Friday, April 17, 2009

Audism In The Church

Check out not one, but two Polls and Vote! While the word, “Audism” is the rage of the month, I believe I will join the bandwagon and share my experience. I went to Faith Bible Chapel (FBC) church in Arvada, Colorado and I believe that I faced unintentional audism there.

A couple of times at FBC, for their “Passion” play; they wanted the deaf group to sit in the back row because they did not want the distraction of the lights shinning on the interpreters. Why not move to the side up front? Audism.

They hosted a Christian concert one time and according to the staff of the church, the concert organizer wanted the deaf group to sit on the side in the front row in front of the large, I mean extremely large speakers and since the auditorium was curve, and the deaf people could not see the singers and the volunteer interpreters were force to stand in front of it to interpret the songs. They could not hear because the speaker was right behind them and it was too loud to hear. It was bad experiences for all involved. The concert organizer did not care. Audism.

When FBC open a new service on Saturday evening to give people more options of picking out which service they want to go and to allow those working on Sundays to attend Saturday evenings worship service. I asked my pastor if we could open one up for deaf people who wants to come in Saturdays like I do, he said the deaf service will remain on Sundays. I told them that some deaf people work on Sundays and that maybe more deaf would be willing to come in Saturday evenings. We can then hire interpreters for Saturday services and then we talked about the possible cost of having an interpreter for 2 hours every Saturday nights. He adds them up times 52 weeks. He said he will pass it on to the board or his Senior Pastor.

Less than one week later, he had someone else e-mail to me saying that there will be no deaf ministry services on Saturdays and the budget for hiring interpreters were too high. The bible says “Feed my sheep”. All they had to do was budget from our tithes and sow it back to the churchgoers first. The church then can budget for ministries outside of the church later. First take care of the churchgoers (sheep) and Deaf people are a part of the church, but they neglect us. That church had around 35 deaf people at one time, up from 4 when I first started. Now it is back to a measly 4 to 6 now and then. That was pathetically audism at its worst, at a church. I could not do anything about it but spit on them in disgust.

I wanted to attend Colorado Christian University (CCU) to major in Biblical Studies and I asked both the enrollment counselor and the staff in the Life Direction Center (LDC) which also helps people with disabilities such as Learning Disabilities, Visual Impaired, and Wheelchair students , if the will hire interpreter if I attend CCU, they said that they will welcome me as a student, but that I need to provide my own interpreter such as my mom, whom does not know sign language or my brothers or sisters, and they do not know sign either. I do not have any brothers. They tried to get me to take on-line classes, so I asked them if they had some audio teaching, they said yes some of them do and some films, but I am responsible for getting an interpreter for it. They also said they are a small University and they just do not have the funds. Audism.

What was the solution? Self- Advocating. First of all, I applied for enrollment at the University, and then I prepared a letter and re-wrote it several times with help from a friend. Two and one half months later, I got a letter saying I was accepted and blah. Then I finalized a letter and mailed it to the President of the University who was a former Congressman representing Colorado. Three weeks later, he replied and told me he delegate that task to the Vice-President of Student Life, Jim. Jim and I met and I had to justify needing an interpreter and wanted to sit in the classroom rather than take my entire courses on-line. It took him a month and a half to reply that I will have an interpreter for my classes at CCU starting in the Fall of ’07. I will not go into details about the rest of the story, but the thing was, I had to take action rather than sit on my fat butt and cry “Audism”!

Remember, this is a Christian University and a private school. While I was blessed on how it turn out for me. I know not everyone will get the same result. I do suggest that anyone who faces what they believed to be audism, they can then try to fight it themselves first than cry foul. Educate them first. Try again. I do not think we need to educate the public establishment, but if we all can try to do our part regardless of where we are in America, we can then do our part in eradicating “Audism” in our paths and make way for those who will follow our paths, so they do not have to go through what those in front of them went trough.

We do need to eradicate audism, but our approach differs on how to go by doing it. I believe that those who want to eradicate audism should do it differently from the way Audism Free America is doing. Because, with God, all things are possible. We Christians should do our part in the churches to eliminate audism from the churches. Let us do our part and not have the organizations do it for us. That is self-advocacy and with help from other fellow deaf church goers without relying on national organizations for help. We can ask them for help as a last resort.

Readers: You are encourage to share your experience about audism that you faced at your church and what you did to try to change it or what happened as a result of trying to change it. If not, you are still welcome to leave any comments.

God Bless you and have a great time this weekend.

Jesus Is Lord!