Every once in awhile it happens. A simple invitation to dinner and a movie, or out for drinks with a group of friends sends me into a tail spin of self pity. This time it was a play. Normal people- hearing people– enjoy these things. I can’t. After nearly forty years of hearing loss you would think I would have accepted it. Most the time I’m fine. Please. No lectures about the fact that I AM normal. We are ALL normal. Hearing loss is normal. LOSS is normal. What IS normal???
I have a hearing friend, one of the few who has stuck by me while my hearing has dwindled over the past several decades. We’ve raised kids together. Somewhere along the line we started going to the opera together to get away from the kids, and for the past umpteen years we have had season tickets. Now we sometimes take our kids when we go. Because of the visual stimulation of the stage and the fact that most major opera houses offer subtitles, the opera is a unique experience for hard of hearing and deaf people rarely found in live stage.
“Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of dying, he sings”. ~Robert Benchley
Most every opera is performed in a foreign language. It’s a great equalizer. For once everyone else needs the subtitles too! The fact that I can go to the opera– ANY opera– without requesting special accommodations or equipment means the world to me. It makes me feel normal. I don’t have to get there early and drop off my license in exchange for special equipment or remember to pick up my license before leaving. I don’t have to sit in a special spot in order to see the subtitles. I can arrive and sit anywhere. If the subtitles malfunction, I am not the only one complaining about it during intermission.
To be honest, I don’t hear opera music all that well anymore. I have lost most my high tones. If there’s a good tenor or baritone, I’m down with it. A good baritone can make me tremble, but otherwise it’s all about the stage set, costumes, and story. It’s really all I have, and I’m hanging on to it to the bitter end. It’s also a social thing, a tradition to be carried on with a friend. But to be honest, because I have lost most my high tones, if I were to choose a type of music it would have to be rock or country, because both of those genres are heavier on the base where my tones are better.
I only bring that up because it points out the lengths I will go to enjoy a live stage experience.
So last week my friend, I will call her Debbie, sent an email to ask if I would like to see something different for a change. She and a friend were going to a musical at a small theater in Seattle, and she wanted to know if I would like to come. I had seen posters around town for it myself, and had been thinking about it. Heck yeah! I’d love to, I thought. They were open to any day, any performance. They really wanted me to come!
Three of the major theaters in Seattle now offer captioned a few performances with Computer Assisted Realtime Transcription (CART) for every production. I went to the theater website to see if I could find a performance with deaf access. Nothing. I looked at their web page to see what they said about deaf access.
“2011 Season ASL performances
Please contact the Ticket Office for more details”
Apparently there were no plans for ASL performances in the near future, and there was no mention of Computer Assisted Realtime Transcription at all.
I considered emailing to ask for CART, but I knew it would mean a huge fight, and I just really wasn’t up for it this week. Maybe next time. It’s been twenty years since the ADA was signed and we‘re still battling for access. Why? Maybe part of the problem is that people like me are not willing to fight every time we want something. Maybe we need to be more feisty. Maybe I have become lazy, because I have gotten used to the ease of having subtitles at every single opera, every time without having to ask.
Or maybe I’m just tired of being deaf.