Does Shambhala Discriminate Against the Disabled?
Disability access is a lot more than wheelchair access or services for the visually or hearing impaired. I learned this when I developed fibromyalgia. Disability is just a name. I use it as a convenient way to explain how some people move and interact with the world in a way that is different from most people. There are many types of disability and the barriers to Shambhala programs are varied. I can explain how my disability affects my ability to access Shambhala programs. I have chronic pain and fatigue which peaks in the evenings. This makes any evening Shambhala courses prohibitive for me. Almost all Shambhala courses are in the evening. Shambhala levels are set up as weekend programs, which because of the long hours of sitting are just too painful for me to endure. I have tried weekend programs several times and they are just too much. I know I am not alone in this.
I have written a number of emails and letters to the Shambhala leadership over the past 2 years. I have heard nothing substantial back. I had one email reply that they would get back to me. Why the lack of interest? Am I not describing what this means very well or how this affects the disabled? How do I make my message more clear? Or do Shambhalians not care? I wonder if people really understand what it’s like to arrive at a program and find you can’t get around or participate fully. Can you image what that woman in the wheelchair felt like? In a word: unwelcome. I mean come on guys, we talk about enlightened society, compassion, openness, loving kindness and we can’t deal with this? It is really not that hard.
If you want to know what disability accessible Dharma looks like check out Rigpa or Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition websites. They have some really in-depth Dharma study online. Shambhala is improving their online access, but we are far from being leaders.