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Deaf Accommodation at the Nutcracker

Posted Jan 02 2010 9:54am
OK-- so it wasn't the Nutcracker we all know and love.  I've seen that about a million gazillion times at the McCaw Hall in downtown Seattle.  I wasn't surewhat to expect.  Compared to THAT Nutcracker, this was a much smallervenue--a burlesque Nutcracker performed in a dinner theater called the Triple Door.   A friend and I decided to take our adult aged daughters at the last minute.  Performances were nearly sold out but we found a package deal at a five star downtown hotel, tickets to the show and free cocktails.   Girls night out during a long and harried holiday season?  We needed that.  Except I'm quite deaf, rely on lip-reading a lot and need captions for theater performances.

If you've been following this blog you know that Wash-Cap has been negotiating for theater access all over Seattle and western Washington.   Because of their wonderful work I have been able to attend two captioned musicals in the past year at the Paramount, something I have missed doing for at least two decades.  So it's a great time to be living here in Seattle and to have all these accommodations suddenly available for the late-deafened who don't know sign language fluently.  But there's still plenty of work to do.  Four or five captioned theater performances per year simply isn't enough.

One thing about being late-deafened is we've been shut out of a lot services even with the ADA in place.  Most theaters understand that Deaf means possible ASL interpreter, and there is the occasional ASL performance offered (and I do mean very occasional).  In no way do I mean to imply the Deaf have it easy.  Most theaters also offer infrared headsets for the moderately Hearing Impaired.  However, no one ever offers captioned performances for the Late-deafened without a fight.  They simply don't see us as deaf enough, since we speak English and don't know ASL fluently.  We fall through the cracks.  We're too deaf to benefit from the infrared headphones, but not deaf enough to benefit from ASL interpreted performances.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this small theater.   John Waldo of Wash-Cap reminded us during an ALDA workshop recently that "Perfect in the enemy of good. "  I've been thinking about how to apply that to my life in general.  If you go in requesting the moon, you aren't likely to get it.  The idea is to start out small which seems counter-intuitive to a lot of us.  In other types of negotiations you start out asking for more than you want, then compromise.  But only if the person you're haggling with expects it.  So John's advice is to let them get used to the idea that there are people out there who can't hear and who don't speak ASL fluently.  Let them have some success offering a smaller accommodation, then ask for something more next time.  It's kind of a back door way of getting what you want.

Since this was basically a dance routine with a little bit of dialog, I only asked for the script.  And honestly I expected a bit of a fight even for that.  I didn't really have much time to fight since it was the week before Christmas.  The performances were nearly sold out and the theater had every reason to balk, not that it would cost them anything.  But if they haven't been asked for a script before they were likely to think it a strange and unusual request, and to decline.

The concierge at the W was very helpful.  He took up the fight on my behalf, but I have to admit I wasn't that optimistic.  I expected the Triple Door would say no and he would tell me when I arrived that they had declined.  End of story.  Hearing people are not used to fighting for access.  They don't know the laws, and are generally inclined to give up easily.  Most late-deafened are the same until they learn you don't ever get accommodated by giving up.   The concierge left messages on my cell phone throughout the week which I couldn't hear, but I knew he was working on it.  Even if he was successful in obtaining a script, I had concerns about seeing it once we got inside the theater.  Most theaters are too dark for reading.

When we got to the Triple Door I was pleased to see that they had copied off the script, but even more surprising was that they had reserved seats for all four of us right down in the center front row, so close that our table actually pushed right up against the stage.  We couldn't have been any closer.  Moreover, the lighting from the stage lit up my script so that I could read along easily.  They went above and beyond.  The show was absolutely fabulous!  We couldn't have had a more fun night.


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