[Footage Description: 9:52 vlog by Rossana Reis titled “Honoring Bodies.” Rossana is a light-skinned/white presenting Latinx person who is wearing a dark colored zipper sweater with a North Face logo on the left chest area. Rossana is wearing glasses that are tinted. Rossana is leaning against pillows and what appears to be a shelf area behind a bed. There are books on the shelf.]
Rossana: Hello. I am Rossana Reis. [Name sign is four piano key fingers tapping against upper cheek, under eye]. I am a Latinx DeafBlind Multiply disabled PanQueer Person.
I would like to have a discussion about something that has been bothering me, something that has been on my mind that I have not been able to let go of. I have noticed a pattern of persons contacting me, both Deaf and Hearing people, approaching me but not seeming to have an interest in learning more about the whole of me. Rather, they seem more interested in checking off some token on a list for panels, presentations, workshops, projects, and more. And this is a hurtful process. I often feel like people simply placate me a bit, put off my concerns, say that they will address them later or whatever. And then later things become messed up. This usually results in me backing out/resigning. That has happened quite a few times and is the reason that I have been turning down requests to get involved in things. Sometimes people are able to convince me to get involved and this usually involves projects that directly impact children, as I feel role models are important. Many of you know I love children.
So…[Deep sigh] I have often experienced oppression and harm from people. This has happened over and over and over again and I need time to recover. Sometimes people apologize. Sometimes they do not. I tend to forgive, not for them but for me. Forgiving people leaves me feeling more free, removes burdens. It allows me to brush off heaviness so that I have more energy.
When similar acts of exclusion/oppression happen to other disabled people, particularly Black and Brown Disabled people, they often do not get an apology. Whoa. This pisses me off. It is not okay. You know, the word “disability,” is often swept under a rug and rejected by the Deaf Signing community. Why? They are fighting to be recognized as a linguistic minority. When DeafDisabled folks try to remind others that we are here, we are brushed off. The Deaf Signing community is far removed from us and often members of that community do not seem compassionate/caring and do not listen to our concerns and needs. Very few do. Very very few really listen to, support us, and take steps to unpack and change. And to add another layer, I see some of my Black and Brown friends experience even more pain. For example, they may have generational trauma or anxiety related to social oppression that creates an impact on their body resulting in exhaustion and physical pain. This is a result of systems of oppression that constantly oppress/trigger people day after day without a break. The effect on the body is tremendous. That system of racism strongly influences a person. That can sometimes lead to an increase in disability. Did you know that statistics show that there are more Black and Brown people that have disabilities than other groups? So if a Black or Brown person approaches you to share that they are not feeling well, perhaps need to cancel plans? Maybe they don’t feel safe, possibly are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety or generally feeling off and tell you they cannot show up? Possibly part of the reason is that there is a riot near your event.
And your response is, “Well there’s nothing I can do, it is out of my control.” That is so insensitive. That shows me that you are clearly disconnected from multiple realities that may not match your own. You do not have a sense of the triumphs and struggles happening in other peoples lives. So, again, approaching me or approaching other folks who are Black or Brown just to check something off a list and make tokens out of us is not acceptable. It is important to change the way you do things. It is important to take a look at your own internal process. Learn how to work with and connect with people in ways that don’t trigger or hurt them. Take the time for personal growth. It doesn’t matter if you can list all the ways you are a good person. You need to take a look at ways you are privileged — such as White, Able, Upper Class, Race… I think I said that one already… Even religion, such as Christian, what else? I know there are more…there’s a whole list… Oh, heterosexual. And cisgender, which is when a person goes in and a doctor assigns them “man” or “woman” based on what they observe and that matches and how the person actually identifies themselves. So… it is important to recognize your privileges.
For example: say this is you and another person. Where are you in relation to this person in terms of power dynamics/privilege? You represent…Let me back up a bit here… As a person what do you represent? If a person tells you their needs and you brush that off, tell them don’t worry- go ahead and join anyway? Be careful. That is a way of asserting your privileges on another person and you need to check that. Like, for instance, begging me to join your project, buttering me up and eventually convincing me to join. Knowing that I will do it for the children. That’s not cool. Using children as a lure is not cool. This makes me feel guilty. It is just not cool. When you use me as a token that will not change anything for children.
