When we were talking about Pagan temples awhile back it struck me how many of the commenters seemed entirely blind or dismissive of the needs of those who have a medical disability or impairment. I was going to write a big post on it, but it’s a pretty day and I need to get some offline sunshine.
Think about all your Pagan ritual experiences. Think about the most typical rituals you’ve attended. Think about the festivals and conferences you’ve attended.
How would you have participated if you were deaf? Would you have had an interpreter or would you have been able to read the ritual leader’s lips?
How would you have participated if you were blind?
If you have to use a walker? If you’re on crutches?
If you were confined to a wheelchair?
If you require a CPAP machine to be able to sleep at night?
If you medication prevented you from regulating your body temperature through sweat? How many summer rituals/events could you have attended?
If you have to be on oxygen, how safe is it for you to attend ritual with open flame?
If you become a caregiver for someone who is disabled, how is your participation limited?
Before you comment, think of the ritual and festival sites you have attended and imagine participating in that space with different disabilities. Think of rituals you have led and how they would work for people with disabilities.
Maybe a conference like PantheaCon makes it easy. Temperature controlled, no open flame, electricity for any medical equipment, readily available water, elevators, speakers facing the crowd and level ground that hold no surprises for the visually impaired. There are also camping festivals that do their best to accommodate people with disabilities, like Pagan Spirit Gathering.
There are also a lot of festivals, rituals and events, whether as small as a coven or large as a regional festival, that aren’t very accommodating. And that’s a problem.
You see, we’re getting old. As a movement, we are aging. Today Gardner would be over 120, and Alex Sanders would be in his 90’s. The youngest of their initiates would be in their 40’s to 60’s now, and most would be much older.
The Beatles wanted to know if you’d still love them when they turned 64. I wonder if our community will still be there for us when we’re 72 or 86?
And be sure to check out Staff of Asclepius, where Masery talks about Paganism and disability far more effectively and eloquently than I!