Public Statement

Regarding what happened last week Tuesday night at the Debate event…

Yes, it is 14 minutes long. It is captioned. To turn it on, click on the CC icon and click English. Thank you.

* VISUAL DESCRIPTION *

This video is in black and white. Short black hair, black framed glasses, black trimmed beard with black long sleeve button shirt. Background backdrop with soft light behind me.

* ENGLISH TRANSCRIPT *

Hello everybody, my name is Philip J. Wolfe. I am running for City Council 2018, position 2. It is time for me to make a public statement. This public statement is in regards to what happened at the Debate last week Tuesday night. Before I start with my public statement, I would like to make a disclaimer that it is not my intention to make personal attacks against specific individuals but combat accessibility issues. Many Deaf people have contacted me asking what really happened because the Debate event video was not captioned. They wanted information in details of what happened from me so it is my duty to make a public statement about what happened. So… last month before the Debate, you know, for any public events, accommodations is naturally a concern for me. I searched through Facebook events for the Debate event. While searching, I saw this guy on his personal Facebook wall from one of his organization who works with three other organizations for the Debate event. His post was asking the public if anyone knows any ASL interpreters who would be willing to volunteer for the Debate event. I was like…oh boy…Though I do understand that he’s new, clueless and innocent I gotta give him the benefit of the doubt although his approach is not the best way of handling this. Ah well…I decided to wait for a while and see how the public comments under his post goes. Generally it wasn’t helpful. I saw this guy ( I love this guy ) post a comment asking him why don’t he contact me. I was like… yes! Exactly! I mean, I am Deaf. I am a candidate for this Debate. How come he didn’t think of asking me first before asking the public which led to no where? This is a red flag right there to begin with, so…Anyhow, I reached out to him, gave him the interpreter agency name, coordinator’s name and their phone number. I recommended him to start that before anything. I trust SRI (Signing Resources Interpreting) and their professional service with pool of highly qualified interpreters. I personally know the coordinator. He was like, okay, I will contact them, but then no response for like two days. I decided to text SRI and find out if he has contacted SRI. SRI said no. I find that odd. I then texted him as a follow up whether if he has contacted SRI. He still hasn’t responded. After 4 days, again, I texted SRI to see if he has contacted SRI. Nope. I texted him and urged him to seriously respond as time is approaching. After a week later, he still hasn’t responded. I decided to text SRI for the last time to see if he has contacted SRI. Nope. I was like, really? Seriously? Other red flag right there. Clearly I was concerned. I was thinking to myself, what are the next steps shall I make since I haven’t gotten his response? I decided to search on Facebook for the Debate event. I found it and pulled up. I was curious if the event post has mentioned they are providing ASL interpreters? I will then know that everything is taken care of but since it didn’t mention anything, obviously it is not being taken care of. While I was browsing information on the event, I noticed my name is not there for the Debate event. I was like… um… What should I do? Who do I talk to the top people? I decided to snap a picture of the event post and posted it on my Twitter asking the public if one could explain me why my name is not on the list? Within seconds, that guy finally responded, going ah two things…1.) you have not officially RSVP for the Debate event. I was confused because we have been having conversation for a while now where he hasn’t told me to officially RSVP. He responded saying that it was a miscommunication and fixing it right now so all is good. 2.) I am not the person you should be discussing regarding accommodations. You should be contacting Sandy who handles accommodations. I am just a person. I was just trying to help Sandy. Really, I can’t do this. I was thinking in the back of my head, like, why didn’t he tell me a week ago to talk directly with Sandy? He wasted a week worth of time. Absolutely a waste. Again, other red flag here. I was like… okay. I let him go and contacted Sandy and started all over again, asking if ASL interpreters would be provided? Sandy’s response: No. It is too expensive. Expensive!? BTW, it is not the first time I get similar response when I ask for accommodations when I want to attend other public events. Why not sit down with open mind, curious and figure out how to work this out? Is pricing negotiable? Stuff like that. Sadly many would respond that it is too expensive then completely shut down. This is, again, other red flag when I saw clearly that more problems will come up as I try to ensure the Debate event is accessible. I was like, okay, here I go. I took my time and called Sandy. Educated. Sandy