Jul. 1, 2015

Collaboration Between Performance Artists, ASL Interpreters, CART & DDBDDHHLD Patrons

One issue I find discouraging is when intersectional performance artists are resistant to sharing scripts/lyrics/poetry/texts with onsite/accessibility coordinators, Performance Art American Sign Language (PA ASL) interpreters, CART(1)/captioners, and intersectional Deaf ASL consultants/advisors to ensure that intersectional Deaf, DeafBlind (2), DeafDisabled, Hard of hearing and Late Deafened (DDBDDHHLD) patrons have quality and meaningful access to their performances. Often, my experience has been that onsite coordinators were not able to obtain them from performance artists and would say, “it’s up to each individual artist.” I can empathize with this as a Queer DeafBlind Disabled Neurodivergent Latinx artist, poet and occasional writer wanting to protect my work from being profited or coopted. Intersectional black, indigenous, people of color are often vulnerable to exploitation of their artistic, literary and performance works due to limited access to legal and financial resources--especially as emerging artists, poets, writers and performers. With this concern in mind, I would like to offer a balance: perhaps creating some kind of individual license user agreement to prevent mass distribution without the authors’/artists’ permission while ensuring quality communication access for DDBDDHHLD patrons. I often have to sign this type of form when obtaining books in PDF formats that are not available on Kindle/EBook.

Without this much needed collaboration, the underlying message is "DDBDDHHLD folks do not deserve quality ASL interpretation and captioning of performances." DDBDDHHLD signers are often left with botched ASL interpretation of performances, feeling worse and excluded. Furthermore, those who rely on CART/captioning services often receive a lot of blanks and inaccuracies on captioning screens. For example, some performance art events include performers with intersectional identities and experiences who infuse their own native words and phrases into their performances. I attended a few such events (not naming here) and the artistic integrity of the performance artists was dreadfully compromised. In these cases, intersectional trilingual/multilingual ASL interpreters and CART/captioners are strongly advised along with preparation materials in advance.(3)

What onsite coordinators fail to realize is that they DO have the power to turn away performance artists if they choose to not collaborate with them and communication access teams to ensure quality performances for ALL patrons (Americans with Disabilities Act, Title III). These PA ASL interpreters and CART/captioning providers do not just ad hoc ASL interpret or caption. If one thinks about it, how long does it take for one to write and rehearse scripts/lyrics/poems/texts? Likewise, in order to maintain artistic integrity of performance artists, singers/musicians, poets, writers, etc., PA ASL interpreters need a few weeks to understand the scripts/lyrics/poems/texts and create accurate ASL renditions with the assistance of intersectional Deaf ASL consultants/advisors. PA ASL interpreters also need to rehearse two weeks before performances begin or at minimum, attend three rehearsals.(4) CART/captioning providers usually need preparation materials a week in advance. Separation of roles of communication access coordinator and overall onsite coordinator would be most ideal to ensure smooth planning of communication access logistics (refer to planning and checklist).(5) Another consideration is applying for art accessibility grants to cover gaps in budget for communication accessibility. (6 & 7)

When performance artists/organizations/businesses choose to not accommodate, they are complicit in ableism, audism and vidaudism. Ableism is the discrimination and oppression of disabled folks in favor of abled folks. Audism is the discrimination and oppression of DDBDDHHLD folks in favor of hearing folks or “of those who behave in the manner of one who hears (Humphries, 1975); the root word comes from the Latin word “audire” (to hear). Vidism is the discrimination and oppression of blind/low vision folks in favor of sighted folks; the root word comes from the Latin word “videre” (to see). Vidaudism/audvidism is a combination of audism and vidism (communication between Rossana Reis, Nai Damato & Kylie Brooks, 9/2013). Deeper examination of one's able, hearing and sight privileges and, respectively--ableism, phonocentrism and ocularcentrism--are needed in order to make meaningful and sustaining changes in the performance arts industry for DDBDDHHLD patrons.


1. Communication Access Realtime Translation

2. "Many deaf-blind people have some useable vision, some usable hearing, or both. A 'deaf-blind' person may be: totally blind and totally deaf, totally blind and hard of hearing, ‘hard of seeing’ and totally deaf, [or] ‘hard of seeing’ and hard of hearing. Most deaf-blind people also experience change in their degree of vision and/or hearing over time." Retrieved from http://seattledbsc.org/q-a/ on 5/30/15.

3. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (2014). Interpreters and Transliterators of Color Member Section. Retrieved from http://www.rid.org/membership/member-sections/itoc-members/; Interpreter Associations. Retrieved from http://www.rid.org/about-interpreting/resources/ on 5/30/15.

4. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (2014). Interpreting for the Performance Arts. Standard Practice Paper. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3DKvZMflFLdd0hnZC1BMjJvTlU/view on 5/30/15.

5. Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (St. Paul, MN) (n.d.). Working with American Sign Language/ English Interpreters in Performing Arts. Retrieved from http://www.mrac.org/sites/default/files/pdf/SignLanguageGuide.pdf (pp. 3-5) on 5/30/15.

6. National Endowment for the Arts. Accessibility [Grant]. Retrieved from http://arts.gov/artistic-fields/accessibility on 5/30/15.

7. California Arts Council. Accessibility Grant. Retrieved from http://www.cac.ca.gov/programs/access.php on 5/30/15.

© Rossana Reis, 2015