Sign Language At The Britt Festival

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By Ashley Hall

JACKSONVILLE, Ore. — From the intimate stage setting, to the ability of patrons to bring in picnic baskets and wine, the Britt Festival is much more than a venue for musicians. Some would say it’s “an experience”, and one that people with disabilities don’t want to miss out on.

Attending the Britt Festival is a Southern Oregon tradition and people who are deaf or hard of hearing can be included in the experience. The Britt Fest makes sign language interpreters available for any concert and says the assistance is usually requested several times throughout the season. Saturday night at “Bill Cosby”, at least two patrons took Britt up on the offer.

Though Britt patron Shayna Cason is hard of hearing, she still enjoys the Britt experience.

“I have 50/50 in both ears,” Shayna says. “It’s a little different because I’m always the last person to laugh.”

Shelly clement is one of several of interpreters called upon to assist with concerts and it’s up to Shelly to help guests like Shayna realize the full experience of Britt.

“Most of the time, if it’s music, they know the words,” Shelly says. “But it’s difficult for them to see it, so they’ll look back and forth.”

Every year a handful of Britt attendees request a sign language interpreter, which the Britt Festival pays for.

“[In the] past 5 or 6 years, I’ve done [interpretations] 4, 5, 6 times,” Shelly says.

Even though Shayna is hearing impaired, she thoroughly enjoys multiple Britt shows each season and she isn’t the only one, while a performer can put sarcasm or another emotion into their words, sign language has very limited intonation.

“With sign, luckily you have a lot of facial expression if the performer is funny, they’re going to see it. So, I can add my own expression to match the speakers,” Shelly says.

The Britt Festival is not alone in providing this service. Those NewsWatch12 spoke with say no matter where you are going, or want to go, talk to management about getting the tools you or a loved one needs to have a good time.

“I hope a lot more deaf people with this news can come and enjoy,” says Shayna.

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