I attended Michelle Obama's "Becoming" book tour at Tacoma Dome along with hundreds of other Deaf, Hard of Hearing, DeafBlind and DeafDisabled audience members. Tacoma Dome had many opportunities to provide a deaf-friendly experience but they dropped the ball big time.
The moment I discovered that they were selling tickets for the event, I immediately contacted customer service to make my ASL request. I did not want to purchase tickets that were nonrefundable and discover that they already had ADA/ASL tickets available. For example, when I attended University of Washington's event with Malala Yousafzai for her book tour, they did not post the ASL tickets online but they had them available for anyone who called or emailed them about it. It's standard procedure for many different locations to have an ASL/OC section so I was surprised to discover that Tacoma Dome did not have anything set up; there was no ASL section and the tickets sold out within minutes.
There was A LOT of communication between TicketMaster Micheal M. and I plus a couple of phone calls. I counted, it was about 40 times or so that we were in contact with each other from December 2018 to March 2019. I'm sure he had a lot of contact with other people as well. At one point, he shared that they were very overwhelmed with all of the ASL requests; they had no idea it would be a big thing. That's when I became a bit nervous because I was concerned that they wouldn't know how to handle this large amount of ASL requests and not have the space for all of us.
They set up 3 different ASL sections and they were very far away from each other. He originally sold me tickets outside of those sections because I was informed that they would be showing the interpreters along with CC on the large screens so we had 2 options in regards of accessibility. Then we were contacted last minute that the touring company wasn't going to broadcast the interpreters and we would have to be relocated if we wanted the interpreters. I ended up having to move back to the cheapest ASL section because we could not afford the two other sections that were closer to the stage.
I emphasized several times that we needed a clear view of the interpreters and with this last minute seat change, he put us in the front of the ASL section since there was no space anywhere else. The interpreters were down on the floor with a floor lamp as their "spotlight". I was in disbelief because this was the best that Tacoma Dome had to offer? Many people had a difficult time seeing them including us even if we were in the front(!). My friend could not read the words on the large screen and I struggled to read them too. There were very bright lights on the stage and it was harsh on our eyes if we were looking at the screen. I wondered how others were able to read/see with being seated further back from our row.
It was a cool experience to be in the same room as Michelle Obama. She had a lot of good things to say (from what we could see/understand). I was delighted to discover that she was funny! However, I was very disappointed with how Tacoma Dome and the touring company handled everything. It is inexcusable because they were in contact with so many of us, they had the opportunity to use deaffriendly's professional service, and they could've placed all of us together near the stage. It bothered me a lot that they split us up into 3 different ASL sections instead of being together and closer to the stage. If you look at other places like 5th Avenue, The Paramount, University of Washington, ACT, etc., everyone is placed together in one section and usually one same (affordable) price. We lucked out with having two amazing interpreters who represented the two speakers very well. However, I really wanted to be able to see Michelle Obama clearly and not have to miss what was being said if I looked away from the interpreters because the CC was challenging to read from where we were seated. I heard from others who were seated further back in the ASL section that they could not see the interpreters and/or read the CC but they tried to make best of the situation. That's terrible, everyone should have equal access to the accommodations.
Tacoma Dome, I sincerely hope that you will learn from this experience and be more willing to make some improvements such as using deaffriendly's services to make sure it's handled more smoothly the next time. I'm hesitant to return back because of this deaf-challenged experience, especially with how so many of us tried to point them in the right direction for a deaf-friendly experience.
I appreciate Tacoma Dome’s attempt to accommodate a large group of Deaf and hard of hearing people to a talk hosted at their venue. However, there were several accessibility failures like the choice of seating for the Deaf and hard of hearing guests. Either the section was too far away where Deaf and hard of hearing people could not read the captions on the broadcast or the interpreters were not on platforms and didn’t have appropriate lighting on them making it hard for Deaf signers to see them. I am only giving them three stars due to their good communication skills during the accommodation request process and choice of qualified performance interpreters. All of the interpreters they hired were very qualified! Tacoma Dome has a long ways to go to perfect their accessibility offerings to Deaf and hard of hearing guests. I hope they will work on making improvements.