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What do  we  need  and  how  do  we  go  forward?   Dialogue   a nd   d iscussions   f rom   D eaf    Women   a t   t he     Canadian   D eaf  Women’s  C onference   i n  V ancouver,   B C    Presented by Leanor Vlug at the Deaf Canada Conference 2008  

© Leanor Vlug 2008 Photographs © Donna Russell 2008

Conference Theme:      “Honouring  our  past,  planning  our  future”   Theme  de  la  conference:      

       “Femmes  sourdes:  honorer  notre  passé,  planifer  notre  avenir”  

Goal of  Conference:     To provide leadership to Deaf women throughout Canada by sharing knowledge, developing skills, and empowering them to improve their lives.

180 Women  /  five  days  +  21  workshops  +     2  plenary  speeches  +  11  group  discussions        Freedom      Hopes  

  Do  new  things      Dreams  

 Better life      selves,  family,  and  friends   Conference  meant  MORE…  



One act    life  changed     Her  own  personal  experience     Deaf  woman  in  Seattle  

Determination to  create     Safe  place  in  the  community     Protect  Deaf  women  &  children     Prevent  violence  &  sexual  assault     One  woman’s  dream    vision  for  the   future   Inspired    our  women  to                  learn,  question  and  hope…    


Marilyn Smith     “your  day  to  share...”   ▪  Ideas,  feelings,  needs     Women  to  work  in  small   groups,  with  similar   identities     ▪  Facilitated  by  deaf   women  volunteers     Goal:  to  identify  important   concerns  and  issues,  and   take  the  first  steps  to  a   shared  reality.  




Each group  to  choose  a  recorder   and  a  spokeswoman.   Group  members  to  set  “ground   rules”  for  respectful  &  honest   discussion.   Women  to  record  responses,  and   bring  back  to  the  large  group,   with  their  main  points.   Each  group’s  lists  and  priorities   would  be  collected  to  be  shared  -­‐     Deaf  Women,  community   groups,  provincial  &  national   organizations.  

11 GROUPS:                        

Women 18  to  30   Deaf  First  Nations  Women   Deaf  Lesbians   Deaf  Mothers   Deaf  Women  Senior  Citizens   Deaf  Women  Ages  45  -­‐60   Deaf  Women  Professionals   Deaf  Women  in  Sports   Deaf  Women  with  Extended   Families   Deaf  Women  with  Additional   Disabilities   Non-­‐working  Deaf    Women  

A BIG  TASK    

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Each group  to  answer  a  set  of  8   questions  prepared  by  Marilyn   Smith,  with  Conference   committee  feedback.   Whole  day  to  work   Each  group  to  review  lists  and   choose  their  “top  5”  priorities.   The  11  spokeswomen  would   report  to  the  whole  group     The  information  could  be  used   for  future  conferences  and   organizing.  

The Groups  -­‐  Sharing  




1.  What  has  this  Conference   meant  to  me  so  far?   2.    What  do  we  have  in   common  as  Deaf  Women?   3.    How  are  we  building  a   strong  community  now?   4.    What  do  we  need  that  we   don’t  have?  

5.  What  are  our  strengths?   6.    What  are  the  barriers?   7.    What  will  it  take  to  get   what  we  want  /  need?   8.    What  am  I  personally   willing  and  able  to  do  to   get  what  we  want  /  need?  




Responses   11  groups  =         35  pages  



Many similar  answers   Unique  views    


  Particular groups’  views  



Answers grouped  into   similarities,  differences   noted     Some  quoted  exactly  for   emphasis   7  pages  summarized     Some  details  shared  here  

Full list  and  summary  to  be  made  available     To  be  put  on  website.  

What has  this  Conference  meant  to  me  so  far?    

Safe place  for:  self-­‐growth,  support,  new  experiences,  meeting  new  &  old   friends,  celebrating  sisterhood  and  finding  our  common  interests  and   issues;  learning  and  respecting  our  differences.  


Opportunities for  discovering  new  things:  learning  from  older  &  wiser   women,  sharing  energy  and  ideas  from  younger  ones;  developing   leadership  skills;  gaining  information  at  the  many  workshops.  


Gathering with  Deaf  women  brought  us  out  of  isolation  and  loneliness;   finding  others  with  same  experiences  validate  our  needs,  wants  and  goals.  


