I’m an holistic practitioner and I’m also deaf. But are mainstream holistic, mind body spirit events truly accessible to the deaf community?
My answer is… No.
Like most situations in life, if I want to access something I have to go out my way to ask for what it is I need. And I had a taste of poor accessibility recently when I visited the Mind Body Spirit (MBS) exhibition in Birmingham.
Now, if you’re deaf and attending this event you can purchase a concessionary ticket. This means you get two quid knocked off to make up for the hundreds of stall holders that you can’t understand and the free stage performances that you can’t follow.
Not such a great deal.
But I went with it. ‘Cause I know most stall holders will generally try and speak more clearly to me if I ask and to be honest I just really, really wanted to go anyway. It’s my kinda world.
So this year I decided to gather a group of friends together and see if the organisers would provide an interpreter for us to attend a workshop. The great news is they did! The interpreter came and our seats were reserved… Perfect. Big high five to the MBS organisers.
But we soon realised that the so called ‘up and coming workshop leader, known for his sense of fun and rock and roll energy’ was simply not interested in being deaf friendly. At all.
To clarify, the guy was supposed to be teaching a workshop on strengthening our connection to Angels. Sounds amazing right? Well, that’s why we went – we were curious!
But it actually turned out to be a 2 hour – no eye break – talk all about his life.
He mentioned his website, his dvd coming out and his video blogs. And naturally I wanted to know if we could access them. So at the end when he asked if there were questions and there was a pretty awkward silence (probably from an unconvinced audience,) I put this question across to him.
“Seeing as you have videos and material online, are you able to caption these so we can follow and share them with the deaf community too?”
His response: “Erm. I’ll have to research it. Okay everybody we’ve finished.”
Boom. Talk about a door slamming in my face.
Without even entering a dialogue with us, this guy had dismissed the idea of even opening up to a whole new audience.
But as he wasn’t even able to discuss accessibility with us, we doubt it’ll even get ‘researched.’
The interpreter went on to tell us that the leader would not cooperate with her before the workshop, refusing to give her any background information for the session.
He didn’t understand she needed some context to base her signs on and he told her “if these deaf people know about spirituality they will understand me.” Hmm.
Needless to say we left the workshop feeling rather disheartened. His lack of authenticity as a workshop leader is another story but our deal is with his refusal to consider adapting his work.
So – Ive got in touch with his publisher, Hayhouse, and I’m waiting to hear whether they will support the mission to make the holistic world more accessible.
All they need to do is encourage their writers and leaders to caption their videos! Sign language videos would be the next step but first things first.
There are 10 million people in the UK with some kind of hearing loss – that’s a huge market and a massive demand.
But making events like MBS accessible is a bit tricky. Unless there’s masses of deaf people making themselves known, access won’t ever be a priority. And unless they provide access, they won’t ever attract a large deaf audience.
So I made a petition. I’m petitioning to Hayhouse, the leading publisher in all things holistic and asking them to work with us.
The ironic thing is the holistic model focuses on the whole body mind and spirit for healing… But holistic practitioners don’t always welcome the whole community – as Mr Workshop Leader demonstrated.
I know there’s more open minded teachers out there and all we need is one leader or one publisher to commit to including us.
If they can translate your books into 52 languages why not include a local community that can also benefit from your work?
Yoga, meditation, crystals, nutrition, reflexology… The holistic options are endless. But they’re only options to us if we can access them.
I’ll keep you updated on any developments so keep your eye on my social media pages and watch this space!
In the meantime you can sign and share the petition here.
Thanks for your support.