Comedy for a Cause celebrates accessibility for all
CHIP/CAPA presents Montreal’s first ever fully accessible comedy show
By Abby Stonehouse
My name is Abby Stonehouse and I’m a stand-up comedian. I also have hearing loss. Being on stage is one of the places where I face the least amount of challenges. When I’m in front of an audience, I have everybody’s attention and I’m the only one speaking! So it’s easy compared to a noisy bar or restaurant, where half the time when I make a joke with friends, it turns out that I misheard them in the first place so the joke makes no sense.
I think this situation is relatable for most people, but imagine being in that setting with earplugs in your ears, so a portion of your hearing is reduced. That’s what it is like for me all the time.
Hearing loss is very misunderstood. For example, I function really well face-to-face. But if you try to talk to me while covering your mouth or from a distance, or even while you’re looking away, there is no way I will hear you. This is why hearing loss is often referred to as the invisible disability. Unless I bring it up, strangers do not automatically know I have this disability.
My hearing loss is at the moderate level, so fortunately I have access to most events that happen in Montreal. But for people with more profound hearing loss, it can be very isolating. Think of how many shows and events you go to that rely on being able to understand somebody speaking – it’s probably most of them. As a comedian with hearing loss, I definitely notice the irony that my shows are not accessible to audience members who are like me in that way.
In November 2018, the government of Canada introduced Bill C-81, an act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. As someone who lives with a disability and works with individuals who face even more challenges than I do, this bill came with a sigh of relief. Disabilities affect so many of us, with an estimated 22% of Canadians 15 years and older having at least one disability. The Bill has had two readings and needs one more before it gets passed to the senate. The Goal is to try to get this passed before the next election.
Here are the objectives for Bill C-81:
- Shift from reactive to proactive, taking the burden off individual Canadians with disabilities in order to address systemic accessibility issues.
- Provide entities under federal jurisdiction with clearly defined standards to achieve and maintain, as well as new requirements to plan and report on results.
- Involvement of Canadians with disabilities is at the core of the new approach.
- Report annually on results to Canadians.
This bill will only impact government facilities, but it’s a major step toward the right direction.
With the idea of a barrier-free Canada and my two passions in mind (and help from the generous people I work with), the idea for a fully accessible comedy show came into being. On May 30, CHIP/CAPA is having Montreal’s first ever fully accessible comedy show, Comedy for a Cause: Accessibility for All.
We wanted to create an event where we can laugh together and not worry about our disabilities; we are helping bring Montreal one step closer to being barrier-free. This event will also help those without any type of disability see what it is like to live in a barrier-free world.
The accessibility measures are closed captioning, T-Loop, full wheelchair access, ASL interpretation and sighted guides for people with low vision. Braille (paper) tickets are also available upon request.
Best of all, proceeds go towards scholarships and bursaries supporting accessibility.
We also have an immensely talented line-up featuring award-winning comedian D.J. Demers of America’s Got Talent and Just For Laughs fame. The evening will be hosted by author and humorist Gael Hannan, and will feature local talents Jon Selig, Serag Meletian, and me, Abby Stonehouse!
This event coincides with Better Hearing Month and National Accessibility Week, as well as the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) Annual Educational Conference and Trade Show. I can think of no better time to have a show like this, come together, support each other, and laugh.
Comedy for a Cause: Accessibility for All
Thursday, May 30 at 8:30 pm
Delta Hotels by Marriott Montreal
475 du Président-Kennedy, Montréal
Abby Stonehouse is a stand up comedian/writer/producer. She performs all over town in between work and her social life, including her performance at OFF JFL 2018. Her storytelling comedy style juxtaposes her hopeful and honest approach to life with the horrific nitty-gritty of reality. Abby is a recent Concordia graduate and Program Coordinator for CHIP/CAPA since July 2018. Abby has moderate hearing loss and has been wearing hearing aid since 2015.