Finding inspiration  –  keynote  speaker  Marilyn  Smith  challenged  us;  we   found  spiritual  and  emotional  connections  and  enjoyment,  with  lots  of   laughter.    


Feeling young  again  –  coming  up  with  new  ideas  for  future…  




As DEAF  –  communicate  visually;  similar  experiences;  experience   barriers  /  oppression;  own  Deaf  culture;  communication  easy  and  flowing   when  with  other  Deaf  women.  Like  a  Deaf  family;  more  comfortable   communicating,  sharing,  never  give  up;     As  WOMEN:  we  are  humans  and  have  rights;  have  same  /  similar  spirits;   like  sharing  ideas,  needing  friends  and  support;  are  willing  to  give  /  help.   We  are  caring  and  affectionate  (give  lots  of  hugs).    We  want  respect  from   our  sisters  and  community.   Different  age  groups:     Youth  (ages  18  –  30):  facing  obstacles  &  lack  of  leadership  experience;  finding  

independence and  stability.     Mid-­‐life  women  (ages  45  –  60)  –  “Young  in  Spirit”  with  down  to  earth   approach;  willing  to  share  knowledge  &  experience.     Seniors  (60  plus)  –  feel  like  elders  of  ‘deaf  family’  yet  still  learning  new  things.   Hope  to  see  the  younger  generation  “take  up  the  lead.”  Want  to  keep   independence  but  preparing  for  possible  “less  independence.”    


Different interests  /  lifestyles:     First  Nations  &  Inuit  Deaf  women  sharing  traditions,  learning  their  aboriginal  cultures;       Deaf  Lesbians:  feel  safe  among  “themselves”  and  “not  alone,  comfortable  with  peers.     Deaf  mothers:  single  moms  or  with  partners  –  sharing  experiences,  advice  &  support.     Women  with  extended  families:  Deaf  parents,  children  &  grandchildren,  or  hearing  

family members  with  strong  ethnic  origin  or  cultural  roots,  sharing  is  important.    


Deaf women  with  different  abilities:     Deaf  with  additional  disabilities:  finding  independence  and  self-­‐esteem.     Non-­‐working  women:  for  some,  more  women  want  &  need  to  learn  choices  and  

services there  are  for  them.     Sports  women:  involve  in  sports  for  different  reasons.  Deaf  sportswomen  want  more   recognition  and  support  for  their  efforts.     Deaf  professionals:  feel  the  expectations  to  be  role  models;  have  their  own  needs  for   personal  growth  and  support;  working  in  a  team  provides  opportunities  for  doing   “more”  than  if  alone.  

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Key is  unity  and  teamwork  through  joining  groups  and  committees,  etc.   Working  together  –  advocacy,  fight  for  our  rights,  support  &  accessibility.   Network,  share  information  –  through  “word  of  hands”  formally  and   informally,  by  mail,  TTY,  fax,  videophone  and  use  internet,  via  emails,   websites,  blogs/vlogs.   Learn  from  other  women’s  organizations  (DWU,  DAWN  Canada)  and   services  (ADWAS  &    MSFM  ).   Projects  by  local,  provincial,  national  organizations  (e.g.  CAD’s  Empowering   Deaf  Women  in  Canada,  DWAVE,  Bright  Place  for  Deaf  Women  of  BC)   Deaf  women  involved  in  sports  and  recreation  at  different  levels,  women   who  have  been  mainstream-­‐educated.     Some  becoming  certified  instructors,  coaches  &  referees,  but  still  need   more  recognition.    Produce  &  act  in  a  play  (e.g.  Vagina  Monologues)  to  create  awareness.  

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Canadian Deaf  Women’s  organizations:  local,  provincial/regional  and  national.   Deaf  Women’s  Centres  in  every  province.   Leadership  training  for  Canadian  Deaf  women  /  girls.   Social  /  support  clubs  for  Deaf  women,  including  hobbies  and  health  issues.    Regular  workshops  and  other  education  opportunities  for  Deaf  girls  and  women.   Workshops  specific  to  mothers  /  support  groups.    Inclusion  of  Deaf  women  with  additional  disabilities  –  respect,  support  and   assistance.   Own  Deaf  with  Disabilities  Support  Services  (DSS)    –    inclusion  of  Deaf  women   with  disabilities  in  staff  and  support  roles  (e.g.  not  only  for  Deaf-­‐blind).     End  the  run  around  in  circles  trying  to  get  services,  equipment  or  funding.    Real  employment  opportunities  for  Deaf  with  disabilities  –  hard  to  compete  in   hearing  work-­‐world  and  even  agencies  for  deaf  and  hard  of  hearing  not  believe   they  are  employable.    Many,  many  more  things….  