was like… oh I see…Hesitant it seems, I decided to hire my own ASL interpreters for the Debate event out of fear that it wouldn’t happen if I let them do the job. I then informed Sandy that I took the liberty to hire two ASL interpreters myself so that it is all worked out at my end. Sandy was like, no, no, we are more than happy to pay for it. I told her firmly that it is done. I then asked her if they will be willing to provide CDI ( Certified Deaf Interpreters ) for our Deaf audience? I ask her because I can easily work out in finding CDI team for Sandy. I mean, I was willing to help although it is not my job to handle this. While waiting for Sandy’s response, I went ahead and found two CDI interpreters and booked them. I then informed Sandy via email that I already found two CDI interpreters and booked them for her. Her response: No, I prefer to hire hearing ASL interpreters. I was like… a person with hearing privilege making the decision what is best? No, it is for us to decide but clearly they decided. I got my own interpreters, they will do their part, she said. At this point, I wasn’t up to further argue. I was already under stress while managing my full schedule and debate coming up very soon. I decided from that point to let it go and allow Sandy handle it. I was like… okay. Okay. I decided that I will deal with this after the Debate because I didn’t want this to escalate and further put unflattering spot on me. I did not want this drama to get any worse. Okay, I shall trust Sandy in handling this. When the Debate event finally got here, I showed up a hour early. My interpreters showed up too. We then saw Sandy show up. I decided to walk up to her and asked her if she remembered via email that we agreed that once you confirm with interpreters, you would email me back with their names, remember? Sandy was like, ah yes, I remember. You are right, I forgot, but you know what, let me call the agency right now and get their names, ok? I was like… okay, while preparing for the storm. Sandy called on her cell phone, one of my interpreters could hear the conversation and interpreted for me. This confirmed my fears from day one that Sandy apparently did not confirm with the agency so apparently our Deaf audience will not have any interpreters. Sandy hung up, horrified, and apologized over and over and over. I was like… stop. Fix it. She nodded profusely and called the agency requesting for emergency in booking ASL interpreters. I was like… oh dear, and clearly I was truly embarrassed. I mean, what am I supposed to do!? I mean, I am in a very awkward position now that I am in unwanted unflattering spot. It is so frustrating, I mean, I offered guidance but because Sandy wanted it her way with ignorance, she played a role as an oppressor. I was like… okay, I have to deal with this and take it from there. About 15 minutes before the Debate started, I noticed it was a full house with great audience. Two huge rows. One row is filled with hearing people. Other row is filled with Deaf people. With heavy heart, I made an announcement to our Deaf audience that I will have my own ASL interpreters, however, they failed to provide you ASL interpreters. I explained that I did everything I could to prevent from this happening. I did book two CDI interpreters but Sandy said no. She wanted hearing ASL interpreters but apparently Sandy forgot to confirm so, tonight is inaccessible for you. Our Deaf audience were clearly mad. I totally understand and am totally with them. I am mad with them. They asked me what they should do? I recommend them to voice their feelings to this person and described Sandy’s appearance. After confirming this is the right person, they came to her and expressed frustration, anger and disappointment. Sandy repeatedly apologized and played as if she is the victim. My heart was crushed. It was very painful to watch the whole thing. I realized that empowering our Deaf audience, is by allowing them to voice for themselves as long as I am here ready to support them if they need me. I must focus on the Debate event. Yes, I do keep an eye on our Deaf audience. It was heart breaking to watch them being ignored. I decided that everything happened for a reason, I then took on stage and went on with the Debate. About 5 minutes before the Debate started, Sandy actually came to me and asked me if she could borrow one of my ASL interpreters so she could make a public apology. I was like… seriously? I had to take a deep breath and bite my tongue. Okay, because I am a nice person, I was willing to allow her have her floor with an understanding that this shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes long–please, short and sweet please, okay? She agreed and started all over again with apologizing like a broken record. I was like… seriously, stop. Own it up. Fix it, ya know…She agreed and stopped apologizing. She searched in my eyes for forgiveness. Oh boy…She got on stage, the part you saw from the clip I posted on Facebook. Watching her apologize and all, I was like, no, no, no… red flag right there, again. I will tell you why. She apologized she didn’t mean to ruin the event, cause anger and cause barriers, yet… yet… I