Celebrating 4th of July in a Deaf-friendly Way
Independence Day is a time where families and friends gather to celebrate one common factor: freedom. Some use this time to reflect, go camping, swimming or even shopping. By the end of the night, many will anticipate a finale of some sort – fireworks. Smiling faces watch as fiery sparkles illuminate the dark sky creating a sense of unity. To create a bigger space of unity, we wanted to share a few tips on how to be accessibility friendly during a holiday.
While this day marks celebrations all around the country – it can be the cause of stress, insecurity, and isolation for many – especially those with disabilities. Deaf adults and children are often left out of the loop in fun activities and are unable to communicate with those around them during crowded events. To make any event more accessible to our Deaf neighbors and friends, ample planning is necessary.
Bev Teeter, a parent coach, planned to make social events more accessible to Deaf children. Her three-step method involves: Prepare/ Engage/ Reminisce.
Step 1: PREPARE – The first step takes place BEFORE the event and is to acknowledge the different abilities and interests of the Deaf audience. The plan needs to be made and disseminated to all those involved before the event. The plan needs to be included with all the “what’s” of the event. Once the various activities of the event are decided on, the things needed for each activity must be made – and Deaf accessibility be considered for each activity. Another way to prepare would also be to educate all concerned with basic sign language words associated with the 4th of July.
Consult this video to learn some 4th of July signs: Learn How to Sign 4th of July Signs in ASL | K&L Sign Time
Step 2: ENGAGE – The second step takes place DURING the event and involves watching for and welcoming those with disabilities when they arrive at the event. Once there, if the person reaches out and asks for accommodations, be prepared with information beforehand. The level of access support needed during the engage phase will often be related to unexpected changes and a few communication breakdowns. If you witness a communication breakdown, try to facilitate, and repair the misunderstandings while maintaining the integrity of the conversation and the conversation partners. Don’t be afraid to advocate for things such as eliminating unnecessary background noise if it is interfering with access. A final important thing to remember for this step is to have fun and make memories.
Step 3: REMINISCE – This final step is done AFTER the event. Repetition is important to maintain consistency and to make sure that all future events are successful as well. Reviewing the experience allows time to build memories, repair any misunderstandings and improve upon communication strategies. Reminisce to remember the wins and debrief to remember the things that could be improved upon for the next event. Make notes of both sections for posterity.
In conclusion, we want accessibility and awareness to be at the forefront – no matter the occasion. To build a bridge of better communication, our hope is for everyone to recognize with a clear perception of those around them and to just be mindful. Learning is the first key to opening a door to knowledge and understanding.