Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Do You Think?

Ronnie has a wheelchair basketball tournament coming up in a few weeks. It will be held at one of our local universities, and is sponsored by Sportable, an organization in our area that is committed to providing adaptive sports opportunities for people from age five to age 90.

Ronnie is the only Deaf player on the team. We've spent the last week or so trying to figure out how he will know if the referee blows his whistle, and how the coach can convey play strategy to Ronnie.

I think we have figured out the whistle thing with the help of the women's basketball coach from Gallaudet University. When Ronnie's teammates hear the whistle, they will put their arms in the air thus alerting Ronnie.

But the coaching instructions are a bit more difficult. We have experimented with the coach having a blue tooth headset and communicating via an IPhone dictation app to Ronnie. But, doing it that way is a little cumbersome. The ideal solution would be to have an interpreter.

But interpreters are really expensive.

In the past, we had a volunteer and that worked really well. Unfortunately our volunteer moved away, and I haven't had much luck finding another volunteer. So one of the options we had been exploring was to ask the university where the tournament is being held to provide interpreters for the day.

They declined, saying they felt it was Sportable's responsiblity to provide the interpreters.

Two conflicting opinions have been voiced. One, the interpreting company feels that the university is just as responsible for interpreters as they are for accessible bathrooms, wheelchair ramps, and such. In a very impassioned email on the subject, the head of the interpreting company wrote:

Does this mean that if your child was in a wheelchair they’d put a lock on the handicap-accessible bathroom door? Put gates in front of ramps? Would you have to find a volunteer to carry your child (and wheelchair) into the building? Put a diaper on him (since he wouldn’t be able to get into the bathroom)?

The other opinion says it is indeed Sportable's responsiblity to provide interpreters since they are the ones running the tournament. Unfortunately, Sportable, being a non-profit that has a shoestring budget, cannot afford to do that.

So I am just wondering - whose opinion do you think is correct?


First Lee said...

If Sportable is unable to do it, then somebody else is going to have to do it, and frankly, I don't expect any family to afford an interpreter.

Elspeth said...

I don't agree with what the interpreting company was saying. Their comparison of not providing interpreters to "locking the wheel chair bathroom" is flawed. The comparison would be accurate only if the university had interpreters on staff on the weekend and refused to use them. In this case, it seems like the responsability would fall to Sportable, since as part of their facility investigation, they didn't include Sign Language interpreters. In the case of the university, it was probably chosen by Sportable based on its facilities that supported wheelchair accessibility.

(Even if they had found a place with interpreters, Sportable would still end up footing the bill in some way).

It still sounds frustrating. It seems strange for an organization interested in inclusion to resist including someone who is deaf.

Ashley's Mom said...

Elspeth, Sportable has not refused to fund interpreters, I just prefer not to ask them. Sportable is a wonderful organization, a non-profit, that works on a shoestring budget to provide adaptive sports opportunities to folks who have no other options. Two interpreters for an entire day is very expensive.

But, I agree with you about it not being the university's responsibility and that the interpreting company's logic is slightly flawed.

I did check yesterday afternoon with an attorney from my state's disability protection and advocacy organization, and here was his response:

"in the broadest sense they’re both responsible; however, as the host/sponsor of the event, Sportable is probably most responsible."

I'm still holding out hope that I can find some volunteers. If not, I will do the interpreting myself. It's just that Ronnie doesn't relish the thought of Mom being on the court - you know, that whole teenage boy thing :)

Anonymous said...

I think it's Sportable's responsibility. Their analogy is comparing permanent facilities to services. It would be akin to demanding the university to open up their dining services and provide cooks, because Sportable's participants need to eat. There is a difference between fixtures and people who offer services. Maybe contact the University's interpreting services and see if someone would donate their time for the game.

BTW, at the college where I teach, the interpreters are only on-campus during class hours (M-F), so it's possible the university couldn't just "provide" one at the drop of a hat. I could see our interpreters, though, volunteering their services. They are great folks.

Dalya said...

have you thought about using a drum?? the vibrations would carry through the air! Then one of his friends or siblings could bang the drum, you just work out a set of signals with the coach, ronnie and the drummer!


Bonnie said...

I think it's Sportable's *responsibility*.

I also think that it's clear that carrying out that responsibility would be a big, big burden on them, one that would hamper their ability to properly see to their other responsibilities.

I ended up thinking that it would be really, really gracious of the school to provide the interpretor. That, in fact, doing so would be 'the right thing to do'. The gracious thing, the kind thing, the ultimately responsible thing, the correct thing. Just because a responsibility falls to someone else, it doesn't mean that you can't assume it. In fact, my ethics teach me that if I am better able to do so, it is my responsibility to do so.

End analysis: school should do it. But I just read the next post and boy o boy, those people are clueless.