Some artists have interpreters that travel with them. Photo: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.

The extra cost to provide the service is miniscule, and helpful to deaf community

Recently in the United States, concert venues have made an effort to ensure that deaf people are able to enjoy the show. Sign language interpreters are now quite common throughout concerts and festivals; you may have even seen the number of viral videos of sign language interpreters at concerts.

In Canada, however, it’s a much different story, and the assistance that concert and festival venues provide is extremely limited. These venues are consistently shutting out deaf people, and Canada must start addressing this problem to end the discrimination against the deaf community.

A woman with a hearing impairment requested a sign language interpreter for one act from the Montreal International Jazz Festival this year, but her request was denied. This denial came even though the federal government provided $2 million for the event, so funds could have been made available.

Canadian concert venues are thriving; the cost of interpreters is minuscule for them, and they would be able to make that money back and then some with all of the deaf people who would be able to attend concerts.

This issue, however, is not limited to free festivals; most organizations across Canada do not offer such services.

This is a simple issue for Canada to address, yet Canadian venues seem to be content with leaving out the deaf community completely. Another woman who requested an interpreter at a Sean Paul concert was told to “just stand there and feel the beat.” Such a response is completely disrespectful and inexcusable. A large portion of Canadian concert venues just do not care about accommodating deaf people.

There is a large population of people in Canada who are deaf and over 350,000 whose first language is some form of sign language.

With numbers like these, the Canadian Association for the Deaf (CAD) should have much more influence in preventing such mistreatment, and they should be able to provide something as simple as sign language interpreters for people at concerts. So why don’t they?

The reason for the unfair treatment and the CAD’s inability to create any change is clear. In Canada there is currently a lack of legislation regarding this issue. Fortunately, this gap in legislation is likely to change very soon, as the nation’s first federal legislation on accessibility will be introduced in the spring.

The proposed laws would outline a plan to reduce the daily struggles of Canadians with disabilities and make basic amenities more accessible. Such legislation is absolutely necessary in Canada and the lack of sign language interpreters clearly demonstrates that by showing how easy it is for concert venues to discriminate against deaf people without receiving any repercussions.

Hopefully such legislation, as well as other efforts, will make the lack of sign language interpreters at concerts a thing of the past, and make Canada a more acceptable environment for deaf people.