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Blue Jays Strike Out with Service Dog

Human rights complaint says team won’t let him buy accessible seats online. By Hina AlamStaff Reporter
Mon., Oct. 10, 2016

A lawyer is crying foul about the Blue Jays’ ticket sales, complaining to the province’s Human Rights Tribunal that the club unlike the city’s other pro teams won’t let him buy handicapped seats online.

People who need accessible seating can’t buy it via the ballclub’s website or Ticketmaster’s but instead must do so via phone, and Andrew Sprague, who identifies himself as an “experienced accessibility advocate,” says that’s discriminatory.

Sprague sent a copy of the complaint to the Star. “It is shocking and appalling that the (Jays) treat persons with disabilities inferiorly to persons without disabilities,” it reads.

Sprague says he suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder and has a service dog, Flicka, which entitles him to accessibility seating. Flicka, he explained, helps him manage his PTSD symptoms.

When contacted and asked specifically about Sprague’s complaint, Sebastian Gatica, senior manager, corporate communications for the Blue Jays declined to comment. The Ontario Human Rights Code requires organizations to provide equal access to goods and services to all individuals, Sprague said.

“I would describe it as a completely unnecessary inconvenience,” he said, adding that he is left “angry and frustrated, especially because other sports organizations . . . treated ticket purchasers equally.”

He said there was no “lawful reason” for the Blue Jays to refuse to let people with disabilities buy accessible seats online. If general-admission tickets can be sold online, accessible admission tickets should also, under the law, be available the same way, he argued.

Sprague said that in the past year he purchased accessible seats online for the Leafs and the Argonauts. If the Blue Jays are concerned about nondisabled people buying accessible seats, there are several ways in which the organization can address the situation lawfully, he said.

In his complaint, Sprague says a team representative said “he was not entirely sure why” accessible seats can’t be bought online.

Sprague said he aims to protect the rights of people with disabilities, such as his neighbour Jon Colosimo. A quadriplegic who has partial use of his limbs but relies on a wheelchair, Colosimo said he bought tickets for two regular-season and one playoff game by calling, and would’ve bought more but the prospect of waiting on hold was a deterrent.

“It’s more frustrating than anything else,” Colosimo said. “It makes the entire process a little more difficult.”

Earlier this year Sprague filed a complaint with the National NewsMedia Council against the Toronto Star for inaccurately describing an “emotional support dog” as a service dog, and demanded a retraction of the article. The council dismissed the complaint.

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