Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Compensation Wanted: Apology and Change

I'm almost to weary to write this post. Having confrontations with managers while maintaining good spirits such as to not up set children and guests - now that's an art. We arrived at the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts to find that our guaranteed disabled seating was not actually guaranteed. That the ballet people rents from the opera people and that the ballet people use a different seat configuration (what?) than does the opera. That I would have to sit alone and apart from the rest of the family.

It was a horrid experience. I paid hundreds of dollars to see Ruby watch the Nutcracker ... that, to me, was the show that was worth all that money ... and I could barely even see her from where I was sitting. Joe, kindly, sat with me so I wouldn't be by myself but we both wanted us all, as a family, to be together as we had so carefully planned. So, of course, I raised a ruckus. This is simply not OK.

I have spent considerable time teaching Ruby that people with disabilities are fully human and fully valued. Now anonymous forces at the Opera House teach her that in the real world, the world outside the cocoon of our relationship - Dave is not valued, not important and it is simply no problem to separate him from his family. They kept making a big deal about me being on the same floor as my party. Firstly, it's my family not my party, secondly it's a huge floor.

At intermission, after having fought back tears of futile outrage for the first half, Ruby came over all overwhelmed with what she was seeing, full of a little girls desire to be a ballerina, Mike talked about the awe on her face at every change of scene. But I didn't see that, I paid to see it, but I didn't see it.

You know what they offered me as compensation for our 'misunderstanding' (I love how businesses always uses the word 'misunderstanding' when there was no misunderstanding at all, the computer still today lists seat AA187 as a removable seat). They offered me a free programme and a CD of the Nutcracker. I'll tell you that I protested without vulgarity or violence but when that was put into my face, I had to turn away just to stay in control. It was such an insulting offer, an offer made that demonstrated a complete lact of understanding or empathy for the crime that had been committed against me. To Wit: When Ruby tells the tale of her first visit to the Nutcracker, I will not be part of that story. An offer to compensate with trifles for removing me from the history of a child that I adore is simply insulting.

But the worst part is I've got to write them. I've got to complain. I've got to dredge up some hope that a single person at that facility gives even the slightest damn about the feelings of a person with a disability. That there is even a the slightest sense of sorrow for ruining for me an experience that I worked for, paid for and looked forward to for several weeks. In the end, I don't think that they do care so I have to make them care, if not care about the experience of one person with a disability in their facility, at least care enough to shut up my complaining voice by an offer to change their practice of selling seats that don't exist, of treating people with disabilities as disposable people who can be plucked from one row and placed in another without consequence or notice.

This I say to the Four Seasons Center for Performing Arts and the National Ballet of Canada:



This begins the discussion.


Kate said...

So sorry to hear that -just terrible the way they treated you.

Teresa said...

Sorry to hear about this but I think a letter to the editor might be in order.

Holly said...

That is horrible. I know Canadians are not as litigious as Americans, but this seriously calls for a civil breach of contract suit. To deny you those moments in Ruby's life is just reprehensible.

My mom is in a wheelchair and my father is deaf. We've given up on live performances. All the venues in Baltimore limit the disability seating to one companion. My mother doesn't sign so my Dad can't sit with her. Which means I have to sit with my mother, husband has to sit with Dad elsewhere. So much for family time together.

Complaining does no good. They have configured the disability seating as such and there are no exceptions. *sigh*

OhWheely . . said...

Oh my . .
This is so similar to my experience and bought back horrid memories. I ALWAYS book by phone now. Then ring back and check again before the day. No consolation to you I know . . .
That letter will be a hard task but I know you can do it.
I'm behind you all the way.

OhWheely . . said...

. . . and I'm furious at your loss.

Manuela said...

I really thought this had changed in the nearly 15 years that have past since I attended many special children performances in various venues in Toronto. It was a constant arguement, having twins, only one of which was disabled. The battle to have me sit with both my children - Even when I would purchase 3 tickets they would insist only 2 could be in the disabled section - I clearly remember asking which 3 or 4 year old I should pick to sit alone in a venue of thousands. It quite often would only get resolved after speaking to managers and threatening legal action over safety and security. This calls for more than a letter. I know how much you were looking forward to sharing this with Ruby and am heartbroken at the outcome. Saddened too that so little has changed in more than a decade.

Daniel525 said...

I'd like to write to them too. Do you have an address? A board member or manager's name?

Your experience is all too commom and the incompetence and indifference is inexcusable and unacceptable.

IMO The only way to improve the situation is to exert some influence from the top down.

Anonymous said...

i would like to write. Can you share the contact information?

Andrea S. said...

I agree with the idea of writing a letter with the aim of (I hope) influencing their policies for the future in how they handle seating for consumers with disabilities.

I'm sorry this was so upsetting. I just wish I could say I was surprised that something like this happened.

One time I went to a performance with a deaf friend who uses a wheelchair. We were both seated in the back row, the only place where the wheelchair would fit in. In theory it was also technically a spot where we could both see the interpreter. But in practice, the interpreter was so far away we could barely read their signs. (Think of it as if you printed something in font too small--large enough that you can tell that it is text and maybe even make out the letters, but small enough that it hurts your eyes to try. That's what it's like trying to watch an interpreter from too far away). We were both disappointed and my friend basically gave up going back to that theater. But this was no where near as upsetting for us as it must have been for you to miss out on watching Ruby watch the performance. For us, there were other performances elsewhere to enjoy. For you, this was a moment that won't come around again, or not in quite the same way.