I've wondered if maybe Deaf people often not well versed about Disabled people. Many disabilities have long, wordy vocabulary...I thought maybe we need to come together as a group and create signs for...thought maybe we need to work together to translate articles on the topic. Take the opportunity to educate others--no that is really not it. But you know what? I have taken the time to educate. I have given 1:1 time to many of you. Looking back, I can remember a lot of effort I put into people. Think about how many times you have had a person express to you their needs or concerns or crises. Did you honor their experiences? Did you honor their body? Did you honor them as a human? That’s the problem. Again, reflect on your behaviors. It is time to slow down. Stop the cycle. Finish. [end transcript]
Transcript/English translation by Alison L. Aubrecht 5/17/2017
In Spaces Created for Intersectional Folx of Color
This sample letter of advocacy is a work in progress from a culmination of frustrating experiences requesting sign language interpreters of color in spaces created for intersectional folx of color. It also serves to fill in gaps and clarify questions regarding a previous article I posted on June 18, 2016: "Intersectionality Also Matters to Intersectional Signing DDBDDHHLD BIPOCs" (2nd Ed.): http://www.rossanareis.com/414794612/3894291/posting/intersectionality-also-matters-to-intersectional-signing-ddbddhhld-bipocs-2nd-ed.
Please feel free to adapt this letter to your specific needs. If you're interested, please also consider becoming a member of or donating to organizations and projects serving intersectional signing Deaf Black, Indigenous, Folx of Color. My hope is that this would become common knowledge and practice and facilitate more meaningful communication access for intersectional signing Deaf folx of color.
[Name of Interpreting Agency or
other coordinating entity
Re: Sign Language Interpreters for [name of event, location and date]
The following tenets support our request for provision and payment of Sign Language Interpreters and Transliterators of Color:
1) Nothing About Us Without Us
Tenet 3.1 under the National Association of the Deaf (NAD)-Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), Inc. Code of Professional Conduct require that interpreters...
"consult with appropriate persons regarding the interpreting situation to determine issues such as placement and adaptations necessary to interpret effectively."
Involvement of intersectional Deaf consumers of color for recommended sign language interpreters of color and language consultation is strongly advised. The following are also some national organizations, which include local chapters serving signing Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened (DDBDDHHLD) persons of color but not limited to these:
National Black Deaf Advocates http://www.nbda.org
National Asian Deaf Congress http://www.nadcusa.org
Council de Manos http://www.councildemanos.org (DDBDDHHLD Latinx)
Sacred Circle http://deafnative.com (DDBDDHHLD Native Americans, Alaska Natives, First Nations)
Additionally, RID has specific member sections including one for "Interpreters and Transliterators of Color" (ITOCs) with regional representatives (http://www.rid.org/membership/member-sections/). DDBDDHHLD consumers of color have made their communication access needs known everywhere; thus the reason for this member section. Principle number 7 of ITOCs RID member section delineates involvement of DDBDDHHLD persons of color:
"To actively seek input from consumers of color, particularly, from people who are Deaf/ Hard of Hearing and of color on issues of interpreting/transliterating in their communities."
2) NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct
Tenet 2 of NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct requires that…
"Interpreters possess the professional skills and knowledge required for the specific interpreting situation...2.3 Render the message faithfully by conveying the content and spirit of what is being communicated, using language most readily understood by consumers, and correcting errors discreetly and expeditiously. 2.4 Request support (e.g., certified deaf interpreters, team members, language facilitators) when needed to fully convey the message...2.6 Judiciously provide information or referral regarding available interpreting or community resources without infringing upon consumers’ rights."
