Family of Miami Dolphins autistic, disabled teen fan requesting better accessibility seating for people with special needs

Miami Gardens, Fla. – The family of an autistic, disabled Miami Dolphins fan have expressed that they would like to see changes when it comes to accessibility seating for disabled fans or ones with special needs after attending the game on Sunday at Hardrock Stadium.

13-year-old Andrew Alvarez, his father and uncle attended the Vikings-Dolphins game around 1:00 p.m. Sunday when Andrew and was asked to move from his wheelchair to get to his seat.

According to his family, Andrew is a diehard Miami Dolphins fan that has a genetic disorder, is autistic and recently had spinal fusion surgery.

Before getting to their seats, Andrew’s father Michael Alvarez asked Miami Dolphins officials, “Can we go to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) seats because he’s in a wheelchair?”

Alvarez then said team officials told him no because the seats were sold out.

Alvarez shared with Local 10 News that he and his son were disappointed because of the outcome.

“Resilient, amazing, amazing young man and he’s a diehard Dolphins fan and it just hurts,” said Alvarez.

Although team officials said the stadium was sold out, Alvarez took video and questioned if those seats were being used by fans with legitimate issues.

“You don’t necessarily have to be in a wheelchair to be considered handicapped but from the looks of it, it looks like most of those people were not in special need,” said Alvarez.

In correspondence with the Miami Dolphins, the Alvarez family said they were told by officials that ADA sections are pre-sold to season ticket members who then re-sell their seats to brokers and non-disabled guests.

“There should be some responsibility on their end to make sure these tickets end up in the right hands of the right people,” said Michael Alvarez,

Andrew’s uncle Oscar Alvarez hopes the team does a better job of selling tickets to other fans in the ADA section.

“I think the Dolphins need to do a better job of policing the ADA section in the stadium and also the resale of those tickets,” said Oscar Alvarez.

Alvarez feels that there should be more ticket accessibility to people with special needs and not just to make a profit after re-sale.

“It’s an issue for all the disabled kids or people that want to come to these games that cannot have access to these seats because the Dolphins are allowing the re-sale for more money and that’s just wrong,” he said.

Update on ADA seating rules and regulations from Miami Dolphins representatives

A Miami Dolphins spokesperson reached out to Local 10 News to give an update on the rules and regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act when it comes to the seating for people with disabilities or special needs.

According to the Ticket Sales section of the Americans with Disabilities Act:

  • “Venues cannot require proof of disability as a condition for purchasing tickets for accessible seats.”
  • “If venues permit patrons to give or sell their tickets to others, the same right must be extended to patrons with disabilities who hold tickets for accessible seats and to persons with disabilities who intend to buy or receive tickets on the secondary ticket market.”

A Miami Dolphins team representative also shared the rules and regulations at Hard Rock Stadium and for single-game ticket buyers:

  • Hard Rock Stadium exceeds compliance with ADA regulations for large-scale venues.
  • The Dolphins hold a section of ADA seats for single-game ticket buyers as well as day-of-game needs that arise. Like any other seating area, these ADA suites can sell out or reach capacity at some point before or early in a game.
  • As explained in the Americans with Disabilities Act, a venue cannot require proof of disability as a condition for purchasing tickets for accessible seats. However, we do ask customers to sign an attestation form acknowledging that they are purchasing ADA seating for a person with a disability and a guest.
  • A venue cannot restrict the transferability of tickets for customers who purchase ADA seating, consistent with all other customers and seating locations
  • As brokers are identified, we do revoke their ability to renew season tickets in future years, pursuant to our terms and conditions. This is intended to create the best possible experience for our members and fans who attend games.

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

Ryan Mackey is our newest digital journalist at WPLG. He is New York born and South Florida raised.