Florida

Woman Questions Stadium’s ADA Parking Pass

Football is a part of life for Sherri Harris.

"It sort of keeps us in our youth," she said.

And her local team of choice is the Miami Hurricanes.

"UM kind of just won over our hearts," she said.

She's been a Canes fan since the 1980s and a season ticket holder on and off since probably the early 90s. She said this season was no different.

Sherri said she purchased season tickets for Hurricanes games as well as an orange parking pass late last year, months before she had a total knee replacement and ended up needing a temporary disabled parking placard.

"I was wheelchair-bound," she said.

She said she thought she could still go to the games and park, for now, in ADA parking in the orange lot, using just her season parking pass and state-issued disabled placard.

"The first game we went to, they actually let us slide but told us we had to have a special parking pass over and above the orange," she told NBC 6 Responds. "It had to be an ADA parking pass."

She said she had a similar experience at several other Canes' games at Hard Rock Stadium this year and at a Dolphins' game there, too.

She said she called customer service and tried to exchange her orange parking pass for an ADA parking pass for part of the season, but was told she'd have to pay extra, something she wasn't willing to do.

"It wasn't the amount," she said. "It was the point."

And even though her disability is temporary, she said she decided to speak up.

"I want to fight for the people that can't," she said.

On the Canes website, parking information dated May 2019 said ADA parking was available "…on a first-come, first-serve basis to patrons who have a Disability Parking Placard and a parking pass…". Different information was apparently posted a few months later, saying "ADA parking can be purchased in advance of each home game for $25…"

On the Dolphins website, similar wording was posted.

Matthew Dietz, litigation director for the Disability Independence Group, said the protections under the law are clear.

"As long as you pay to get into parking, if you have a disability you should be able to park in those spots closest to the entrance and not pay any bit more," Matthew said.

The Dolphins organization oversees parking at Hard Rock Stadium.

They told NBC 6 Responds they don't charge extra to park in ADA parking. They also said their "…biggest complaint from our fans that wanted ADA parking was they couldn't arrive early enough with their conditions to secure a spot…" so they are allowing people to now reserve their spot in advance. They also looked into Sherri's situation and told us she purchased her parking pass through a third-party vendor, adding that "If she bought it from UM they could have exchanged her orange parking pass for the ADA pass."

Sherri said she paid for parking and that that should be enough to park in an ADA spot, regardless of how she bought her orange parking pass. Still, she said she was going to keep supporting the 'Canes for now.

"We love UM," Sherri said. "We may rethink it for next season … the shame is that it's not the Hurricanes, it's the owners of the stadium and the policies they set forth."

The organization said a person from UM spoke with Sherri and offered to exchange her parking for the next game.

They also said if a fan needs ADA parking on game day and doesn't have a reserved ADA parking pass, they would be directed to the outside ADA lots with mobility assistance golf carts or the closest spot for their pass. They also said they recently added more first-come, first-serve overflow ADA parking for those that have inner lot parking passes. They plan to add more signage and staff to help patrons identify the additional spaces.

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