On March 19 we had a fun Shed Your Skin festival here at SSC. Adult students, faculty and staff members were invited to get up and perform something outside of their comfort zone. It was tons of fun watching vocalists tap dance, singers play bass guitar, and pianists do standup comedy in front of a very supportive audience. It was a great eye-opening night for many reasons.
After the concert, one of our audience members shared her personal story about living with hearing loss in a cultural society. She chose to come to our concert because she noticed the ACCESS button on our website, and knew she would be welcome. Here’s part of Sandy Spekman’s story:
“Just like people in wheelchairs use ramps, open captioning is my” wheelchair ramp.” Just like a person with mobility issues can’t access a building without a ramp, I can’t access most cultural events without some kind of accommodation. I’ve noticed that cultural organizations favor mobility issues over hearing accessibility. Why is one accessibility feature (for mobility issues) favored over hearing accessibility? Just because hearing loss is invisible does not mean it should be ignored. Why is one part of the population left out but another is welcomed? You would never say to a person in a wheelchair that you can’t go into my facility. Yet, someone deaf or hard of hearing doesn’t have the same access.
I have become an advocate for people with hearing loss. I am used to going to an organization’s website and looking up what kind of accessibility features they offer. When I went to the SSC website, I saw right away that you had an Access tab on the home page. Although that there wasn’t much information that is useful to those who are deaf or hard of hearing, I did learn who to contact to learn about what accommodations you could make available for me.
When I arrived at the Shed Your Skin concert on Saturday night, March 19, Beth MacLeod-Largent (SSC Director of Performance) handed me some sheets of paper with some song lyrics written out. I was able to follow along with the lyrics as the performers sang. Hearing people take this all for granted! I can’t tell you what a joy it was to be able to laugh along at the humor in the songs, just like everyone else. For me, usually, when I’m listening to a song, it’s as if it’s being sung in a different language. I know that someone is singing, but I can’t understand the words being sung. It was so wonderful to have those lyrics in front of me so that I could participate just like everyone else.
Thank you for welcoming me and for making the concert accessible. I had a great time.”
We still have a way to go to make ourselves 100% accessible, and we are actively working on this initiative. Stories such as this help us understand the importance of making ourselves welcoming to all.