Sunday, January 02, 2000

Two readers write of help received

Enquirer contributor

        Here are two letters, recently received from readers, containing positive perspectives to kick off the New Year.

        Dear Ms. Kendrick,

        After reading your article in today's paper (Oct. 31), I was very touched. I have a 10-year-old daughter who, at 2 years of age, started to progressively lose her hearing. She received a cochlear implant on Aug. 10, 1999. Her surgery was done at Christ Hospital in Cincinnati.

        The processor that she wears is very new and is worn behind the ear just like a hearing aid. She goes to public school with an interpreter. She is in music, plays the drum in band, and she is also a basketball player. She has never been shut out from anything when I could help it.

        With her implant, my daughter now talks on the phone. We have not yet gotten the chance to meet anyone else who has had the surgery, and we would like to offer to meet with anyone in this area who is struggling with the decision to have this surgery done.

        Tracey has a dream of going to Australia to meet the scientist who invented the cochlear implant and made it possible for her to hear. Although I haven't yet read Beverly Biderman's book Wired for Sound, I plan to go out and buy a copy today. Thanks for writing about it.

        — Robin Bennington, Winchester, Ohio

        Dear Ms. Kendrick,

        I'd like to pass along to you a “good news” story concerning accessibility at Firstar Center.

        Last fall I ordered tickets through Ticketmaster Online to the Neil Diamond concert to be held on Dec. 7. I filled in the information necessary to be assigned wheelchair accessible seating (I have multiple sclerosis).

        When the ticket confirmation was transmitted, I received the information that the seats were not accessible. I contacted Ticketmaster by phone.

        The agent I spoke with tried to be helpful, but the information available to her indicated that fire regulations prohibited the presence of wheelchairs in the venue except in one designated area; I would not be able to enter the arena in a wheelchair without buying a ticket for that area.

        I would also have to buy an additional ticket if I wanted to store my wheelchair and go to a regular seat on crutches.

        Sometime later I wrote an e-mail letter to Firstar Center, describing the experience to date, and asking if any resolution was available.

        I was promptly contacted by Jenny Cahourn from Firstar Center. She informed me that Ticketmaster's computers for online ordering are not set up to assign accessible seating, nor do they pass along the necessary information for obtaining special accommodations. She said that they're willing to do anything to accommodate disabled persons, and she went out of her way to prove it.

        She exchanged my tickets for seats in the front row. She arranged for me to store my wheelchair in the hockey penalty boxes just in front of the seats.

        On the night of the concert, Jenny came to our seats to make sure that my companion and I had gotten into the arena with no problem. During the concert, a security guard “hovered” near our seats. It was only as I left my seat after the concert that I realized he was there to assist me in case I had to retrieve my wheelchair.

        The concert was spectacular, and I was impressed with and grateful for the attentiveness of the Firstar staff.

        The irony of this is that the original seats assigned by Ticketmaster were, in fact, also accessible, but that information wasn't available to their agents.

        I wonder how many people like myself might have not attended events at Firstar Center because they believed that accessible seating was not available. The only lack of accessibility was in the information that Ticketmaster issued.

        — Judy Nichols, via e-mail

        Cincinnati writer Deborah Kendrick is a nationally recognized advocate for people with disabilities. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, Tempo, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202.


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