13 January 2019

Special is as special does

by Cecily
Hey! Remember that time, more than a year ago, when I was all "sadly, I am quitting my volunteer position at Special Olympics of Montana [SOMT] because Special Olympics of Montana has decided they are going to die on the "deaf people don't deserve interpreters" hill and I won't be a party to it"?

Well, the initial hearing for the lawsuit described therein is JUST NOW wrapping up, because SOMT has a lot of extremely unusual takes on many things (not the least of which is, which makes more sense, to employ lawyers for more than a year to fight a PR disaster of a lawsuit, or to just pay for some fucking interpreters like the all-inclusive charitable sweetheart of America we claim to be? pardon whose-ever French you take that to be) and the number of assessments and depositions and delays is approaching Dickensian-copyright-infringement level (I mean if reality could infringe on copyright and also if Dickens were not in the public domain).

(Write a more ridiculous run-on sentence than that, I dare you.)

Anyway, this is just a note to say that the underlying premise of the defense is that people who are both deaf and intellectually disabled do not, according to SOMT, deserve the same access to communication and information that non-deaf athletes get, or that non-intellectually-disabled deaf people get. SOMT is so dedicated to this principle that they are willing to spend years and who knows how much money in court rather than just hire some interpreters like a non-evil nonprofit organization would do.

Please keep in mind that, according to their very own website, SOMT ran a $1 million surplus in FY 2016 and a $3.6 million surplus in FY 2017.  Also keep in mind that local programs ("teams" in regular English) are expected to cover 100% of their own expenses, including travel, facilities rental, equipment, and registration fees. Finally, the entire organization, barring a few state-office administrators, is staffed by volunteers.

A number of people have asked me, "What is the National Special Olympics organization's position on this?" and "Are the Special Olympics organizations in other states also evil in this particular way?" and I do not know the answer to either question. I encourage you to investigate! Particularly if you are a reporter for some sort of nationally-recognized news outlet!

What I do know is that this particular organization, Special Olympics of Montana, claims to "[change] lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect."

And what I also know is that refusing to provide interpreters for deaf athletes and volunteers in the first place, and then digging your heels in to fight the inevitable lawsuit inspired by that refusal, are both actions that are fundamentally incompatible with encouraging/empowering people, promoting acceptance for all, or fostering understanding and respect.

Unless you think deaf people, and maybe intellectually disabled people, aren't actually people. In which case you maybe should be running a different nonprofit.

No comments:

Post a Comment