Interpreting agencies and non interpreters of color are advised to consult signing DDBDDHHLD persons of color, other interpreters of color and provide more appropriate referrals for [name of event, date, location]. This type of event is created for persons of color; hence this event is a cultural, celebratory and healing opportunity for not only hearing persons of color but also DDBDDHHLD persons of color. ASL fluency, certification, and advanced degrees should not be the sole considerations for hiring non-interpreters of color. DDBDDHHLD persons of color not only face barriers to communication access but also to cultural access beyond "Deaf culture and ASL." Interpreting agencies are advised to expand their database to include skills beyond ASL fluency (i.e. other spoken and sign languages, lived experiences, etc.).
Academia, professional development, and social justice consciousness work while helpful need to be backed by lived experiences. Ultimately no amount of degrees or social justice conscious raising education and activities will enable non persons of color ASL interpreters to fully internalize the experiences of oppression black, indigenous, persons of color face, the liberation they experience, multiple and complicated truths and realities they hold and the associated language and linguistic nuances that naturally evolve from these intersecting identities and experiences. Often intersectional presenters and performers of color will infuse native and creolized words/phrases into their presentations and performances. American Sign Language is not the only sign language in the USA. There are Mexican Sign Language, Cuban Sign Language, Plains Sign Language, Chinese Sign Language, [add more here]. An interpreter must be able to understand native and/or creolized words/phrases and interpret into ASL or other sign languages for authentic and meaningful access as well as maintain artistic and presentation integrity of presenters and performers (i.e. interpret from Mexican Spanish to Mexican Sign Language or ASL or from Haitian Creole to Haitian Sign Language or ASL if preferred by consumers). Creolization happened as the result of colonization of peoples of indigenous and African descent by European settlers in North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean (communication with Kari Frances, 4/9/16).
3) Centering Consumers and Applicable laws
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1964 and its amendments (employment discrimination laws), non-persons of color (white) employees are not a protected group on the basis of "race" in settings, services and events centered on black, indigenous, persons of color. In these situations, hiring interpreters and transliterators of color is often a "business necessity" under CRA of 1964 Title VII--which enables compliance with Titles II and III under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and its amendments. ADA Titles II and III state "primary consideration" shall be given to consumers and "effective communication" shall be determined by consumers.
Being a non-person color with ASL fluency, certification and advanced degrees do not necessarily mean they're "qualified" under ADA Titles II and III; these skills and credentials do not necessarily translate into effective interpreting skills for signing DDBDDHHLD consumers of color. This argument goes back to "effective communication" and "primary consideration" clauses under ADA Titles II and III: "effective communication" shall be determined by consumers. and "primary consideration" shall be given to consumers. The "preferential treatment" argument under CRA Title VII derails and decenters clients/consumers and focuses on the interpreters' needs--in turn, not compliant with ADA Titles II and III. We are not here because of interpreters. They are here because of us.
We sincerely hope you will honor our request for provision and payment for sign language interpreters and transliterators of color. If you have any further questions, please contact [contact name, email, phone #, etc.].
Name or Organization
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct. Retrieved from http://rid.org/ethics/code-of-professional-conduct/ on 5/1/16
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. Interpreters and Transliterators of Color Member Section. Retrieved from http://www.rid.org/membership/member-sections/on 5/1/16.
United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. Effective Communication. Retrieved from http://www.ada.gov/effective-comm.htm on 5/1/16.
United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/crt/legacy/2010/12/15/Title_VII_Statute.pdfon 5/1/16.
Note: This 2nd edition relfects minor corrections and updated information to original post dated 5/3/16.
© Rossana Reis, 2016
(Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, Hard of hearing, Late Deafened-Black, Indigenous, Persons of Color)
There's a layer, one that onsite event/accessibility coordinators often fail to realize that intersectionality not only matters to intersectional hearing BIPOC attendees but also to intersectional signing DDBDDHHLD-BIPOC attendees. I hope this blog post serves to raise deeper awareness and/or serves as a reminder for hearing non-BIPOC and BIPOC onsite event/accessibility coordinators when organizing intersectional BIPOC related events involving intersectional signing DDBDDHH BIPOC attendees.
