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October 19, 2004

Late Night fouls out for disabled

From: University Daily Kansan, KS - Oct 19, 2004

By Tara Schupner Regular columnist

On Friday, I went to Late Night in the Phog expecting a good time, but got a bitter lesson in the inadequacy of accessibility for deaf people at KU athletic events.

My roommate and I, both deaf, were given lousy accommodations and expected to accept it and enjoy the show.

I actually wish I didn't go. As a diehard KU basketball fan, that's saying a lot.

Disability access on campus is like a basketball game. It requires teamwork. And Friday night, there was none. The Office of Services for Students With Disabilities asked the KU Athletics Department for reserved seating so deaf attendees could see both the interpreters and the court. They asked for scripts. Then they passed the ball to the department. But they didn't follow up.

Then the Athletics Department screwed up too.

Foul one: Reserved seating location.

The department chose the worst possible location for our seats — in a corner, behind some rails. This creates an impossible scenario for interpreter placement. If the interpreter stands at the appropriate distance, he is bumped and blocked by people entering and leaving. If he stands on the bleachers in front of us, as one Athletics Department employee suggested, we get a crick in our necks and can't see the action on-court through the interpreter.

After we went to the events management office and complained, they moved us over one section, to the front row. It was no better. Because it was right next to the entrance, people kept filing in front of the interpreter, creating intolerable amounts of visual "static." One department employee actually stood right smack between me and the interpreter.

The only place for the interpreter was out of my line of vision with the court. I had to look back and forth 90 degrees, missing half of what the interpreter was signing and half of the activity on-court.

If I had known earlier where the reserved seats were, I would have sat with other students for a better view of the court. But I shouldn't have to choose between decent seats and seeing the interpreter.

Foul two: Seat labeling.

The Athletics Department labeled our seats, "Hearing-Impaired Seating." Big politically incorrect, no-no. I'm not impaired. I'm just deaf.

Foul three: No script.

The Athletics Department did not provide the interpreters with a script for the evening's performances. Interpreters need to know the order of events, people's names, words to music and any other transcript they can get in order to do the best job they can. Not everyone can spell Moulaye Niang cold.

Foul four: Sound system.

Because of the echo effect in Allen Fieldhouse, even if the audience is quiet, the interpreter cannot make out some words. The SSD office needs to make sure the Athletics Department provides the interpreter with headphones with direct audio feed.

Foul five: Lighting.

When the lights went down in Allen, there was no spotlight or lighting on the interpreter. Just because deaf people can't hear doesn't mean we can see in the dark. Even if the lights were only dim, we couldn't see the interpreter with the flash bulbs popping around him.

The departments foul out of the game!

If our men's basketball team had played as poorly as the departments did Friday, KU fans would run them out of town like former player David Padgett.

Deaf Jayhawk fans shouldn't be excluded from athletic events because of inadequate accessibility. The departments have considerable work to do to avoid fouling out again.

n Schupner is a Lenexa senior in journalism and English. She is deaf.

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