Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Vegas, Disabilities and the Hard of Hearing (Like Me!)

The Department of Justice today released information on a settlement with two casinos, the Mandalay Bay in Vegas and the Circus Circus in Mississippi, both now owned by MGM Mirage.

The settlements are exhaustive and the Vegas end of it involves Mandalay paying a $30,000 fine (whoop-de-doo) and enacting a long list of physical alterations to accommodate people in wheelchairs that undoubtedly will be a road map for compliance used by every other property in the city. Accessible rooms must have 32-inch-wide doorways, public bathrooms have to be however wide, they must provide accessible rooms for most every level of room style, etc. The Alain Ducasse eatery Mix was singled out as needing to provide a way for people in wheelchairs to get to upstairs dining areas. You can read it for yourself at this link until May 5.

So here's my complaint: What about those of us with disabilities not related to being unable to walk? In all of this, the only thing that touches on, say, people with hearing loss, is a requirement that they provide visual fire alarms in rooms.

I go to a lot of shows. I estimate fewer than a quarter of theaters on the Strip offer hearing assistive devices for their patrons. Every single cinema and Broadway theater does, but in Vegas, almost nobody bothers when they're spending tens of millions building them to include this convenience for their deaf and hard of hearing audience members. The theater that Rita Rudner was in -- and now Roseanne Barr is chilling in for a time -- at New York-New York was the first I ever saw that actually had signage for it, and I think the Cirque shows may have it which is ironic because you don't have to understand anybody's talking when you see one of them.

What's more, some that do have amplification devices don't advertise it. You have to ask. And then the ushers and box office personnel typically are baffled and don't know whether it's available or not. Nobody's training them. And I'm a young, assertive New Yorker/journalist; most of those looking for such things are elderly and not terribly comfortable even asking in the first place.

I particularly loved this response from an usher at the Gordie Brown show at the Venetian: "No, we don't have that, but it's really loud." It would be funny if I didn't hear this answer almost every time the answer turns out to be "no."

Don't tell me what's loud and what isn't. If I could hear like you, I wouldn't be asking, y'know?


LinFromNJ said...

even my church offers devices for the hearing impaired, and they're making a LOT less $ than those big shows.

Anonymous said...

so you're gay, jewish and handicapped? what a lot in life. yeesh. no wonder.