Often, when asking for certified/qualified intersectional American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters of color, "anti-discrimination" and "anti-preferential treatment" twisted arguments hinder intersectional signing DDBDDHHLD BIPOCs' quests for authentic and meaningful access to intersectional BIPOC-centered performance art and social justice related events. When these arguments are misused, I question some onsite event/accessibility coordinators' understanding of employment and disability discrimination related laws (Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Americans with Disabilities Act Titles II and III and their amendments). Both Title VII and ADA Titles II and III trump whatever local policies are created. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1964 and its amendments (employment discrimination laws), non-persons of color (white) employees are not a protected group on the basis of "race" in settings, services and events centered on black, indigenous, persons of color. In these situations, hiring interpreters and transliterators of color is often a "business necessity" under CRA of 1964 Title VII--which enables compliance with Titles II and III under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and its amendments. Under ADA Titles II and III, "primary consideration" shall be given to consumers and "effective communication" shall be determined by consumers. The "anti-preferential treatment" argument derails the core issue, decenters DDBDDHH BIPOCs consumers and focuses on the interpreters' needs. The National Registry Interpreters for the Deaf has specific member sections including one for "Interpreters and Transliterators of Color" (http://www.rid.org/membership/member-sections/). Intersectional DDBDDHHLD consumers have been making and continue to make their communication access needs known everywhere; thus the reason for these member sections. After all, the ASL interpreters are here because of DDBDDHHLD folks. Not the other way around.
Some onsite event/accessibility coordinators will also justify hiring non-BIPOC ASL interpreters on the basis of their "advanced degrees." Though an advanced degree is one measure, more often than not, the DDBDDHHLD community requested intersectional BIPOC ASL interpreters also have advanced degrees and certifications. Thus, the "advanced degrees" argument is a silly one. To elaborate, in all of my years in academia, work and social justice circles as an intersectional femme of color,* no amount of degrees can fully enable non-BIPOC ASL interpreters to fully internalize the experiences of oppression marginalized intersectional BIPOCs face, the multiple and complex truths and realities they hold, the liberation they experience and the associated language and linguistic nuances that naturally emerge and evolve from these intersecting identities and experiences. For example, being a femme does not necessarily make a credentialed non-BIPOC femme ASL interpreter qualified to interpret for an intersectional BIPOC-femme centered event. A credentialed non-Black POC ASL interpreter may not necessarily be qualified to interpret for an intersectional Black-centered event. A credentialed non-Indigenous (NDN) POC may not necessarily be qualified to interpret for an intersectional NDN-centered event. And so forth. From an ethical and social justice responsibility perspective, I encourage non-BIPOC ASL interpreters to consider deferring intersectional BIPOC-centered event assignments unless they are specifically asked by the intersectional DDBDDHHLD BIPOC community/consumer. The argument goes back to ADA Titles II and III clauses: "effective communication" shall be determined by consumers and "primary consideration" shall be given to consumers. The status quo argument--"no complaints against their selected non-BIPOC ASL interpreters”—also derails, dismisses, disempowers and demonstrates an unwillingness to reach a deeper understanding of the needs of intersectional DDBDDHHLD BIPOC consumers. I no longer subscribe to academia as the sole source of education and social justice consciousness.* There are many other avenues for attaining education, required skills and professional training experiences. Degrees do not always translate into effective interpreting skills for intersectional DDBDDHHLD BIPOCs. It is even more troubling and concerning when onsite event/accessibility coordinators make unilateral and primary determination of ASL interpreters--even when they don't possess advanced ASL fluency skills to screen ASL interpreters. *[Disclaimer: I am a degreed and light skinned multiracial/ethnic Latina]
