(photo showing sculpture of the sign “relationship/connect”)
As my Crossroads readers know, this blog is my attempt to merge my identity as a Deaf person with my Pagan spirituality.
Some of my posts focus on Deaf issues, some of my posts focus on Pagan issues.
And some of them focus on both.
That merger of Deafhood and Paganism has its trials and tribulations. As I stated in a post I wrote a few years ago:
When I go into the Pagan Community, I am often the only Deaf person there…and understandably my perspectives on Paganism are going to be colored by my identity as a Deaf person – to the point where I have actually gotten accused by other Pagans of being “too Deaf” and trying to cram the whole Deafhood thing down everyone’s throat.
Then I move over to the Deaf Community, where I tend to view things from a Pagan perspective – after all, I have been a practicing Pagan for 25+ years and it is more than just a religion, it becomes my whole philosophy and lifestyle – and what happens? I get accused of being “too Pagan”…of trying to promote the Pagan religion, and cram Witchcraft down everyone’s throat. Or even worse, I get shunned by other Deaf folks, who view my beliefs as an indication of “devil worship.”
So what’s a Deaf Pagan like me supposed to do? Where do we fit in? How do we find our place in the world?
It’s not easy.
And it’s not made any easier by the lack of access that Deaf Pagans often have when they wish to attend Pagan events – presentations, rituals, workshops, conferences, gatherings and the like. Oftentimes interpreters are not provided for such events, and when we attempt to request such the response often is not positive. Various explanations are given for the lack of access: “we don’t provide that kind of service,” “we don’t have the funds to pay for interpreters,” “our event is staffed entirely by volunteers and it would not be appropriate for us to pay for someone to sign for you,” and last but not least – “you should be taking care of your own needs and bringing your own assistant to sign for you.”
I realize that most Pagan organizations know little if anything about the Deaf Community, and thus such responses are often the result of ignorance and misunderstanding.
Thus I have been thrust into the role of educator and advocate – teaching the Pagan Community about Deaf Culture while at the same time advocating for Equal Communication Access.
I accept this role willingly, but it does come with its challenges. Being an advocate means sticking your neck out and risking the not-so-pleasant response you might get from others.
I am currently involved in an exchange of emails with a Pagan organization that puts on an annual event I wish to attend. In spite of my best efforts, they have been resistant to the idea of establishing interpreting services for such.
The most recent email I received from them left me quite concerned about their true understanding of the issues of which we were discussing.
Comments made by other Pagans related to this subject leads me to suspect that this organization is not alone in its lack of knowledge and comprehension of Deaf Culture, Equal Communication Access, Interpreting, Advocacy, the Americans with Disabilities Act, etc.
So I’ve decided to use this experience as an opportunity to educate the Pagan Community, and use Deaf Pagan Crossroads as the medium for doing so.
I have posted in its entirety the most recent communication which I have sent to this organization, sharing my thoughts and feelings in regards to the whole communication access issue.
I confess that this email was rather lengthy, so I have broken it down into five parts so you can read each issue in a separate post. I encourage you to read all five posts so that you can get the full picture and thus a better sense of where both parties are coming from.
Individual names as well as the name of the event and its hosting organization have been removed, and will not be shared. I see no point in such identification. Who, what and where is irrelevant. The point is to read it, to think about it, and to learn from it.
And perhaps even apply it to your own Pagan organization.
To begin reading this Pagan Deaf Accessibility Letter, please click on the below link to go to Part One. From there, you will be given links for the next part.