Sunday, February 12, 2012

Misadventures in the Red Stick

On Thursday I needed to travel to Baton Rouge for a meeting. This requires four buses and then a ride to the meeting place once I arrived in BR. The first bus picked me up at my house around 9 am. I was dropped off at the public library where I waited to take the bus to Baton Rouge.

I read email and texted. A Deaf friend of mine saw me waiting and came over to chat. Apparently the supervisor for the bus had been trying to talk to me and didn't know I was deaf so my friend's friend who was hearing came over and through a series of he said/she said/he said kind of translations, the supervisor told me that the bus was coming at 10:50. I would have gotten out my gizmo for face-to-face communications but I didn't know someone was trying to talk to me.

I got on the bus and amused myself for the two-hour long ride. Eventually I ended up at the station in Baton Rouge and walked around until I could find someone to show me to the rest room.

When I got out, my ride was there to take me to the building where the meeting was. We arrived and I met my interpreters. The meeting was three hours long, and after about two hours my arms were hurting and I needed a little break. I was a bit embarrassed to ask for one but I did anyway. Everyone got up to take a break and I asked my interpreters to show me where the bathroom was.

I should probably back up and say that interpreting for deafblind people is different than for sighted deaf. With deafblind interpreting, there is a lot more describing of the environment that goes on in addition to just straight interpreting. For example, before a meeting starts, an interpreter for a deafblind person describes the room, how it is laid out, who is doing what, any identifying characteristics of people. There were a couple wheelchair users at this particular meeting so my interpreters told me about that. This way I'd have a better idea that those people would be taking up space differently than a person who doesn't use a wheelchair.

So I had my SSP guide me to the restroom. We reach the door, and I step inside and turn around to ask my interpreter to explain to me how the restroom was laid out; e.g. where was the toilet, soap dispenser, paper towels and sink. Obviously, a bathroom is not the kind of place you want to explore tactually! Ewww! Only when I turned around to ask, my interpreter wasn't there. I stepped back out of the bathroom, and asked someone to explain the bathroom lay-out to me, but the person wasn't my interpreter. However, she did kindly fetch my interpreter who explained where everything was. I joked about getting lost and never coming out again.

Eventually!!! PAH!!! The meeting was over, back to the bus station, only this time the transfer to the bus didn't go smoothly. The bus driver demanded "an identification card for the dog." However under federal law, a business owner or employee may not demand such identification as a condition of access. The person may ask if I am a person with a disability, if my dog is a service dog, and what tasks my dog does to mitigate my disability/s. This driver did not ask those questions, however. He kept insisting on identification. I told him that I'd call the police and press charges. Denial of access to a person with a disability accompanied by an assistance dog is a class-C misdemeanor in the state of Louisiana which is punishable by a fine and/or jail time. The bus driver yelled, and told me that it was his bus and he didn't have to obey the law because his only rules were that of the bus company. I asked if he'd care to place a wager on that. He yelled some more and told me that people would be afraid of my dog (who was being very threatening and fear-inducing by standing next to me calmly doing counterbalance work while I held her handle) The driver then called his supervisor. To his surprise, the supervisor made him let me on the bus.

The driver then told me that if anyone was afraid of my dog that he would park the bus and refuse to move and that I would make everyone late and that he would announce to the bus at large that we were not moving because I refused to remove my dog from the bus and that the dog was causing fear amongst the other passengers.

Too bad for him, nobody was afraid of the dog and she lay under my seat while I read email and blogs for the ride home. Once again I was dropped off at my public library and waited for the last bus of the day to take me home. It was over an hour late, and it was ten p.m. when I finally walked through the front door. I was gone again the next day by seven-thirty am.

I'm glad I don't have meetings like this often!

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