Lastly, imagine, looking forward to a rare opportunity as an intersectional signing DDBDDHHLD BIPOC only to be met with hurdles one already experiences on several fronts on a daily basis. Hearing privilege is being able to attend events without worrying about communication access and without having to spend arduous amount of time and energy advocating for communication access for rare opportunities. It can be emotionally and physically draining and deeply hurtful when hearing onsite event/accessibility coordinators do not remain consumer centered after communication access needs are made known. I encourage hearing onsite event/accessibility coordinators to truly examine how their hearing privilege and other unpacked privileges (white, cisgender, heterosexual, able, class, etc.) can impact “effective communication” access for intersectional DDBDDHHLD BIPOCs. There are many ways of doing this: 1) “listening with love and understanding” (Stephanie “Najma” Johnson) much more than talking/signing in spaces where one’s privileges may be dominant (De’Lasha Singleton’s 10% rule); 2) researching and reading a wealth of online articles and vlogs by intersectional BIPOCs and DDBDDHHLD BIPOCs; 3) processing and unpacking privileges in quiet or with other social justice conscious folks; 4) making amends with those harmed by unexamined/unpacked privileges; 5) sharing unpacking experiences with others with similar privileges; 6) and believing that the intersectional DDBDDHHLD BIPOC community and allies, degreed and nondegreed, are capable of knowing what’s best for them (e.g. sometimes an intersectional signing DDBDDHHLD BIPOC liaison may set up an ASL Facebook event page to gather preferences for ASL interpreters for a related intersectional BIPOC event where several intersectional signing DDBDDHHLD BIPOCs and allies may be in attendance). After all, wouldn’t that make an onsite event/accessibility coordinator’s job easier?
Note: This 2nd edition relfects minor corrections and updated information to original article dated 5/21/15.
© Rossana Reis, 2016
One issue I find discouraging is when intersectional performance artists are resistant to sharing scripts/lyrics/poetry/texts with onsite/accessibility coordinators, Performance Art American Sign Language (PA ASL) interpreters, CART(1)/captioners, and intersectional Deaf ASL consultants/advisors to ensure that intersectional Deaf, DeafBlind (2), DeafDisabled, Hard of hearing and Late Deafened (DDBDDHHLD) patrons have quality and meaningful access to their performances. Often, my experience has been that onsite coordinators were not able to obtain them from performance artists and would say, “it’s up to each individual artist.” I can empathize with this as a Queer DeafBlind Disabled Neurodivergent Multiracial/ethnic Latina artist, poet and occasional writer wanting to protect my work from being profited or coopted. Intersectional black, indigenous, people of color are often vulnerable to exploitation of their artistic, literary and performance works due to limited access to legal and financial resources--especially as emerging artists, poets, writers and performers. With this concern in mind, I would like to offer a balance: perhaps creating some kind of individual license user agreement to prevent mass distribution without the authors’/artists’ permission while ensuring quality communication access for DDBDDHHLD patrons. I often have to sign this type of form when obtaining books in PDF formats that are not available on Kindle/EBook.
Without this much needed collaboration, the underlying message is "DDBDDHHLD folks do not deserve quality ASL interpretation and captioning of performances." DDBDDHHLD signers are often left with botched ASL interpretation of performances, feeling worse and excluded. Furthermore, those who rely on CART/captioning services often receive a lot of blanks and inaccuracies on captioning screens. For example, some performance art events include performers with intersectional identities and experiences who infuse their own native words and phrases into their performances. I attended a few such events (not naming here) and the artistic integrity of the performance artists was dreadfully compromised. In these cases, intersectional trilingual/multilingual ASL interpreters and CART/captioners are strongly advised along with preparation materials in advance.(3)
