04/14/09 4:15 PM ET
New Yankee Stadium a model of accessibility
Goes above and beyond catering to patrons with challenges
By Brittany Ghiroli / Special to MLB.com
After collaborations with the Department of Justice and other private groups that cater to people with disabilities, the stadium was deemed an exemplary model in going beyond the ground rules stated in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
"When we set out with this stadium, one of our top priorities was making this program state of the art in accommodating people with disabilities," team president Randy Levine said.
On Tuesday morning, the Yankees made good on their promise, unveiling a facility that caters to patrons with physical challenges in the most innovative way possible.
The new digs feature nearly 1,500 wheelchair-accessible seats, including 530 companion seats that allow non-disabled guests to sit alongside the designated wheelchair spaces. Aisle transfer seats have removable armrests so that people can easily transition into them from a wheelchair, and are dispersed equally across all price points.
In addition, the stadium is the only one in the Major Leagues that has implemented wheelchair lifts in both dugouts, allowing wheelchair users direct access to both the players' bench and the field.
"People who are in wheelchairs should have the same ability to go into the dugout on the [stadium] tour as people who don't need wheelchairs," Levine said. "For example, Joba Chamberlain's dad is in a wheelchair.
"These are great fans; some of them are our most passionate fans. They should have the exact experience as everybody else. So maybe it's not needed, maybe it's not so practical, but it's the right thing to do."
The old Yankee Stadium struggled to meet ADA standards, and both groups entered into an agreement to settle litigation on previous compliance issues in 1999.
Though all new ballparks must obey certain statutes and rules in regards to accessibility, the Yankees took their legal responsibilities one step further.
"The Yankees approached accessibility as a matter of doing the right thing in the right way," Lev L. Dassin said.
Dassin, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was on hand on Tuesday to announce the government's successful review of the new Yankee Stadium.
"Baseball is at its best when it breaks down barriers by embracing values we cherish as a nation," Dassin said. "Qualities like empowerment, equality and teamwork. As a result of the Yankees' cooperative efforts, there is equal opportunity for people with disabilities to enjoy the new stadium and really appreciate the game. Whatever happens on the field, that's baseball at its best."
Lonn A. Trost, the Yankees' chief operating officer, also spoke on Tuesday about the importance of catering to people of all disabilities and limitations. He said that the new stadium will have free assistive listening devices, game materials in Braille or large print, and will continue to implement a program accommodating service animals.
"We wanted to do what was correct," Trost said. "You will see that we didn't have to create the various items that we have. ... We did it anyway, because it was the right thing to do."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.