Have you gone to a performance and found that the Guthrie Theater isn’t that accessible? If so, you are not alone. The new Guthrie Theater, on the banks of the Mississippi River, opened in 2006, getting national attention for its architecture and the three stages that host dozens of performances per year. The Guthrie Theater also has a few lookouts where people can view downtown Minneapolis. While the Guthrie architecture may be interesting, the accessibility is not good; it seems to barely meet ADA standards.
Let’s start with its accessible seating. Going to a show in Guthrie Theater is like attending a show in Minneapolis South High School’s old auditorium. The theater has minimal accessible spots and the space is cramped. The wheelchair seating areas have no room for two wheelchairs and are inches from the spectators sitting in regular seats.
The aisles in the restaurant area are too narrow for most wheelchairs to maneuver. Chairs and tables sometimes obstruct a clear path. People often have to stand and push their chair in to let a wheelchair through. People using wheelchairs have to go through the restaurant area to get to the Guthrie’s endless bridge, so they sometimes have to ask people in chairs to move to make space.
Third, the Guthrie’s ramp on the 4th floor is not accessible. I tried it and it made me so nervous! The drop is huge and it feels like your chair could just take off on its own! The ramp isn’t great for a lot of people, so the elevators are packed.
Unlike the Guthrie Theater, Target Field went above and beyond ADA regulations. Target Field has over 700 accessible seats in every area of the ballpark, and every entrance is wheelchair accessible. So, next time you go to the Guthrie Theater, watch for what the architects missed: making the Theater accessible to all patrons.
Written by: Michael L. Sack