What onsite coordinators fail to realize is that they DO have the power to turn away performance artists if they choose to not collaborate with them and communication access teams to ensure quality performances for ALL patrons (Americans with Disabilities Act, Title III). These PA ASL interpreters and CART/captioning providers do not just ad hoc ASL interpret or caption. If one thinks about it, how long does it take for one to write and rehearse scripts/lyrics/poems/texts? Likewise, in order to maintain artistic integrity of performance artists, singers/musicians, poets, writers, etc., PA ASL interpreters need a few weeks to understand the scripts/lyrics/poems/texts and create accurate ASL renditions with the assistance of intersectional Deaf ASL consultants/advisors. PA ASL interpreters also need to rehearse two weeks before performances begin or at minimum, attend three rehearsals.(4) CART/captioning providers usually need preparation materials a week in advance. Separation of roles of communication access coordinator and overall onsite coordinator would be most ideal to ensure smooth planning of communication access logistics (refer to planning and checklist).(5) Another consideration is applying for art accessibility grants to cover gaps in budget for communication accessibility. (6 & 7)
When performance artists/organizations/businesses choose to not accommodate, they are complicit in ableism, audism and vidaudism. Ableism is the discrimination and oppression of disabled folks in favor of abled folks. Audism is the discrimination and oppression of DDBDDHHLD folks in favor of hearing folks or “of those who behave in the manner of one who hears (Humphries, 1975); the root word comes from the Latin word “audire” (to hear). Vidism is the discrimination and oppression of blind/low vision folks in favor of sighted folks; the root word comes from the Latin word “videre” (to see). Vidaudism/audvidism is a combination of audism and vidism (communication between Rossana Reis, Nai Damato & Kylie Brooks, 9/2013). Deeper examination of one's able, hearing and sight privileges and, respectively--ableism, phonocentrism and ocularcentrism--are needed in order to make meaningful and sustaining changes in the performance arts industry for DDBDDHHLD patrons.
1. Communication Access Realtime Translation
2. "Many deaf-blind people have some useable vision, some usable hearing, or both. A 'deaf-blind' person may be: totally blind and totally deaf, totally blind and hard of hearing, ‘hard of seeing’ and totally deaf, [or] ‘hard of seeing’ and hard of hearing. Most deaf-blind people also experience change in their degree of vision and/or hearing over time." Retrieved from http://seattledbsc.org/q-a/ on 5/30/15.
3. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (2014). Interpreters and Transliterators of Color Member Section. Retrieved from http://www.rid.org/membership/member-sections/itoc-members/; Interpreter Associations. Retrieved from http://www.rid.org/about-interpreting/resources/ on 5/30/15.
4. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (2014). Interpreting for the Performance Arts. Standard Practice Paper. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3DKvZMflFLdd0hnZC1BMjJvTlU/view on 5/30/15.
5. Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (St. Paul, MN) (n.d.). Working with American Sign Language/ English Interpreters in Performing Arts. Retrieved from http://www.mrac.org/sites/default/files/pdf/SignLanguageGuide.pdf (pp. 3-5) on 5/30/15.
6. National Endowment for the Arts. Accessibility [Grant]. Retrieved from http://arts.gov/artistic-fields/accessibility on 5/30/15.
7. California Arts Council. Accessibility Grant. Retrieved from http://www.cac.ca.gov/programs/access.php on 5/30/15.
© Rossana Reis, 2015
As a Queer DeafBlind Disabled Neurodivergent Latina, it's important to be able to access opportunities for exploring infinite possibilities of being. On the night of June 12th 2015, I attended the open captioned Queer Women of Color Film Festival hosted by Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP) at Brava Theatre in San Francisco, California. It was beautiful to witness reserved seating for those who needed them: "Deaf/Hard of Hearing" (American Sign Language-ASL), mobility, service dogs, scent free, etc. This social justice consciousness should be the norm everywhere and not just an afterthought. Hearing sighted abled folks do not have to think twice about accessibility logistics when spontaneously outing for a good time. So, in a sense, this event made me feel welcomed. Thank you everyone who made it possible to share this space with many intersectional queer and transgender folks of color. I would like to share with you my personal experience and dilemmas I faced and offer possible solutions. I hope large venues (i.e. theaters), organizations and the intersectional Deaf community will work together to implement these solutions when planning for film screenings or other events.
