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Letter: Speak up about discrimination

In March 2011, at the Carroll Arts Center, two women preceded us entering the theater to see the Carroll Players' presentation of "The Amorous Ambassador."

The first woman asked the ticket-taker for an assistive listening device (ALD). The ticket-taker replied that they do not work because the actors do not have microphones. In a louder voice, the second woman told the first: "They don't have any more." The first woman apparently accepted that, took a seat and sat in silence.

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I could have intervened. I had no legal right to complain on her behalf, but I could have encouraged her to file a complaint. I did not.

I hoped she would take action. In my heart I knew that she would not. Less than 1 percent of those with disabilities file such discrimination complaints. I know this. I have had a mobility disability for 66 years and have been an accessibility activist for 35 years.

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We have learned to be ashamed of our disabilities. We are trained not to fuss, to be conciliatory, to accept what others tell us are "minor inconveniences."

This week I described for CCAC Director Sandy Oxx the discrimination I observed. My own age-related hearing loss now requires an ALD. If I experience discrimination at the upcoming Carroll Player's performance, I will file legal complaints with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Maryland State Arts Council (funding agencies) against the Carroll commissioners, CCAC and The Carroll Players.

Oxx responded to my email: "Area mics are in place to capture actors' voices and enable use of assistive listening devices."

I maintain this remedy is not enough. This woman and others denied ALDs are owed public apologies: From the ticket-taker, cavalier about such discrimination; from The Carroll Players for ignoring moral and legal responsibilities; from CCAC for non-compliance; and from the commissioners for failure to ensure pro-active compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (and not simply wait for complaints).

And my apology as well.

I encourage those experiencing discrimination to fuss, to confront, to insist, and never again sit in silence.

Marilynn J. Phillips

Hampstead

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