The hearing loss advocacy world lost a hero when attorney and superstar disability rights advocate John Waldo passed away on Sunday, September 17, 2023, shortly before his 78th birthday.
John served HLAA-WA as a thoughtful, compassionate board member for many years. Hard-of-hearing himself, he was a champion for hearing access in venues all across the country, including sports venues, hospitals, and workplaces. He co-founded the Washington State Communication Access Project (Wash-CAP) and served as legal counsel for its sister organization, Oregon-CAP.
“John was key in leading the change to get hearing access in Seattle’s cultural spaces, beginning with the Paramount Theater followed by the 5th Avenue Theater. Before he came along, if you had a hearing loss, live theatre usually meant subscribing and purchasing expensive seats close to the front. Even after the captioned shows became available, few people knew about them. We collaborated with John to get the word out so folks could return to the joy of live theater,” said HLAA-WA President Cheri Perazzoli. “His compassion and advocacy made a huge impact on disability rights for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people,” Cheri added.
More recently, John was working with us and other groups to get more open-captioned movie performances here in Washington State. At the HLAA convention in New Orleans this summer, John updated attendees on the efforts to get hearing aids covered under insurance, explaining the complicated legal reasoning behind it. He was instrumental in passing many laws and policies to help people with hearing loss all over the country, including our recent victories here in Washington State for hearing aid insurance coverage. One of John’s many gifts was the ability to explain legal issues in terms everyday people could understand–and then use that thinking in their advocacy for themselves and others.
“As a member of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association, John shared his expertise with peers and mentees and participated in collaborative efforts on increasing accessibility for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals nationwide. John was an active member of the Association for Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA), and chaired the Advocacy Committee. John was renowned among ALDA members not only for his legal prowess but also for his rendition of ‘Monster Mash’ during the infamous ALDA Karaoke parties.
John’s passing has left a huge hole in the hearts of all of us impacted by his work, which number in the tens of millions. We will continue to carry the torch and benefit from his legacy of compassion and advocacy, ” said David Baldridge, professor of management at Oregon State University and chair of the HLAA Accessible Employment Task Force.
You can join the livestream of his memorial service on October 14, 2023, at 10:00 am Pacific time: Visit Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church (palmerchurch.org). The service will be captioned.
With our deepest admiration and heartfelt gratitude, we will honor and remember John every day as we proudly carry forward his vision for a hearing-friendly, accessible world.