Success Stories – A Family’s Right

Steven’s Story

An American Sign Language Interpretation by Jeff Pollock (Text transcript below)


Last spring, Steven Dearinger made plans to attended his daughter’s elementary school performance of The Little Mermaid. His daughter has big dreams of being an actress someday. Her roles of a butterfly and a princess in the show were an opportunity to cast aside her tomboy nature and stretch her acting skills. Steven’s native language is American Sign Language.

Steven and his wife had made three separate requests for ASL interpretation for the production and were denied each time. Finally, they contacted the Disability Law Center for help. We wrote a letter thoroughly outlining the laws that require an interpreter to be provided. With an explanation of the laws in front of them, we felt confident the school district would comply. However, the district again denied the request. The school only provided a seat in the corner and the option to try and follow along using a flashlight and script.

Having given the district every opportunity to abide by the law, Steven and Ann agreed with the Disability Law Center’s assessment that further action was warranted. DLC Attorney, Aaron Kinikini filed a complain with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) on Steven’s behalf. Once OCR began investigating the matter, the district decided to take voluntary steps to ensure its compliance with the law. OCR entered an agreement with the district that involves monitoring their implementation of accommodations such as ensuring that interpreters.

Steven can now feel confident that he will be able to watch every moment of his daughter’s future performances and understand the dialogue at the same time. A right he deserves and is entitled to, not one of privilege. We at the DLC concur with Mr. Kinikini’s comments. His closing letter to Steven states, “We are pleased that we could facilitate a policy change that will benefit not just your family, but all deaf individuals who have friends, neighbors and family within the School District.”

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