can’t stress you enough, yet… The fact that when the Debate started, the event completely ignored our Deaf audience knowing that they have no access to the event, they still went on with the event. I was like, wow, this is seriously wrong. No, this is not how this should be handled. I mean, if I was the host of the event and if I screwed up, what I would do is, first, hold the event, fix it. If all fails, then I would cancel and postpone the event. I just cannot ignore our Deaf audience and allow them to sit through the entire event not having access while allowing the event to go on. I will absolutely not do that. This is morally wrong. Seriously, this is not okay. Seriously, the event actually reinforced oppression. Just.. no. I was appalled the fact that this Debate event still went on, I struggled in deciding what to do. Should I stand up and interrupt the event. Call them out for ignoring our Deaf audience and recommend them to postpone the event? I realize that it is the Deaf audience’s position to do that, not me. If they decided to do that, I will fully support them. Deciding what my role in this whole thing is very sticky while being watched, live and deal with the Debate itself is overwhelming. Well, as the event went on, I watched in horror where our Deaf audience getting frustrated, talking to each other figuring out what was happening and all. I died but I had to keep this going…and trust our Universe that the outcome will be different if I give it a little time. I don’t know how long but I am guessing, maybe 10 minutes later after the Debate started, My good friend arrived late due to work. My friend is a CODA ( Child of Deaf Adult ) BTW. I was so excited that my friend will be there for me. My friend instantly noticed that there is no access for our Deaf audience, my friend was like, what the hell is going on and quickly investigated. Once my friend understood what was going on, angrily my friend addressed to Sandy. She was clearly all over the place. My friend decided to deal with this later and asked our Deaf audience’s permission if my friend can take over and interpret for our Deaf audience. Our Deaf audience was thrilled and asked my friend with great appreciation with an understanding that my friend interpreted the entire event without any breaks, without team and without being offered water. My friend gladly did the job because my friend could not sit with our Deaf audience when my friend has privileges to empower access. Wow this touched my heart, through, I was upset because I wanted my friend to be there, cheer for me, watch my dialogue and be a part of this historic moment. My friend missed the entire event due to injustice. My friend was busy offering access. Yes, I was upset but because I knew that my friend had an agreement with our Deaf audience how they want to handle it. My role is to offer support while I go on with the Debate through my friend saved the night, I still felt very conflicted. After the Debate event, I stayed, chatted with our entire audience while all other candidates ghosted. I stayed with our entire audience, listened to their concerns, accepted donations, their compliments, gave out my biz cards, shook their hands, and took pictures with them for like a half hour or so. By the way, before the Debate event happened, I asked them if this event will be filmed live? They said yes. I then asked them if it will be captioned? They said yes. I was skeptical but okay. After the Debate event, live video was released in social media with an understanding that it is not captioned. Again, other red flag. I was totally dismayed the fact that they did not add a note under the live video that they will address the captioning issue. Clearly they had no interests in communicating with our Deaf audience. None at all. We were outright neglected, you know? Yeah. This is what I am talking about. This is what oppression looks like. I did my own personal research and I know one organization called Beyond Tone which offers filming and captioning services. I curiously asked them how much the service cost? $150 for the entire event and it would be done less than 24 hours. I am like… there are easy solutions readily available out there. Evidently there are resources readily available in addressing captioning needs but the Debate event organizers did not bother to do their research and prepare ahead of time in ensuring the live video clip to be captioned and/or add English Transcript. You know, I get a lot of complaints from our Deaf viewers about the video clip not being accessible. I was frustrated myself too. This. Enough. Is. Enough. * pause and thinking while processing with all the emotions * This is pretty much sums up what happened before, during and after the Debate event. This kind of situation is not new. We all experience this everyday in our lives. Our Deaf community experience the same thing too dealing with audism, barriers and injustice which brings my whole point exactly why I want to run for Portland City Council. Because accessibility is a huge issue that needs addressing head on. With that said, thank you for watching.

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