Thursday, 18 August 2016

Deaf comedian clashes with comedy club

Deaf comedian Tom Willard advocates for establishments to find an interpreter for his shows. (Source: WROC/CNN)Methinks he doesn't understand what comedians are about, you DON'T lecture your audience or potential employer on rights, that isn't funny. 

If they want awareness they will attend a seminar. 

Tom Willard is a deaf comedian and while he likes to joke around, deaf rights are an issue he takes seriously.

"My next stand-up act is called wheelchair versus deaf and it talks about all the things society does, the parking, the bathrooms and they don’t have to ask. The deaf people have to ask and usually people say no," Willard said.  Some comedy clubs have been immediately accommodating in providing an interpreter, but others like Boulder Coffee, he said, have not.

"They just didn't want to pay for it, they wanted the comics to pay for it. But the law says no, it's the business. You don't make a wheelchair person bring their own ramp, so you don't make a deaf person bring their own interpreter" Willard said.   Steven Modica, a lawyer who deals in disability and discrimination law, said the Americans with Disabilities Act is straightforward when it comes to this issue.

"I think it's pretty clear that a comedy club would be required to provide that as long as there was advanced notice given," Modica said. Willard said he's been asking for an interpreter for Boulder's open mic night since May.

Boulder responded with a statement saying "Following the request, we posted flyers in the cafe and moved forward with a search for volunteers on social media. Our goal was to find a volunteer for our open mic comedy night."

"That's another issue people don't understand is that people go to school for many years to learn their job," Willard said. He said the responsibility of finding and paying an interpreter falls on the establishment and Modica agrees.

He adds that sometimes businesses unfamiliar with the deaf community either don’t understand the law or are afraid of the cost. "This is an example of where people are frightened about the cost and don't always make decisions we'd like them to make," Willard said.

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