Tyler Perry not Responsible for Theatre Incompetence Says Letter

Letter to Rochester Broadway Theatre League


I just watched the Facebook video that Earl Terry made after he left your theater in tears.

Congratulations, you made a grown man cry. You must be so proud.

I've encouraged Mr. Terry to file a discrimination complaint with the state Division of Human Rights. I hope he will follow through. Seriously, why do you have such a hard time providing accommodations for deaf and hard-of-hearing people?

Actually, I already know the answer to that. It's because you won't let any of us in. You don't know about these issues and yet you don't want to hear from those of us who do.

Is it really that difficult to understand that deaf people need to SEE the interpreter? Is it that hard for you to understand the difference between lightness and dark?

This story is being framed with Tyler Perry as the villain, but it's really 100% your own fault.

You need to stop giving performers the opportunity to circumvent the accessibility laws that protect disabled people's rights.

You would never allow a performer to block the fire exits or exceed the theater capacity. THOSE laws you comply with. But when it comes to OUR laws, you think they are disposable. The performer says "no" and that's that. But going along with their edict just makes you culpable if someone files a discrimination complaint. The performer will be long gone and the onus will be on you.

You did the same thing when I wanted captioning at a show, saying you had to ask the performer for permission. Do you ask their permission to let the hearing people hear the show? No. Then stop asking their permission for people with hearing loss to enjoy the shows through interpreting and captioning.

Mr. Terry wrote about your staff running around during the show trying to solve the problem. Ridiculous!!! You need to figure these things out in advance and stop acting like some amateur community theater.

You need a dedicated spot where the interpreters will be located, not on the stage but down on the floor and raised slightly on a platform. THEY NEED A LIGHT ON THEM! And the deaf audience members need to be able to see them without a lot of visual distractions in between (i.e. rows of other people).

It is so frustrating the way these problems never get solved.

Tom Willard

Tom Willard was a longtime journalist in the deaf community who started doing standup comedy in the hearing world three years ago. This new career has given him new insight into the lack of accessibility for people. Willard currently has a discrimination complaint underway against a local comedy club for failure to provide adequate ASL interpreting or captioning. Re: the former, they hire an old friend instead of getting topnotch interpreters, and re: the latter, they rely on the Ava voice recognition app instead of doing it right with transcribers involved. He says he is looking forward to a trial and court ruling on this matter. This issue is, who gets to decide if the accommodations are adequate, the venue or the deaf consumer?