Following concerns raised by the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, along with “Crip Camp” co-director James LeBrecht, the Emmys stage is believed to have added a fully accessible ramp compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
That’s according to LeBrecht, who tells Variety that he has been assured by CBS — which is airing the Emmy Awards this Sunday — that the telecast’s production team have addressed any accessibility issues.
“CBS Entertainment has informed my lawyers DREDF and Michelle Uzeta that anyone sitting in the audience will have unimpeded access to an ADA-compliant ramp to the stage, and that the ramp has been constructed as a fully-integrated, visible portion of the stage,” LeBrecht said in a statement. “I look forward to watching an accessible awards show that includes people with disabilities.”
The DREDF and LeBrecht had previously filed a complaint of ADA violations, after being informed that the Emmy stage, built inside a tent on the L.A. Live Event Deck in downtown Los Angeles, was inaccessible from a front approach.
“The inaccessible stage violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California civil rights laws, and must be immediately remediated,” the complaint said. “Mr. LeBrecht has repeatedly endeavored to educate CBS Entertainment and the Television Academy about their obligations under the ADA to provide an accessible stage. He first contacted the Academy on these issues in April 2021.”
LeBrecht said he had been informed that individuals who cannot climb the stairs to the stage could go backstage to access the stage. But, the complaint noted, “This is not a directly connecting route as required by the ADA Standard. Another suggestion is that a staff member can bring a microphone to individuals’ seating area. Neither approach complies with the ADA, and each conveys disrespect and exclusion. Separate is never equal.”
The complaint noted that the recessed backstage entrance, “which takes longer to access and requires that wheelchair users retreat temporarily out of sight, promotes the perception of disabled people as afterthoughts and second-class citizens. The message sent to individuals with disabilities, both attending and viewing the event, is ‘you do not belong here’… By unnecessarily requiring individuals with mobility disabilities to use a segregated, partially hidden, and more burdensome route to get from the seating area to the Emmy stage, you are isolating, segregating, and stigmatizing individuals with disabilities.”
By this week, it appeared that adjustments were set to be made. On Wednesday, TV Academy president Maury McIntyre and chairman/CEO Frank Scherma told Variety that CBS was officially responding to those concerns.
McIntyre said the show was “fully ADA compliant. Both shows the Creative Arts had a lift for the stage, which was placed right next to the stage for anyone who might have needed it. And I know for the main show, we’re actually going even further than that. We fully appreciate both the visibility of showing that we are supporting and accessible. We’ve gone out to all of the attendees, asking anybody if they need special assistance. We’ve got two people dedicated to making sure that we have offered an accessible experience for everyone. And we take that very seriously.”
LeBrecht was not satisfied by the initial efforts to make the Emmys accessible for people with disabilities, however. “There’s a big difference between being compliant and being equal,” he told Variety on Wednesday afternoon. “We don’t expect anybody else to take a different path to the stage except for people with disabilities and that sends a very negative message.”
He says the inclusion of a lift on the side of the stage “others” people with disabilities: “Do you know how long it takes for a lift to the stage? Do you know what that looks like? The optics are horrible.”
LeBrecht had previously lobbied the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and applauded the Oscars for including a ramp “front and center” of the stage.