Why did I start this blog in the first place? I wanted to share my love for the arts with others as well as reflect on the (limited) offerings for access to the arts for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deafblind audiences.
(cue "Any Dream Will Do" from the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.)
"Any dream will do." My exposure to the world of musical theatre occured as a child when I saw the production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Chicago Theatre. Captivated by the magic of live theatre - the lights, the sounds, the sights - I noticed something was amiss. No sign language interpreters. No captioning. No script. Nothing.
Seeing the show wasn't enough. As a Deaf theatre patron, I wanted to be able to understand the action unfolding onstage and I knew I wasn't the only one. Access to the visual and performing arts for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deafblind is oftentimes an afterthought; and services provided vary greatly from venue to venue. One location may have a single interpreter struggling to keep up with the cast of Les Miserables while in another venue one may find up to 16 interpreters keeping sync with the Radio City Rockettes. Want to see the latest movie? It depends on the location and the venue - and the captioning style as well. What about the historic tours in various cities and landmarks? It all depends. One thing they all have in common is a lack of awareness of access options in addition to inconsistent quality of services provided. Why do we remember the outstanding interpreters? The horrible horror interpreters? Nonexistent captions - or ineffective captioning? Exactly.
My dream? My dream is to see a rise in access to the visual and performing arts to attract more Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deafblind enthusiasts; from Shakespeare to the latest Broadway musical, from television to the big screen as well as the Internet and beyond. To do so, we need to establish standards for performing arts interpreting that focus not only on the mechanics but on the theatrics of their craft; advocate for greater access to media through captioning; and educate the community through awareness. Being able to enjoy the arts is a right, not a privilege.
Despite its spotlight, the face of access to the arts for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deafblind audiences hold numerous challenges that have yet to be formally addressed. The lack of standards leads to an imbalance in service quality and access options. The visual and performing arts hold a vital spot in our lives and the connection between the stage or screen and the audience must be maintained with not just 'good enough' but to ensure that Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deafblind patrons feel like they belong there amongst their hearing co-patrons. After all, 'the show must go on'!
And hence, the reason for this blog : )