"Whenever I go to a museum, movie, or game," Michael began, "I always have to go with an attendant... But a lot of the places would make me also pay for my attendants."
I stood in the middle of the room and gazed at the walls. The afternoon light streamed through the blinds, partially illuminating some familiar objects – an Eagles banner, a Bryce Harper bobblehead, and a framed photo of a former Democratic President.
"This guy reminds me of me," I thought.
As my eyes continued to scan the room, I saw an old Philadelphia Daily News hanging on the wall with a triumphant-looking man on the cover.
"What was that about?" I inquired.
"You never heard about Michael's case?" his father asked.
"Michael" is Michael Anderson, a legislative advocate from The Arc of Philadelphia. I first met him on a Zoom call not long after being sworn in as a state representative from Manayunk/Roxborough to learn how to better advocate for persons with disabilities in the legislature. The organization Michael works for, The Arc, champions the needs of people with developmental disabilities and their families.
Michael is a "do-er," with an honest and direct manner and contagious optimism.
He also has cerebral palsy (spastic quadriplegia), which means that he has limited use of his arms and legs and relies on his caregivers for all the activities of daily living.
When Michael asked me to visit his home, I was eager to take him up on the offer.
Now, standing in his room, I was learning that Michael and I had even more in common than I thought.
"Tell him about your case, Michael," his father said.
"Whenever I go to a museum, movie, or game," Michael began, "I always have to go with an attendant. They feed me, take me to the bathroom, and push me around if I'm in my manual wheelchair. But a lot of the places would make me also pay for my attendants. My mom asked me why I was always running out of money, and I told her it was because I had to pay double."
That didn't seem right.
Michael's aides were not going out of choice but because they were working.
You wouldn't charge the beer man to enter a stadium because there's a game. Or a bouncer to work a concert because there’s a band.
It also felt like having to “pay double” would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which is supposed to guarantee people with disabilities equal access to public facilities.
"And eventually, I had had enough," Michael told me. "When The Franklin Institute charged me for two tickets, I sued them. And I won." Michael smiled, "The judge ordered the museum to allow all attendants for people with disabilities entry without additional charge."
"Is this now the law?" I asked.
"Well, actually, no," Michaels's dad said. "Because The Franklin Institute did not appeal, this ruling does not bind other venues to comply."
Standing in Michael's bedroom, I had a thought. How about we create a bill ensuring this admission fairness at cultural and entertainment events?
"What do you think?” I asked.
After a few moments of silence, Michael smiled. "Why not. . . Yeah, let's do it."
Michael's Law – Admission Fairness for Persons with Care Attendants (HB 1104), was officially introduced in the Pennsylvania House in June and is now in House Tourism and Economic and Recreational Development Committee. Our state senator, Art Haywood, a lifelong advocate for civil rights, has also introduced a companion bill in the state Senate (SB 735) now in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Our bill would require facilities to waive admissions for personal aides when their presence is needed to assist people when they attend events. The facility is not required to give the attendant a seat that another paying guest would have but would have to accommodate the person who needs care, providing a place to sit or stand nearby. This bill is not unlike a policy our 2022 Super Bowl-bound Eagles had to accommodate personal care attendants without admission fees – a policy that's still in place today. Fly Eagles, Fly!!
I'm hopeful we can make sure people like Michael only need to pay once to enter cultural and entertainment venues in Pennsylvania. Let me know what you think about Michael's Law at firstname.lastname@example.org or (215) 482-8726, or contact your state representative if that is not me. And be on the lookout for updates on this bill as we try to get Michael's Law passed when we resume session this fall.