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Zephyr | 09:56 UK time, Sunday, 22 July 2007

One of the most notable features of the new Disapedia website is their Etiquette section. There is a Guide to Appropriate Terms, which explains to the able-bodied acceptable terminology to describe us disabled folk. For example:

Acceptable: Disease; illness Unacceptable: Malady. This antiquated, florid term has connotations of affectation and eccentricity which are stigmatizing.

But I like the word malady! I want to be affected and eccentric! Having a malady sounds so much more interesting than a plain old disability or disease. Mah-la-dee. It rolls off the tongue just so. I love Victorian words, they're so melodramatic. But otherwise, it's a superb guide.

There is also How To Talk To A Disabled Person, which thus far explains how to talk to persons in wheelchairs, and people with vision, hearing and speech impairments. You know what I would love to see added? I would love to see a guide to talking to people of unknown mental capacity. Let me explain. In Gimp Camp - yes, that's what I call it - there were a couple of guys in wheelchairs with full-body paralysis who spoke using computers, like Stephen Hawking. However, unlike Hawking, I think they had severe developmental disabilities, but it was hard to tell because I couldn't use regular speech as a gauge. I was never really sure how to communicate with them, beyond "Hi, how are you? Nice day, isn't it?" I'd love to see a guide to communicating with developmentally delayed people, especially those who communicate through computers.

Last, but not least, there is What To Do When You're Holding An Event. I'll have to remember this when I host an upcoming Pagan celebration. Remember when I was bitching about a local Pagan group who seemed to believe that making rituals accessible was the responsibility of PWDs? I decided to step up and show them that a ritual could be fully accessible and inclusive of PWDs, children, the elderly, and folks using public transit. My coven and I are organizing the ritual for Mabon, the harvest festival in September. Now I have to find a fully accessible space that is located in a transit-accessible location.

I also need to figure out what is involved in 'fully accessible'. I know it means wheelchair accessible, with ramps and elevators, and accessible bathrooms. I also know that realistically, I may not be able to accommodate every single accessibility need that exists. A friend of mine send me a list and it's huge! But I want to do my best to at least cover the basic points. Any suggestions from you guys out there? What do you think is a basic accessibility requirement for a semi-public Pagan ritual? Thanks!

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Comments

For Deaf/deaf people, I would look into what it takes to set up interpreters (or possibly "CART"/live captioning services for deaf/hard of hearing people who don't sign, or who prefer to read content in English) WELL IN ADVANCE and make arrangements and budget accordingly. Because these are the kind of arrangements that cannot wait to the last minute or it may not be possible to arrange them at all.

Also, if you're going to make the event accessible to Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing people, make sure all your publicity is very clear on this point. The vast majority of public (and semi-public) events are NOT accessible -- therefore, many (probably most) Deaf/deaf/HOH people act on the assumption that an event isn't accessible unless there is something in the flyer, poster, whatever, to indicate otherwise.

Be specific in the publicity about exactly what accommodations are provided (if sign lang interp, then say so; if CART or live captioning/transcription then say so, etc). Different people will have different needs and preferences -- no single accommodation meant for deaf people will necessarily suit all deaf/Deaf/HOH people equally well. Specific information will help them decide if the accommodations are suitable for them.

Also, make it REALLY EASY for disabled people (with any disability) to contact one of the organizers to discuss accommodation needs. Have a designated contact person and provide that person's contact information in all standard publicity (NOT just publicity targeted at the disability community or the Deaf community etc). Be clear about how much lead time you will likely need to arrange most types of accommodations, particularly for anything out of the ordinary (eg, some deaf people prefer oral interpreters, or even cued speech, though these are not as common as sign language interpreters). One reason to start checking into logistics well into advance is to help you determine how much lead time is necessary.

Ideally, try not to make your deadline a "hard" deadline. Encourage people to contact you at any time up to the start of the event to discuss accommodations -- just be clear that once you get past the deadline it will become increasingly more difficult to accommodate certain needs, which means there may need to be flexibility on both ends in terms of just what kind of accommodation is "acceptable" vs what is "workable." It can be enormously frustrating to learn about an event at the last minute, past the deadline for requesting accommodations, and then feel like I have to miss the event altogether. Sometimes it would be nice to see a note indicating that it's still okay to at least TALK to them about options past the deadline even if they can't promise anything. Because, depending on the event and the resources available, then sometimes it just might be possible to brainstorm some "out of the box" solution -- IF people are willing to talk about it.

Thanks, Andrea. I'm already ahead of you - I posted an announcement today requesting that people contact me if they have special accommodation needs. As far as I know, there are no Deaf folk in this group, but if there are, I need to know soon!

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