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May 28
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Opening Doors for Shambhalians Living with Disabilities

The Working Group on Accessibility and Disabilities has been working to raise awareness about accessibility and access, as well as assessing the current accessibility situation in Shambhala. We hope to find out how we can support Centers with accessibility issues, investigate areas where things can be improved, and provide resources for Centers.

This year our working group initiated contact with North American Shambhala Center Directors about handicapped accessibility in December and January. We sent a follow-up letter to center directors and group coordinators in February, 2009, which was also sent to Shambhala Europe, the two New Zealand centers, and the two of Latin America Representative. For more details, see the First Annual Report On Accessibility And Disability In Shambhala . It includes a summary and specifics on how some Shambhala Centers are accommodating individuals with disabilities. The report has been posted to the updated Shambhala “Accessibility and Disability” web page.

In Terms of Building Community

"Chihuly reflection" - Miksang photo by Margaret Clark

"Chihuly reflection" - Miksang photo by Margaret Clark

We are looking for people interested in helping Shambhala become more handicapped accessible, gathering more ideas and support. Center Directors have been encourage to find someone interested in being their Accessibility Contact Person. This person would also have a seat on the Center Council or Committee to be involved in the planning and decision process. So far about ten centers have appointed someone, and we are hoping to hear from more centers about this soon. We also ask in the letter if they had “any members with experience working with handicapped accessibility, either professionally or personally, that would be good for us to know.”

In Terms of Providing Information Resources

The follow-up letter to center directors included a “Brief General Guidelines and Ideas to Consider for Handicapped Accessibility” which is now posted to the Diversity and Accessibility Best Practices page. On this page we have also posted Accessibility Guidelines for Shambhala Centers, including two additional resources which have more extensive detail and suggestions for many types of disabilities. These are arranged it in sections by type of disability.  

The Sakyong’s Support

As many of you know, in October the Sakyong sent out a letter– along with the Shambhala Aspirations on Diversity, Accessibility and Compassionate Conduct– encouraging us to do whatever we can to make our centers accessible. This is include in the First Annual Report on Accessibility and Disability in Shambhala .

Making the Shambhala Website and Email Announcements More Barrier-free

Miksang photo by Joey Johannsen

To improve things further the shambhala.org webmaster Michael Duerr, Stefan Carmien and Hamish Maclaren (Chair of the Accessibility and Disability Working Group) recently had a conference call to discuss ways to make Shambhala email announcements and the shambhala.org website more handicapped-accessible, with the aspiration of eventually making it WCAG compliant (the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). The idea is to make the whole project friendly, cooperative and collaborative. There are many steps involved, and we hope to be able to provide guidelines, training tools, and support to make these objectives achievable. We are also continuing to follow up with the Communications and Technology Steering Committee about captioning for teaching videos on the website for people with hearing and visual impairments.  

As you can see, quite a lot is going on, and the Working Group will continue to explore more ways we can improve accessibility in Shambhala at our meeting in May.

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2 responses to “ Opening Doors for Shambhalians Living with Disabilities ”
  1. Hamish Maclaren
    Aug 4, 2009

    Thank you Keith
    I very much appreciate your suggestions to keep to the term “barrier-free”, rather than the other possibilities. Makes a lot of sense to me. I will aspire to do that in future reports, articles etc. Your reminders about that when I forget will be appreciated.

    Hamish Maclaren
    Chair Accessibility ad Disability Working Group.

  2. Keith Allen Spruce
    Jun 5, 2009

    Hello to all concerned with disability and barrier-free accessibility:

    I’d like to suggest to all that the term considered might, in reference to buildings and the environment that inhibit accessibility, be termed “barrier-free”, versuson a judged “handicapped” person. The perspective is simple: the “problem” is not the person with possible degree of disability, but more directly, th problem is particularly the environmen, in which the individual tries to function or negotiate within. In the United States, it may be more respectfully, as well as substantially more politically acceptable or correct, if you will accept posturing our though catagories, to refer to any problem with access and use of facilities by a person judged with any disability, to be referred to as a “barrier-free”; a problem of the world, not the person in question. Thus, the problem gest a different focus: from from the “handicapped” person, relieved of any judgement of their conidtion, but rather focused to an environmental concern, where barriers inhibit , perhaps need to be removed, revised, or personally accomodated.. In short, suggest that the word “handicapped” be removed entirely from any and all discussion on this matter and be replaced with the word “barrier-free”. Appreciate your consideration and thoughtfulness on barrier-free access issues. Kind Regards, Keith Spruce, member– Milwaukee Shambhala Center, USA (Brief: Architect/Building Inspector/ with knowledge of Americans with Disabilities Act legislation in USA)

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