Firstly, I had to negotiate between three issues: being able to "see" the screen, being able to "read" the captions, and being able to "see" the ASL interpreters on stage. I had to forgo most of the information from ASL interpretation situated on stage before and after the film screenings; hence, I sat near the middle of the theatre so I can "see" the whole screen within my narrow tunnel vision and be able to read the captions. (An ASL interpreter guided me to my seat, as there were no signing ushers. No pun intended.) And so, I was a lone patron separated from my peers welling up with so many feelings and emotions...playing catch up from reading captions to quickly viewing the "fast" moving scenes before they disappear into the next scene. After the screenings, a friend from the reserved signing “Deaf/Hard of hearing” front row section came up to my row to greet me. I appreciated this little moment of interaction.
Another dilemma was contemplating whether or not to bravely walk down the stairs towards the front to get a better view of ASL interpreters during “Questions and Answers” segment; after the film screenings, some patrons were leaving early. At one point during Q & A, one of the ASL interpreters in her athletic wear ran up the stairs to interpret my question to one of the several filmmakers. Grins. By the time I decided to head down with the assistance of the "off" interpreter, Q & A had already finished. I thanked the ASL interpreters and as I headed back up the stairs, a magical opportunity arose when Skyler Cooper of "Hero Mars" happened to be right next to me within my view (I voted for S.C. for best film). With interpreters nowhere in "sight" (finger snaps), I tapped Skyler Cooper to sign "thank you" and motioned for a hug. And so we hugged. There were other film screenings that tickled and touched my soul such as “Swanicorn: A Genderqueer Fairytale” (2015) by Jaq Nguyen Victor, “Sex, Politics and Sticky Rice” (2014) by Tina Takemoto, and the “Vow of Silence” (2014) by Be Steadwell.
Lastly, large print and electronic program booklet options (i.e. ISSUU) in addition to the usual tiny mini program booklet would step up the game for this century. By the time the show started, we were required to turn off mobile devices so I couldn't take pictures of the tiny program booklet and best film voting slip to zoom and read. (One of the interpreters ended up helping me with the voting process.)
Because QWOCMAP's budget and grants for accessibility were maxed out to cover ASL interpretation and captioning, tactile ASL interpreters or signing guides were not available to me. A semi-solution* would have been projecting the filmmakers and ASL interpreters on the same screen since the screen was not in use before and after the film screenings. The other option would be to utilize FaceTime App on IPad (sharpest viewing quality) but the iPad would need to be directly in front of ASL interpreters on a stand, potentially blocking the view for sighted signing Deaf and Hard of hearing attendees. Furthermore, this would not work for more than one DeafBlind person who is able to use this feature. Live streaming depends on Wi-Fi connection and is very blurry, fuzzy and undependable, compromising the necessary quality of sharp viewing vantage of ASL interpreters. In sum, theaters, organizations and the intersectional Deaf community will need to work closer together to implement alternative technological solutions. These logistics issues were most likely not factored in when reserving back section seats for those with service animals, i.e. guide dogs for the blind. I’ll give you a moment to think about this. This logic does not make sense for those who have vision needs. Neither does this make sense for sighted signing Deaf, DeafDisabled and Hard of hearing folks with hearing dogs who need to watch the ASL interpreters on stage. After all, wouldn't projecting the Microphone Controller (MC), Introduction and Q & A segment, and ASL interpreters on the main screen make sense for patrons in the middle to back sections? (*I prefer tactile ASL interpreter for more descriptive visual information).
My desire is that we live in a world where other venues and organizations emulate this model of accessibility so that Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened and Disabled Queer and Transgender folks of color may be able to take advantage of the rare opportunities available to them. My residual sight privilege has enabled me to receive bits and pieces of the QWOC film festival screenings. We still have a long way for DeafBlind folks. Something to think about. From what I understood, ASL interpretation was covered through an accessibility grant under California Arts Council and National Arts and Disability Program. Captioning for 35+ mini films was done in-house costing $5000. I encourage individual mini-filmmakers to take up the challenge of learning to caption their own films to free up budget for gaps in accessibility. It takes some getting used to but once one gets the hang of it, it becomes second nature. After all, isn't that what intersectionality is all about?
© Rossana Reis, 2015