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'Like they forgot people in wheelchairs exist': Swifties call out disabled accommodations at Paycor Stadium

Stadium policy prohibits Taylor Swift ticket holders from bringing their wheelchairs inside if they don't have ADA seats
ADA Accommodations for Taylor Swift
Posted at 10:18 PM, Jun 29, 2023

CINCINNATI — There's bad blood between Paycor Stadium and Swifties, as some fans say the venue isn't offering sufficient accommodations to those with disabilities for the star's two-night stop in Cincinnati.

Brian Wikensimer said he's allowed in, but the wheelchair he's relied on for 20 years isn't.

"This was supposed to be Cincinnati's accessible place and it's just not," he said. "It's not like I ride around in a wheelchair because I want to. I ride around in a wheelchair because I have to, but I still want to participate in these events."

Wickensimer is a paralyzed veteran who lives in Hillsboro with his wife, Kristin. Only able to move one of his legs, he's wheelchair-bound.

He's also a self-professed die-hard Swiftie. When he and his wife first met, they bonded over Swift's music and they've since been to 15 of her concerts together, he said.

Friday's Eras Tour performance will be their 16th show.

"I jokingly to my family call myself the 40-year-old Swiftie even though I'm 44 now," Kristin said. "I've been a Taylor Swift fan since she was playing preview music before movies, before she even made it big."

Kristin said she and her husband spared no expense to be able to see Swift from the best seats. The couple will be right at the tip of the "T" catwalk.

"I maxed a credit card out," Kristin said.

But even though they purchased tickets during the Capital One presale last year, they said Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) seats weren't available.

"You couldn't select any. There wasn't even any on the map even grayed out," Wikensimer said. "It told you to call when you clicked on the button and we called and (Ticketmaster) said, 'Don't worry just buy what you can and Paycor would exchange them for the same section ADA.'"

Wikensimer said he called Paycor in November and December and was told there wasn’t anything they could do until the day of the concert.

Federal law requires at least 1% of stadium seats be ADA compliant — aisle seats with no armrest, or with a removable or folding armrest, on the aisle side — but it does not prohibit events or venues from selling those seats to able-bodied people.

"When you get there and you have a wheelchair ticket, they're not telling you you can't sit in a wheelchair spot. You're allowed to even if you don't need it," Brian said. "But I, as a paralyzed veteran, not being able to go and see the show and sit where I need to sit because I have a wheelchair when there's able-bodied people taking up the wheelchair spots is outrageous to me."

Brian said he and Kristin trusted that Paycor would remedy the situation when the concert neared, but that trust was broken Monday when they read the stadium's stance on mobility devices.

Under the Eras Tour FAQ prompt "Can I bring in my wheelchair/knee scooter even if I did not purchase ADA seats?" it read "Wheelchairs/knee scooters are not permitted in the stadium unless you purchased ADA seats. We cannot store your chair during the concert. If you need your wheelchair to get the gate, you can lock it to the bike racks on the concourse."

Paycor Original ADA Policy

"It's like they forgot people in wheelchairs exist and that's really hurtful because he's a huge fan too," Kristin said.

The two aren't the only ones upset by the policy.

"I was just like, it's 2023. This is insane," said Victoria King, a Columbus college student driving down with her sister for the Saturday night show.

She has muscular dystrophy and while she mainly relies on a wheelchair, she said she can take a few steps. Because of that, she purchased a general admissions seat, as an ADA seat is not a necessity for her.

"As long as the facility that I am going to see a concert at allows me to bring my chair to my seat and then it has a place for me to store it during the concert," she said.

When she read the FAQ response, King said she was appalled that Paycor would force disabled concertgoers to be without their wheelchairs or scooters.

"How did someone write that and think this is OK to post online?" she said. "Completely removing their access to their mobility device for a five-hour long concert is horrendous and also poses a safety hazard in the event of an emergency evacuation."

King posted a TikTok addressing the issue on Monday.

The next day, there appeared to be a change in the stadium's policy language. The message is the same, though the wording is now different. Under the same FAQ prompt, it now reads "Wheelchairs/knee scooters will be permitted for guests who purchased ADA seating."

Under that another prompt asks "Do you have a handicap area for drop-off?" The answer to that notes a zone on Central Ave between Mehring Way and Pete Rose Way and that "...at that location, there will be security associates who can get you to your seat section via wheelchair."

Paycor New ADA Policy

"He'll have to be dropped off at a curb, escorted in. He loses his own self at that point. It's like having a babysitter with you," Kristin said.

WCPO brought the concertgoers' concerns to Paycor. A spokesperson said the stadium is completely ADA compliant and does have necessary accommodations in place.

“We have wheelchair response teams in place that will take patrons to their ticketed seat from their entry gate using stadium wheelchairs before the show. After the show, patrons should flag down an usher who will call the wheelchair response team member to take patrons to the stadium perimeter," a statement read."

The spokesperson said the stadium amended the online FAQ message, modeling it after accessibility needs at previous Eras Tour shows.

That doesn't help him if he has to use the restroom or wants to go to the concessions or anything," Kristen said.

She doesn't feel it's enough and King doesn't either.

"It's not as inclusive as it could be," she said. "I would say the most appropriate solution would be to address it at large and not just leave people in the dark to show up to wonder, 'Who knows where my chair is going to be stored?' It's like my legs. It's essentially saying, 'Are you going to show up at an event and are you going to be allowed to use your legs?'"

Kristen and Brian Wikensimer said they feel Paycor is brushing them aside to allow for more money-making opportunities.

"It is a capitalist thing. You can't fit as many wheelchairs as you can standing bodies," Brian said. "But the problem is I have a fundamental human right to participate in society but Paycor is making that difficult."

The couple also stresses the many concerts and events they've attended in the past without ADA tickets and were still "appropriately" accommodated.

"We were on the floor for Taylor Swift at the Reputation tour in Cleveland, we were on the floor in Gillette," Brian said. "Every time it's been, "Yeah, let's get that chair moved and you're good to go."

With nearly $2,000 invested in the concert, the couple hoping for the best and still plan to "Taygate" before they make their way into the stadium to watch their favorite performer, but they said they want to see change, if not for them, for other people with disabilities in the future.

"Say something. Speak up for people," Kristin said. "Taylor said if you hear something that needs to be spoken about, speak now, and this is me doing just that."

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