I know from my own experiences that some non-disabled people can sometimes be rather dense when it comes to grasping why us folk with disabilities sometimes become ornery and less than grateful when they have, after all, did something to make an event or location partially accessible. (What else do we expect? Full accessibility? Equality? Dignity and respect? Real inclusion, not pretend inclusion? How fussy and unreasonable we are!) But you are a very eloquent writer, and eloquence does sometimes break through even the more seemingly impermeable stone walls. (Of course, alas, the operative word here is of course "sometimes") I suggest exercising this eloquence in describing your prior anticipation for having wanted to watch Ruby watch the performance. If any of the walls you encounter have any room for leverage, then that's the crow bar you want to use, or at least one of them.

I hope you will let us know of the results, next actions, etc.

Anonymous said...

I hope it doesn't seem silly, but maybe you could include your two blog entries about this day in your correspondence. The hurt to you and your family (and all of us) might move somebody somewhere.

FridaWrites said...

As a former ballet dancer, I fully understand the import of what you're saying and why you all wanted to sit together, how nothing really can make up for that. Almost every time we go somewhere we're reminded in some way that we don't matter to others, or not enough.

Like Holly, our family has had trouble attending events because we're only allowed one wheelchair seat and one companion seat--but I have two kids. Disability seating needs to be better integrated. We got them to concede eventually for the Police concert--not sure what took them so long since we were the only w/c users in the section--except that they sold some of the seats to ABs, which they're allowed to do after all the disabled seats are sold (we called as soon as the ticket sales opened). My kids couldn't sit by themselves and I couldn't only be attended by my daughter a week postsurgery. I can also never go with groups, such as Scouts or groups of friends--because the wheelchair seating is apart rather than integrated so that there's a couple of wheelchair seats in several bottom rows where a lot of companions could sit nearby. Spacing the seats is no more work. Not doing so is segregation.

Kristin said...

I am so sorry you had that happen Dave. It should NEVER be that way.

In my area of the US, local TV stations have someone on their news team who investigates and helps solve breaches of contract or incidents of piss poor customer services. If you have something like that in your area, you should go public with this.

Again, I am so, so sorry this happened.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure whether to cry or rage.

It's just wrong enraging frustrating disappointing beyond words and so very sad!

Previous experience would lead us to the belief that Dave will find a way to express his emotion, the discrimination, the injustice.

I hope that Dave's family will join him in communication to the ballet, the board, venue staff, etc. so that the concern is not "pooh-poohed" as the "complaints" of "a wheelchair person" by people that clearly don't understand that their discrimination not only affected Dave, but his family, and perhaps entire audience as well.

And what can we do to support your efforts?

This is one surprise everyone could have done without!

Dawn said...

Somewhat off topic (but only a bit), I was just reading another blog that I check up on and I thought you might be interested in seeing some toys I was certainly not aware of. My youngest is 23 so I wouldn't be looking at these anyway but I thought them interesting.


Dave Hingsburger said...

I have just sent off the letter, I will keep all informed. I'm still sick about what happened. Am staying in today - I've actually been a bit traumatized by this.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Oh, and, I have not given out the address for writing. I believe it's better for me to try one on one and then failing that, taking other measures to be heard. Thanks for your offers to write, I'll let you know.

Shan said...

That is really terrible. I don't understand how they could remotely think this was okay. This is a HUGE deal, not some stupid jackass $12 movie ticket.

Anonymous said...

AA 187 *is* a removable seat (or as the web site says "non-fixed"), but that is not the same as a wheelchair seat, as it could still have stairs or a thin aisle to navigate.

I won't argue that the people at the ballet probably handled it poorly and I'm very sorry that it ruined your experience, but their web site doesn't lie.

Julia said...

Sorry to hear about this horrible incident.

Moose said...

I'm so sorry you went through this.

The first time I dealt with this kinda stupidity I went with a friend to a (rock) concert. We had assigned-seat tickets. I was new to the disability world and didn't think to see ahead of time if I'd have an issue.

We got there and I couldn't use the assigned seat. I said something to an usher who, in turn found a manager. The manager found some folding chairs and set them up in the "Wheelchair area" which was as far away from the stage as possible, almost in a corner, and still be in the assigned seating area.

That was insulting enough. Then my "friend" said, "I paid for a regular seat," turned and walked away, and left me in the corner.

Arno said...

I'm so sorry, I sure hope you get this resolved, Dave. I've been through 29 years of stuff like this at concerts, theatre, and festivals with my friends and family --- and my "different" self. It goes to show how far off the radar screen we still are.
Yet, if I was Dave Hingsburger, I could think of no stronger advocate than...Dave Hingsburger. Give 'em hell.

Carrie said...

Wow Dave!! What a horrible experience. I agree that the best part of taking children to see a performance is watching the children themselves! Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

A family experience...perhaps even a new tradition that certainly was not on the thrifty side of the street..was ruined in seconds. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Molly said...

Wow. It is amazing the indignation that sprouts when people with disabilities demand to be treated LIKE PEOPLE. Don't they get it? You're a person! You might roll while I walk but you are a damn human being. This disgusts me. It really does. I'd really like to write to them, to speak to them in a respectful manor, yet inform them in no uncertain terms that this is unacceptable.