The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that interpreters be provided when requested. However, this doesn't always happen. We get a lot of crap from the venues when we request interpreters. Each show is a battle. Most of the time, we are able to get one... however, the interpreter is often someone hired from a local agency who has never heard of the Grateful Dead, much less heard their music. OR, the interpreter is someone who loves the Dead but isn't a fluent signer. OR, the interpreter is an amazing interpreter but doesn't know the lyrics.
An analogy I sometimes use to try and explain this is this: it would be like you showing up for the show and finding out they hired a high school cover band to do the show.
Now... not all Deaf people are the same. There are many different types of communication and preferences in the Deaf community. Some Deaf people are born Deaf, grow up in Deaf families - they sign fast and fluently. Their first language is American Sign Language (very different from English, with a different word order - entirely visual, you can't write down anything in ASL). Others become Deaf later in life, or grow up in hearing families where no one signs. Their first language may be English. Every deaf person is different.
As a result, some people sign English. Some people sign ASL. On top of that, each Deafhead is different. Some people want to know what the song is right away. Others want to try and figure it out by "listening" (watching the interpreter). Some interpreters will tell you the name of the song first, or let the Deafhead figure it out. Some people prefer the lyrics to be interpreted word for word, using Signed English, so that you know exactly what words are being used - but Signed English is not clear for many Deaf people. Other Deaf people prefer a more artistic approach where the interpreters are showing the music and what the song means - literally interpreting it into ASL (American Sign Language). When this happens, the lyrics get lost in the interpretation.
There are only a few interpreters ANYWHERE who are skilled enough to interpret for our boys. Each of them has a very different style, a different approach to communicating the lyrics to us. Each interpreter has their own fan base, basically. Some Deaf people prefer one interpreter, others prefer a different one, and others prefer yet another interpreter.
So, we fight for the interpreters we want. It becomes political and nasty, but we are a loving family, and we try to put differences aside to enjoy the show as best as we can with the limited access we've been given. The East Coast Deafheads and the West Coast Deafheads sometimes don't see eye to eye on who's better.
Venues look for an interpreter who is certified nationally, and say "This person is certified. They are qualified to interpret." Venues don't know or understand what is really needed to interpret the Dead, they are only interested in doing the minimum required by the ADA law.
Even when we do get the interpreters we want, venues often stick us in a corner with no lighting, or have the interpreter across an aisle, with the Deafheads sitting across... and with people walking back and forth in front of us all night long, we're not able to see anything. We'll get "Once ... while ... you ... light ... places ... right..."
OR, some guy trippin' balls will walk up to the interpreter right in the middle of a song and tell her how beautiful her signing is... he'll be standing there with his back to us, blocking us, we can't see the interpreter, we're trying to get him to move, he's patting us on the back and nodding, and continuing to talk to the interpreter.........
OR.... 15 times during the SAME freakin' song - someone will stop the interpreter and ask her "What's the name of this song?" and they WILL NOT leave until they get an answer. They will ask again and again... or they will just walk right up past the ropes or barricade and start looking through the setlist and lyric printouts that the interpreter is using. They see an open space - they just walk through it, not thinking about why there is a rope there blocking them. They'll even move the ropes so that others can walk through too...
Lots of crazy stories - frustrating at the time, but afterwards, you just gotta laugh and let it go... everyone is high and happy. Can't try to explain what's going on to someone who is saying "Hey look! Pretty lights! SHINY!"
So for me (I don't know about other deafheads - I can only speak for myself), it becomes so much more about the family, about the tribe, than it is about the music. Less than half the time, we have decent access to the words. So for me, it's about the vibe. It's about running to the twirl zone as soon as the opening notes start. It's about the love of our family.
Many deafheads, myself included, have good rhythm, we can feel the music, many of us can also hear it somewhat (in varying degrees).
I gotta check your posts to see if I answered everything...
Theo LeSieg wrote:
Grateful DeafHead wrote:
I will be at the Canandaigua show (there may not be an interpreter, need to fight for one),
Wait, forgive my lack of knowledge, but I assumed that interpreters are where they are needed. Who are the powers at be regarding this?
Maybe we can help