Going on an interstate vacation calls for carefully mapping out your itinerary. But can you imagine going through the same procedure every time you'd like to go downtown to a Jazz game or a movie?
Those in wheelchairs must plan their "vacation out of the house" very carefully:- Is there parking for the handicapped?
- Are there ramps up curbs and into the building?
- Are there elevators? If so, where are they located?
- Are there special reserved tickets that must be purchased?
- Is there a designated seating area for those in wheelchairs?
- Can family and friends sit in the same areas with those in wheelchairs?
A typical visit to a Jazz game could include an early arrival to get a parking stall set aside for the handicapped, assistance getting through the main doors at the south or east side of the building, a roll down the hallway to the north end of the arena, a short wait for one of two elevators to the upper concourse, assistance entering through the arena door and then a short roll to the assigned area straight out from the concourse overlooking the floor.
On average, 20 patrons in wheelchairs attend Jazz games - including 10 season ticket holders. And when it's Boston or San Antonio or other major games, as many as 32 patrons in wheelchairs may be in attendance.
And there are only seven parking stalls for the handicapped around the Salt Palace, besides 12 stalls north of Symphony Hall.
But attending a Jazz game is relatively easy compared to a visit to the Hansen Planetarium.
The closest parking for the handicapped (two stalls) is on Social Hall Avenue. There are, however, two parking garages on Social Hall Avenue.
But forget about parking in the ZCMI Center terrace across the street, unless you'd like to take a two- or three-block detour around the center and a dash across State Street. Currently, the east and south entrances to the ZCMI Center are like barriers to the handicapped: Escalators and stairways must be negotiated to reach the street. A proposed walkway tunnel under State Street connecting the ZCMI Center and Social Hall Avenue would be a boon to wheelchair traffic, however.
Barbara Toomer, a Salt Lake-area resident and wheelchair user, said the parking problem at the planetarium is the worst of any of the seven facilities reviewed. The best parking facilities are at Symphony Hall, University of Utah's Huntsman Center, Brigham Young University's Marriott Center and Pioneer Memorial Theatre.
For those visiting the planetarium, an escort is almost a must. Because a flight of stairs leads to the main entrance, an escort must go inside and ask someone to open one of the two side doors that have entry ramps.
"What happens if I go alone or with someone else that is disabled?" Toomer said. "I've had to send someone in to tell them to open the door, and once I called ahead."
Once inside, everything's fine, she said.
A visit to the Capitol Theatre also can be frustrating because of the lack of parking. The closest stalls for the handicapped are at the Salt Palace. The theater, however, does offer curb-side loading.
But once you arrive at the Capitol Theatre, "the accessibility is great," Toomer said. "You have your choice of seating areas throughout the theater. And you can sit next to your family."
Shirley Kilgore at Pioneer Memorial Theatre says that though there are only four parking stalls for the handicapped outside the theater, "the ushers frequently place temporary signs out reserving more space."
Toomer said she once arrived after the parking stalls for the handicapped were filled but the traffic people found her another nearby parking spot.
All the facilities contacted report having rest-rooms with stalls for the handicapped, but only Symphony Hall currently offers private rest-rooms - one for males and one for females.
The single restrooms offer the privacy necessary if the person in a wheelchair needs assistance of a spouse or parent.
"I love Symphony Hall," Toomer said. She said it's the most accessible of the facilities reviewed.
Though the Salt Palace is generally accessible, Toomer said, "the restroom facilities in the Salt Palace are inadequate. The stalls are too small to maneuver a wheelchair."
She also criticized the seating arrangements in the arena.
"The seating areas for the handicapped are behind the dress circle," Toomer said, "but we still pay the dress-circle price. And when everyone stands up, we can't see a thing.
"I went to a Neil Diamond performance once, and the people were standing the whole show. I'd just as well have stayed home and listened to his tapes."
At most of the facilities, those in wheelchairs purchase tickets specifically for areas accommodating wheelchairs. Generally, one escort can sit with the person in a wheelchair in the wheelchair area. The rest of the party receives tickets as nearby as possible.
Larry Duffin of BYU's Marriott Center recalls a group with handicaps once purchased general tickets but never mentioned their need for wheelchair space.
"We really had to scramble when they arrived," Duffin said.
At Pioneer Memorial Theatre, Symphony Hall and Capitol Theatre, a person in a wheelchair sits at the end of rows throughout the halls, so those in wheelchairs can sit with family and companions.
"They just need to reserve the tickets together," said Gloy Barwick of Symphony Hall.
The Hansen Planetarium seats those in wheelchairs at the back of the theater.
"Actually the better seating is in the back, less craning of the neck to see the star shows," says Doug Lowe.
"We can also reserve some seating in the area for those attending with someone in a wheelchair."
Lowe recommends arriving early. "Those in wheelchairs are taken into the shows early," he said.
Spokesmen at all the facilities said those on crutches, either temporarily or permanently, usually can get special seating.
But tell the ticket personnel, they advise. The most accommodating tickets can then be arranged.
Barwick, ticket services director for Symphony Hall, says "anytime anyone in a wheelchair comes in to purchase tickets, we offer to take them into the hall to show them around the facilities.
To make the viewing of the performance more comfortable, workers at Capitol Theatre have constructed special carpeted platforms to level out the slope under wheelchairs.
"That way, those in wheelchairs aren't leaning forward during the whole performance," said John Stasco, operations manager.
Congress recently passed The Americans with Disabilities Act. When the guidelines are approved, all public facilities will be reviewing their compliance.
Though Doug Lowe, marketing manager of the Hansen Planetarium, said he wasn't aware of the new act, he said, "We're quite fast to get into compliance, being a division of Salt Lake County government.
Also, Kilgore said Pioneer Memorial Theatre is already planning at least one improvement.
She said the ramp up to the theater entrance sometimes poses a problem during winter storms because of ice and snow.
"We're in the process of securing funding to put a cover over the ramp," she said.
Movie theaters in the Salt Lake area are all accessible to those in wheelchairs, though the old Trolley Theater in Trolley Square has inaccessible restrooms.
Bill Sadlar of Cineplex Odeon said the rest-rooms are up a flight of stairs above the theater complex.
"But we're closing the complex later this year," Sadlar said. "Taking its place will be the new six-theater complex at the Broadway Center at 300 South and State Street.
Wheelchair seating in virtually all the movie houses is at the rear of the theaters. Sadlar and John Tella of Mann Theatres said generally a row of seats at the back of the theaters has been removed to accommodate wheelchairs.
However, The Villa Theater can accommodate wheelchairs along the theater's wide aisles, Tella said.
Parking stalls for handicapped
Facility total number
Capitol Theatre 0
Pioneer Theatre *4
Salt Palace 7
Symphony Hall 12
U. Huntsman *20
New Miller arenea undetermined
*Can expanded as needed.
Capitol Theatre 9 2
Pioneer Theatre 6 1
Planetarium 24 N/A
Salt Palace 32 20
Symphony Hall 14 4
U. Huntsman 21 6
Y. Marriott 45 6
New Miller Arena 200 -