We are:   •   encouraging,  accepting,  ambitious,  independent,  knowledgeable,   respectful,  strong,  supportive.   •   proud  of  our  identities  as:  Deaf,  First  Nation,  lesbianhood,  elders   (seniors)  –  ourselves  &  others.   •   willing  to  learn  and  accept  new  ideas;  accepting  of  feedback  (criticism   and  suggestions)   We  can:   •   show    empathy  (“can  cry  with  others”),  TLC  (tender  loving  care),   feminism  (feel  good  to  be  a  woman)   •   multi-­‐task  (do  many  things  same  time);  manage  time  and  people,     •   communicate  fast,  negotiate  and  speak  out  when  needed.  

We have:     •   strong  minds,  confidence,  patience,  intuition,  openness   •   Deaf  Culture  Centre   •   PSDHH  (Provincial  Services  for  Deaf  and  Hard  of  Hearing)  in  BC   •   strong  youth  base  to  tap  into   We  are  at  our  best:   •   unified  (together),  working  toward  our  goals   •   enjoying  things  –  camping,  fun,  teaching  &  learning   •   feel  as  family  =  sisters  and  elders.   WE  CAN  DO  ANYTHING…BUT  NOT  HEAR.  

Many barriers  –  some  examples:  

Attitudes:   Not  respected  as  Deaf  women,  Deaf  organizations  male  dominated.                                                           Few  services  or  programs  run  for  and  by  Deaf  women  themselves.      Deaf  sportswomen  don’t  have  same  access  as  Deaf  men      Feel  isolated  =   •  within  Deaf  Community  –  because  others  judge  us  as  different  –  if  First   Nations,  skin  colour,    culture  or  religion  or  if  lesbians  /  bi  /  transgendered   •  in  small  or  rural  communities  -­‐  have  no  “Deaf  sisters”  to  support  us     Not  enough  open  communication    resolving  issues,  conflicts;  trust  issues  ,   criticism     Not  allowed  as  immigrants,  not  allowed  into  Canada  or  welcomed  into  Deaf  clubs.     Government  and  society  “labels”  Deaf  with  other  disabilities,  not  let  us  decide  our   own  identities.  

Communication:   Our families  (parents  &  siblings)  can’t  sign  –  limit  our  free  expression  

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Deaf /  hearing  Culture  conflicts  –  with  our  children  /  our  parents.   Support  staff  in  group  home  or  service  providers  can’t  sign   Can’t  access  services  because  of  communication     Don’t  understand  families’  culture  or  religion  because  can’t  use  sign   language   Services  for  people  with  disabilities  not  accessible  for  Deaf  people.     Getting  interpreters  for  work  or  social  support  related  stuff  very  hard     •  employers    &  government  social  workers  or  financial  workers  do  not   know  policies!   Trust  &  respect  issues  related  to  interpreters  –     Senior  Deaf  women  (and  immigrant  women)  don’t  know  how  to  use   technology.

Education and  Finances:     Limited  funds  for  education  or  training  –  limited  choices  (e.g.  can’t  go  to   Gallaudet,  NTID,  CSUN)     Interpreter  shortages  or  selections  mean  can’t  get  education  or  training.     Private  colleges  or  training  institutes  don’t  pay  for  interpreters.     Men  STILL  earn  more  than  women!     Women  don’t  have  control  over  their  money,  spouse  or  family  controls  it.     Women  feel  trapped  financially  –  not  know  how  to  get  help.     Senior  women  need  financial  security,  protection     Government  limits  income  for  people  with  disabilities  if  they  have  disability   pension  (e.g.  BC  limits  $300-­‐$400  a  month  or  $4,000  a  year,  but  savings  allowed   only  $3,000  keep).     Deaf  events  (socials,  workshops,  conferences)  are  too  expensive  for  women  on   limited  income  (want  some  free  or  low  cost  events).     Communication  equipment  too  expensive  (VP,  TTY,  computer,  cell  or  Blackberry).  

