Report workshop “Dis_spelling disability: inclusiveness as a matter of fact”

Picture of Soleil and Jochem

At the PFI-NL Spring Gathering on 25th May one of the activities was a Community Circle about accessibility and the pagan/heathen community. It was the first time this theme was discussed this explicit at a meeting of PFI Netherlands. We look back with satisfaction at this interesting workshop, where we have taken a first step towards inclusiveness as a matter of fact.

Inclusive day

The completely renovated Westhoffhuis (House of Westhoff) is a good example of inclusiveness as a matter of fact. The location was fully equipped for people with disabilities: a ramp for wheelchair users, a hearing loop for hard of hearing people, and the kitchen made a (vegan) soup that took into account the most common food intolerances.

PFI Netherlands also set a good example with the opening and closing rituals: both rituals were performed by people with disabilities. (You can read more about this in the article by Frigga.) Most people present will not even have noticed. It can be that simple!

Gods with disabilities

The workshop started with cards with the name of a god. Some gods were well known, like Odin, Loki and Hephaistos. Other gods turned out to be less well known, such as Bes and Ganesha. The participants spoke in small groups about what they know about these gods, what associations they have with these gods, and how they think these gods deal with their disability.

It turns out there are many gods with what we nowadays would consider a disability. Our exploratory investigation yielded 44 gods from 20 pantheons! (You can view the overview of these gods here. At the moment only available in Dutch; we are working on a translation into English.)

It was very nice to look at the gods in a different way. And it's good to know that disabilities with gods are not as strange as many of us thought…

In discussion about accessibility

Boom met memo's erop: wat nemen deelnemers van deze workshop mee naar huis?Then we discussed the question what people with disabilities can offer the pagan/heathen community. That led to a very interesting group discussion!

Many sensible comments have been made, including:

  • People with disabilities learned to be creative, because they have to solve many things in a different way.
  • People who have come to terms with life with a disability have acquired (life) wisdom by living through pain and grief. This aspect often remains underexposed.
  • It is difficult for many people to look beyond a disability: see the person, not the disability.
  • Wolves have the elderly at the forefront. So the slowest ones determine the pace of the whole group. And the elderly are also the most experienced and therefore know the landscape best!

We have also talked about how we can make pagan/heathen events accessible:

  • The one with the disability is the specialist, because they have been living with that disability for some time. So ask them for information.
  • As an organiser you cannot come up with the solutions, because you do not know what is needed.
  • Talk with the person with the disability about what they need, and what you can offer. You will surely find a solution!
  • Adjustments must come from two sides: both of you will need to compromise.
  • As an organiser, be willing to change things. Often this means that you will have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone (a little).

For people who would like to get started with accessibility, we have made a flyer with some practical tips. All of these guidelines are easy to implement. You just have to know how. That you can read that in this flyer. (Only available in Dutch. Please contact us, if you like to have a translation into English.)

Various participants asked all kinds of interesting questions, which unfortunately we could not answer – considering the brief time available. We have written down these questions for a next time. This workshop was a very first step. It is clear that this theme is alive, and therefore this will be continued!

Here you can read the report of one of the participants to our workshop (in Dutch).

Online meeting

In September Soleil and Jochem will organise an (online) meeting for pagans and heathens with a disability and/or chronic illness. This meeting will be on Sunday 15 September from 15:00 to 16:30 (Central European Time). The theme will be: What do we need in pagan/heathen community to be a natural participant?

Anyone who feels addressed by this is welcome. There is a maximum of 15 participants, to ensure the group does not become too big.

More info & registration via Soleil: soleil@paganfederation.org. After registration you will receive information about the online location of the meeting.

Discussion on forum

At the PFI Netherlands forum we will start a topic on accessibility, where we will submit one of the questions from the workshop for you, every now and then. We hope this will lead to interesting discussions. In any case, we are very curious about your ideas and opinions!

Questions?

Do you have questions, ideas or suggestions? Do you like to be informed about the online meeting? Please mail Soleil and Jochem at: soleil@paganfederation.org.

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