This email caught my eye & I can’t help but smile at the similarities in the feelings expressed now and back during the first protest at Gallaudet University for a “Deaf President Now” in March, 1988. Dr. Patti Singleton responded to my posting on Deafnetwork. So I have asked for permission to post her response here on DPHHH.com so you as the individual can read it here. And she approved my posting her response here.
I was fortunate to be there as a graduate student at Gallaudet and on the front lines as history was made…and I learned some valuable lessons in working with the media & politicians in general. There were folks who opposed the protest and those who supported it, but the important thing is that we put aside our differences and worked together for a common cause. I’m not sure that waiting to have a Deaf Awareness Week the most appropriate thing to do to get your legal issues addressed now…I’m also not saying that the Deaf Awareness Week isn’t important, it IS but you need to do much, much more than that…protecting your legal rights is a daily, weekly, monthly, year-round thing…not a onetime event during the year!
You need to have your act together – the Houston Deaf Rights group needs to organize and put out a list of Issues with concrete examples of each, i.e.: legal rights not being addressed or respected, discrimination, etc. What have you tried in terms of resolving these issues in the past? Again you needs dates & data to prove your case.
There is a HUGE amount of pre-planning and organizing to be done before your March — Be sure you have other members of the Deaf Community involved – Interpreters, CODAS, Parents of Deaf children, Deaf-Blind, Teachers from Deaf Programs, members of other disability groups, lawyers, etc…everybody knows somebody who know somebody else who has contacts or can help! They should all help you get the word out to the WHOLE Community, not just the Deaf groups, etc, about the March and be in the City Council Chambers when you speak to the Council.
When you march, keep it peaceful – be sure you have a city permit to march…make sure you are visible, wear similar colors or t-shirts with your slogan on it so people will know who you are
Alert the TV/News media in advance so they can be there to publicize your march – prepare a flyer to distrubute during the march, see if a local printing company can donate this for you…
Have ONE Spokes-person to address the City Council – be sure you know the protocol for signing up to speak, which is usually limited to 2-5 minutes, depending on their rules & respect that – be sure to request an Interpreter be there, and bring one along just in case! Prepare a hand out to give to the City Council Mambers which lists your concerns and what you want done to resolve them.
Present your information in a calm, professional manner, with clear “Talking Points” that show each issue. Appeal to the Council’s sense of doing the right thing, appeal to their sense that we are all on the same team, not a “us vs them” approach. Show them you want to help and work with the Council to improve things so Houston can be a model city, contact Advocacy Inc.and the Texas Governor’s Committee for Persons with Disabilities to get their ideas & support. I know the Houston Deaf Rights Organizers are great people and good Leaders, and I wish you all the best!!
Good luck with your Protest and Remember, “It’s always cheaper to provide access than go to court!”
Patti E. Singleton, Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org