Employment:        

Limited access  for  grants  to  improve  skills  (literacy,  work,  etc).   Can’t  afford  daycare  (babysitters)  if  want  to  work  .   Deaf  women  with  disabilities  not  sure  if  employers  not  want  hire  them  because   Deaf  or  because  of  other  disabilities  –  how  to  find  out  and  “educate”  them?    Deaf  children  aren’t  exposed  to  job  ideas  and  opportunities,  so  end  up  in  low   paying  jobs  or  think  welfare  is  better.    

Housing and  Transportation:                

Handy dart  (special  transportation  for  people  with  disabilities)  not  available   everywhere…  HD  is  not  reliable,  no  flexibility.   Deaf  clubs,  service  agencies,  events  –  not  near  public  transit.   Low  income  housing  limited,  long  wait  lists,  often  not  accessible  or  near  Deaf   services.   Care  homes  staff  not  trained  to  work  with  Deaf  or  Deaf  with  disabilities   For  those  living  at  home,  housekeeping  or  cleaning  help,  too  expensive  or  not   accessible.   No  “Safe  Houses”  just  for  Deaf  women.  

Health and  Mental  Health:                            

Emergency services  –  fast  access  (interpreters)  –  not  every  province  has  equal  access.   Mental  health  services  –  small  towns  or  rural  communities  don’t  have  therapists  or   interpreters   Deaf  women  with  disabilities  want  to  have  more  supports     Feel  oppressed  when  focus  is  on  “can’t  hear”  instead  of  what  they  can  do.   Women  who  are  Deaf  or  disabled  can’t  use  many  services  (shelters,  rape  crisis  centre,  etc.)  –   and  if  they  can,  don’t  feel  comfortable  –  isolated,  no  communication.   Health  info  is  not  Deaf-­‐friendly  –  need  visual,  plain  language   Crisis  lines  not  accessible  (e.g.  no  VP  or  TTY)   Disaster  –  emergency  preparedness  not  accessible.   Women  with  health  problems  feel  trapped  and  stay  home.   Men  (spouses  /  boyfriends)  don’t  respect  wives  or  girl  friends  –  abuse  them,  keep  their   money,  have  affairs,  etc.       Senior  Deaf  women  need  support  from  younger  Deaf  people  –  lonely,  want  companionship.   Senior  women  need  counselling  to  help  vent  out  feelings  and  frustrations.   No  Life  Line  that  is  accessible  to  Deaf  and  Deaf  with  disabilities.  

Attitude shift  /  reframing:     Motivation  –  positive  attitude     Needing  each  other!     Having  same  goals  –  teamwork     Learn  and  practice  dolphin  theory.     Fewer  “cliques”  –  more  unity  through  larger  scale  events.     Have  passion  (about  what  we  do).     Encourage  people  (women)  to  join  with  them     Understand  our  Deaf  history  /  Herstory     Learn  about  Deatood     Develop  bridge  between  generations  –  send  Deaf  women  role  models  to  schools   to  meet  with  young  Deaf  girls  and  teens.     Insist  on  inclusion  –  women  with  disabilities,  First  Nations,  non-­‐working/lower   income  and  others.     Create  opportunities  –  volunteers  &  employment  –  committees,  boards,   individuals.  

Research +  Planning     Get  information  on  organizations,  services,  shelters.     Collect  information  in  central  place.     Get  training  for  grant-­‐writing  and  fundraising.     Make  links  with  groups  of  similar  purposes  and  collaborate     Get  help  to  start  –  set  up  committees,  groups,  teamwork     Find  /  train  good  leader(s)  and  mentors.     Young  Deaf  girls  /  teens  and  senior  Deaf  women  work  together  on  projects       Face  to  face  meetings  (or  through  VP  /  internet  if  needed)   Communication  +  Information  sharing    

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Educate others  about  us  and  our  issues:  especially  Deaf  First  Nations,  Deaf  women  with   disabilities,  different  cultures,  Lesbian  /  Bi  /  Transgender  /  seniors  /  non-­‐working  women,   youth,  etc   Learn  from  other  women’s  organizations:  Deaf  Women  United,  DAWN-­‐Canada,  ADWAS.   MSFM.   Have  website  and  hire  Deaf  women  to  develop  /  run  website.   Set  up  workshops  and  conferences  (local,  provincial,  regional,  national)   News  in  ASL,  via  Vlogs  and  video  /  teleconferences.   Lots  of  PR  –  to  media,  Deaf  community,  Deaf  and  hard  of  hearing  organizations.  

