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…
”A WILD PATIENCE HAS TAKEN ME THIS FAR: WISDOM FROM A LIFE”
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.
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
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?
FULL LIST OF RESPONSES
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 deafwomencanada.ca 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.
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.
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
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).
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
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.
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
After the Farewell Brunch – August 18, 2007