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Going to the Theatre
A flurry of activity in the 1990s resulted in making the arts more accessible to theater lovers everywhere, making the best uses of the ADA. Removing physical and communication barriers literally expands the arts and makes enjoying them safer for everybody.
Now you can count on at least basic access to entrances, exits, parking, restrooms, drinking fountains—even seating with an unobstructed line of vision. Public accommodations (Title III of the ADA) cannot deny services to people with disabilities, participation in programs or activities which are available to people without disabilities. (Click here for more information on the ADA.)
Of course, some places comply with more finesse than others — and those will be the ones we'll continue to patronize!
Playhouses and concert halls with 50 or more seats must provide assistive listening devices (ALDs) to patrons. Many people will find an assistive listening device really helps them enjoy the program, especially a device that works well with a hearing aid. The types and quality of hearing devices offered will greatly vary, so always call ahead. Also, arrive a bit early to make sure the device you'll be using is functioning adequately. If it isn't, request personnel to provide one that is.
So what do you do if your local theater is not accessible - advocate! Speak with theater organizations and groups in your own part of the world to facilitate equal access and enjoyment of the arts. Possibly one already exists that you don't know about! Remember, the creation of an access group is possible. It just requires someone to make the time to initiate a forum for planning. Accessible theater is a win-win situation for patrons with disabilities, as well as theater owners who want to gain a larger clientele. Start with your city or state arts council to locate theater groups that would be proactive enough to participate.
If in general, you're looking for a resourceful, proactive organization dealing in deaf and hard-of-hearing issues, consider a membership with Hearing Loss Association of America. Their website contains valuable information on current news and events, assistive technology and links to all types of disability-related websites.
For compliance with the ADA, a theater owner must provide an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter to anyone requesting one, free of charge. Just make arrangements in advance with theater management.
Many theater companies make it a point to schedule at least one signed performance. If there's a production you're interested in, call to find out if a signed performance is scheduled, or else request one.