-turned. The stadium was home to the Chicago Bears for almost 50 years from 1921 to 1971. Many types of sports and events are held in the stadium such as American football, soccer, concert events.
Moreover, the Wrigley Field has many legacy partners such as Under Armour, Toyota Motor Corporation, PepsiCo, and Anheuser-Busch.
In recent years, the Ricketts family pushed for renovations for the stadium after acquiring ownership in 2009. The plans of renovations entitled “1060 Project” was unveiled at the Cubs Convention in January 2013. The scope of the stadium’s renovations was an improvement of existing facilities, such as restrooms, the stadium’s facade, and also additional infrastructures like a hotel and video screen.
The project was divided into phases. It started in September 2014 as its first phase, which included extending bleachers in the left and right outfields and adding a Jumbotron scoreboard. For phase two, many areas in the stadium were converted, and facilities were added such as an underground locker room. At the start of 2017, the third phase commenced. They added an area for the visiting team, and the field was extended. Towards the end of that year, the fourth phase has already started. The areas were extended to make way for additional infrastructures. The 1060 Project is of five-year duration, expected to finish in 2019.
With these recent renovations and as revealed by David Cerda, the owners of Wrigley Field had violated Title III— public accommodations (and commercial facilities) of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is included in the act that when public accommodations such as the stadium decide to undergo renovations, constructions, and the likes, they must comply with the accessibility guidelines in the act itself.
Wrigley Field owners must comply with this act by making their facilities accessible even to people with disabilities. Failure or slow processing of this compliance may send a negative and discriminatory message of this establishment to their disabled fans and the disabled community.
David Cerda as the plantiff
It is evident that both father and son only want accessibility not only for themselves but for other disabled fans and spectators as well. The discrimination experienced by the younger Cerda placed him on a pedestal to voice out his concerns as someone part of a minority group. Cerda saw that filing the lawsuit is a step to asserting his basic rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Establishments must always be mindful of their customers or consumers. The Americans with Disabilities Act was established for people like David F. Cerda to avoid discrimination in any way and situation due to his condition, and for him to experience the same basic rights as everyone else regardless of his disability.