Funding /  Organizing                  

$$$  MONEY  $$$   Local,  provincial  and  national  organizations  must  support  women’s  issues  and  develop   programs,  with  women  having  the  decision  making  power.   Establish  local  groups  for  Deaf  women   Apply  for  grants,  do  fundraising,  develop  funding  strategies   Use  contacts  with  organizations  and  foundations  aimed  at  women   Take  up  fundraising  events  that  are  fun  and  raise  consciousness  and  self-­‐esteem  like  the   Vagina  Monologues  /  International  Women’s  Day  events   Work  with  agencies  to  get  improved  housing  /  different  options  for  housing  for  Deaf  Seniors   and  women  with  disabilities.  

Technology          

Deaf women  should  have  access  to  low  cost  technical  equipment  (computers,  TTYs,  VPs).     Some    provinces  have  “disability  supports”  programs  that  Deaf  could  use.   Equipment  that  is  “safety-­‐related”  should  be  provided  free  to  women  on  social  assistance   or    disability  pension,  and  seniors.   Work  with  provincial  and  national  Deaf  organizations  to  get  video  relay  services   Set  up  free  or  low  cost  computer  literacy  classes  –  in  ASL  

Donate: money,  time,  skills  (art,  photography,  web  design,  etc.)  –  serve   whatever  way  possible.  Be  a  mentor,  job  coach,  actor.     Do  fundraising:    grant  writing,  letter  writing   Recruit:  volunteers,  mentors,  organizations,  financial  support.   Research  and  develop  resources  –  create  database,  write  reports,  and   write  /  produce  information  for  website,  DVDs  and  CDs.  Develop  and   manage  surveys  to  collect  information  for  planning  and  grants.   Plan  programs:  attend  /  work  at  youth  camps,  leadership  training,   conferences,  workshops,  special  events.  Work  with  local  agencies  to  have   Safe  Houses  for  Deaf  women  /  their  children.   Media  /  public  relations:  write  /  produce  written  (English  /  French  /  other   languages)  media  information  packages  on  Deaf  women’s  activities  and   issues.  Develop  ASL  /  LSQ  DVDs  (with  voice  over  for  hearing  viewers).   Edit  newsletters  or  write  stories.  

Create websites  for  specific  groups:  Deaf  First  Nations,  Deaf  Lesbians,  and  others.   Have  links  to  Deaf  Women  Canada  Website.     Organize:  attend  meetings,  participate  on  committees  and  form  groups.  Ask  CAD  /   CCSD  to  start  a  forum  or  caucus  for  Deaf  Women.  Ask  for  commitments  from   groups.         Inclusion:    make  sure  that  all  Deaf  women’s  groups  include  LSQ,  First  Nations,   women  with  disabilities,  different  cultures.  Encourage,  advocate,  empower,   mentor  and  teach  Deaf  sisters.   Personal  networking:    share  information  learned  with  other  Deaf  women  and  girls,   with  hearing  allies,  and  community.  Start  informal  /  formal  support  groups  for   Deaf  Mothers  and  other  women’s  needs.     Deaf  Women’s  Centre:    work  to  achieve  our  goal  to  have  Deaf  Women  Centres  –   even  small,  in  each  city  –  and  a  national  resource  centre.  Local  centers  to  include   information  on  health,  violence  prevention,  “shelters”  and  social  /  recreational   activities.  

One group  of  Deaf  Women  at  the  Conference  drew  this  schema  to  show   what  their  vision  is….                  

Womanhood  +  Deatood  +    Sisterhood  =  Deaf  Women  Unity                          We  are  the  One            Feel  Safe  and  Belonging                                          Unite  


The Women    

After the Farewell Brunch – August 18, 2007

Deaf Women and Our Community  

created by Leanor Vlug at Deaf Women Conference 2007 in Vancouver.

Deaf Women and Our Community  

created by Leanor Vlug at Deaf Women Conference 2007 in Vancouver.