Finding Pagan Events which are accessible for Deaf and Hard of Hearing attendees is indeed a challenge. Most Pagan Organizations operate on a shoestring budget, and must rely on volunteers to plan, coordinate, and run their events. They often don’t have the budget to pay for interpreting services, and finding individuals willing to provide such for free can be a challenge. There are some interpreters out there who are willing to donate their services, but these can be far and few between…and understandably, those services will likely be limited. It’s not realistic to expect one interpreter to give up an entire weekend to interpret solo for a conference or gathering – and to do so for free.
Part of the problem is that it becomes a “Catch-22″ situation – because no Deaf Pagans come forward and request that interpreters be provided, these Pagan Organizations don’t think about setting up such services…or about creating a budget to pay for such services. And because no interpreting services are provided, Deaf Pagans don’t show up for such events.
We as Deaf Pagans need to take responsibility to come out of the broom closet and start requesting that these events be made accessible so that we can participate. It is only by doing so that the Pagan Community will begin to realize that there ***ARE*** Deaf Pagans out there, and they ***DO*** want to be involved in these events.
Be aware that you will likely have to do A LOT of educating, and advocating, and probably a lot of the work in actually getting the services set up. The harsh reality is that most Pagans know very little about Deaf Culture and Deaf Services, and are going to need you to teach them what is necessary – be it interpreters, CART services, or whatever. They will likely complain about the cost…and try to convince you that there is no money in their budget, and since “everyone else who works with our event is a volunteer, why should we be expected to have to pay for interpreters? They should volunteer their time just like everyone else!!!” It’s hard to get these individuals to understand that interpreters are often self-employed contractors who must make their livelihood from their skills, and while it would be nice if they could occasionally do offer such services “pro bono,” it cannot be expected that they are always available to do so.
However, there are some events that I am aware of that have provided interpreters in the past. Whether they still do or not I am uncertain, as I have not attended either of these events in the last few years. I only know that they ARE experienced in having provided interpreters in the past, have advertised themselves as doing so, and may be more willing to accomodate Deaf participants.
Ecumenicon in the DC/MD area holds an annual conference that has provided interpreters in the past. Their chairperson knows sign language himself, and is committed to making the conference accessible, and there have been Deaf attendees in past years. I myself have attended this conference several times, and have enjoyed it. There are many different workshops that one can attend on a variety of different topics related to spirituality…not all focus on Paganism, but many of the attendees are Pagan or Pagan-Friendly. The 2007 conference is scheduled to take place April 19 – 22 in Baltimore. For more information, check their website at www.ecumenicon.org
Heartland Pagan Festival is an annual event that takes place in Kansas at Camp Gaea – a Pagan owned and operated camp about 45 minutes outside of Kansas City. This event has been taking place for over 20 years, and occurs during Memorial Day weekend in May. It attracts a large crowd…over 1000 attendees. It’s an outdoor event, and there is very limited cabin space, so I recommend bringing your tents and preparing to “rough it” for a few days. It is a nice camp with hot showers and flush toilets available, but there is no electricity, etc. for campsites. There’s music (which in the past has been interpreted), guest speakers (often nationally known leaders in the Craft), various workshops, and many vendors setting up booths selling various items. In the past, Heartland has had two certified interpreters available who were both quite skilled, and were paid for their services. However, I know that in the last few years no Deaf individuals have attended (I haven’t been able to go due to lack of funds or conflicts), and I don’t know if they still are offering this service. I think if you were to contact them and indicate that you would like to attend and need interpreters, they would be willing to provide such. Their next festival is scheduled for May 24 – 28, 2007. For more information, check their website at http://kchsa.org I used to live in Kansas City and played a role in helping to get these services set up, so if you mention that you were referred to them by “Ocean, the Deaf Witch” they will know who you are talking about.
These are the two that I personally am aware of. There may be others that I don’t know about. I know there are groups that have told me they would be willing to at least attempt to provide interpreting services if such are requested – but how successful they would be at doing so is questionable (I suspect it depends on their ability to find a “volunteer” willing to provide such).
Again…the bottom line is that it depends on US. We need to come out of the broom closet and indicate our desire to participate in these events – conferences, workshops, gatherings, public rituals, etc. We need to educate the Pagan Community on how to make these events accessible. And we need to ATTEND these events. It makes me sad that Heartland Pagan Festival has set aside the funds to provide interpreters for the past couple of years, and no Deaf Pagans have taken advantage of such.
This has to change, or we will find Pagan Organizations will stop making the effort. Then whose fault will that be???
If you know of other Pagan Events that have provided interpreters and/or other accomodations for Deaf participants in the past, or are willing to do so…please comment below! I’d like to see a list of such events made available for all Deaf Pagans.
If you are a Sign Language Interpreter who would be willing to provide interpreting services for Deaf individuals to attend these types of events, please make a comment below! Not to brag, but I am nationally-known as the “Deaf Witch” and I do occasionally get emails from Pagan Groups asking if I know of any interpreters in their areas who might be willing to provide services for their events.