Utah Symphony and Opera change policy after man’s wheelchair removed from Abravanel Hall

Opera theater

SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake City man is pushing for better access for people with disabilities after he said he got stuck next to someone who was aggressive towards him.

Carson Tueller said it’s common to put his wheelchair in another room while he’s out for a show, but that shouldn’t be the case.

Last weekend, he left Abravanel Hall without his wheelchair due to a fire code issue.

His experience only heightened a concern he had had for a long time.

It wasn’t the night Carson Tueller expected.

“Hi everyone, I just left Abravanel Hall,” he shared on an Instagram post.

Tueller said he was seated next to a man who became agitated as he tried to keep his wheelchair nearby. The ushers took the wheelchair to another room following standard procedure there.

“He ended up just making derogatory comments about me being disabled, including the phrase ‘you can’t draw a disabled card everywhere'” Tueller said Tuesday.

He said the ushers offered the man another seat, but he declined.

Tueller decided to leave once he was able to find an usher to seize his wheelchair.

He said in his post: ‘It’s threatening. He feels vulnerable. It’s dangerous. I couldn’t leave.

The Instagram video has been viewed over 25,000 times. What is important to him is the conversation that ensues.

“I want to acknowledge how wonderful the Utah Symphony Orchestra has been.”

Tueller said the Symphony is taking a closer look at the fire code and what concessions can be made for people with disabilities. “The person I spoke to assured me that no mobility device would be taken from anyone at Abravanel Hall.”

He called it an important decision because the fire code can’t protect people with disabilities if they find themselves without a way out quickly.

Utah Symphony adds that there is a protocol in place to safely evacuate all customers in the event of an emergency, which includes directing first responders to customers with mobility issues.

“I believe it’s a human issue and I just want to create a society and a system where everyone can participate,” Tueller said. Her hope is that the conversation can progress beyond this and that people with disabilities don’t remain an afterthought when it comes to day-to-day activities.

According to the Unified Fire Authority, fire code mobility devices are considered obstructions, but that’s on a very technical level. Sites have the ability to adjust the application at their discretion.

Utah Symphony and Utah Opera have confirmed they are making changes to make shows more accessible, including working with Salt Lake County to keep mobility devices with them even if they are not in spaces for wheelchairs. They also added the following statement:

“We are grateful that this experience, while unfortunate, has highlighted an opportunity to improve the way we serve people with disabilities. We’ve already had productive conversations with Mr. Tueller, and he expressed his appreciation for the quick steps we’re taking as an organization and with Salt Lake County to ensure our sites are a welcoming and safe space for all. the world. We look forward to collaborating with him as we strive to be a leader in accessibility in the performing arts. »

A full list of accommodations for Maurice Abravanel Hall, Janet Quinney Lawson Capitol Theater and the Deer Valley Music Festival is available here.