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June 8, 2017 Blog

June is LGBTQ Pride Month 

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBTQ) Pride Month is celebrated across the nation in the month of June. Different states and cities have parades, parties, bike rides, drag shows, concerts, etc. It’s a time to come together to celebrate and support the LGBT individuals in our lives and most importantly to remember those who fought for LGBTQ rights.

Celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month is important because:

Not too long ago LGBTQ individuals didn’t have the same basic civil rights as other people. On June 28th of 1969, in NYC,  a series of demonstrations by LGBTQ individuals in protest of mistreatment (known as the Stonewall Riots) inspired LGBTQ people to organize, show up and fight for their basic civil rights locally and across the country.

Acceptance of who you are is essential. Sure, now you can see LGBTQ people on TV, magazines and social media. You might even have co-workers that are LGBT, but generally speaking many LGBT youth and adults go to school and work not knowing if those around are LGBT friendly. When you go to the Pride celebrations you know you are surrounded by individuals who have in some way gone through some of the same struggles, there’s a sense of belonging and acceptance, you know you are not alone and you are not the only one.

Join the different celebrations across the state:

Ames Pride | October 15
Capital City Pride | June 9-11
Cedar Rapids | July 8
Co Dubuque | June 8-11
Iowa City Pride | June 17
Heartland Pride, Council Bluffs | June 17 
Mason City Pride Festival | June 3-4
Sioux City Pride Festival | June 3

Written by: Sonia Reyes-SnyderOffice of Latino Affairs

Cuts to programs threaten sexual assault survivors in Iowa

Iowa has long been recognized as a national model for service delivery to sexual assault survivors. Last month, the Iowa Legislature voted to cut victim services funding by more than 25%. Because of those cuts, a decision was made to remove funding from three victim services programs: the Iowa Statewide Sexual Abuse Hotline, which has operated as a free and confidential hotline since 1999; the Iowa Affirmation & Resources Chat (IowaARCh) which offers anonymous real-time online chat options in multiple languages, and has focused on youth; and Transformative Healing, which serves sexual violence survivors in the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Read the article from the Des Moines Register outlining the cuts to these programs

A majority of sexual assault and domestic violence agencies throughout Iowa will also face budget cuts as a result of the State Legislature voting to cut victim services funding. These decisions will have a lasting negative impact on survivors and communities across the state of Iowa. We believe that by defunding this vital work the state is moving backward. When voting for these cuts, state legislators said that it would not impact victim services. But they were wrong.

IowaCASA urges community members to continue to advocate for the Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline, IowaARCh, and Transformative Healing in any way possible. Here's what you can do to help:

  • Donate funds to these three programs. 
  • Volunteer with any of these three programs in your area. Visit their websites for more information about how to get involved.
  • Write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper about how any of these programs have had a positive impact on your or your loved ones, and voice your support for these services.

Contact your legislators; even though the state legislature is not in session, it's important for elected officials to know how survivors are being negatively impacted by these cuts, and what programs have done to make our communities safer and healthier.

Guest submission by: Beth Barnhill, Executive Director, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (IowaCASA)

In My Opinion: Making Political Events Accessible to Those with Special Needs

It was with mixed feelings that I just read about the Democratic picnic where a number of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates met with constituents to share their views of where they believe the state should go. Mixed feelings because, although I like a good picnic as much as anyone, it was unlikely that any attention was given to those with hearing loss who would have had trouble hearing what was being said.

I am a person with hearing loss. I lost my hearing suddenly eight years ago and, while I now have a cochlear implant, I need some sort of assistive listening to hear clearly. This has meant that I have been unable to attend any legislative coffees, meetings, campaign events, caucuses. While some of the larger ones have had sign language interpreters, the general, albeit mistaken, understanding is that, by having interpreters the needs of ALL those with hearing loss are being taken care of.

Not so. For every person who may be able to use ASL, there are 40 more of us who rely on hearing assistance, not sign language. We want to be involved. We want to contribute. We want not only to be heard, but to HEAR.

So, I have issued challenges/invitations to both the Republican and Democratic parties of Iowa. This is not a partisan issue, but a non-partisan issue, so I hope this opinion piece can generate some conversation and a change in how we welcome – or don’t welcome by de facto exclusion – people to our events.

Here is the pledge I drafted.

"To Candidates Running for State and National Office:

We are working hard to support the inclusion of all Iowans in the upcoming election cycle. To accomplish this, we are focusing on making all of our campaign stops fully accessible, not only to those who have physical challenges, such as those in wheelchairs or using canes or walkers, but also for those who need assistance with effective communication.

Thus we will make sure that that there is always an assistive listening system available and advertised at EVERY event, and, in addition, we will provide a sign language interpreter if someone requests it in advance (Contact  Phone number; email; text message  to make arrangements).

We encourage anyone running for or already in a statewide office to sign on to this pledge so that both  those who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing, along with those in wheelchairs, etc., have  the right to be able to be fully included in participatory democracy."

I assume that people from all parties, in theory, might support this pledge, but I also drafted a list of how to make that happen, so that the pledge doesn’t just become another piece of unfulfilled campaign rhetoric:

Insuring All Constituents Have Access to Meetings, Events

  • Have someone on staff designated as accessibility person.  
  • When choosing sites for meetings, check out their accessibility-- including both mobility access (e.g., wheelchairs, ramps, etc.) AND ALSO hearing access.  
  • If there is one venue that has assistive listening, in particular an installed hearing loop, favor it over those without appropriate accommodations. 

Questions to ask venue:

  • Does venue have a public address system?
  • Will it be available to use?
  • Does it have any assistive listening?
  • What kind?
  • Will these be available for use in a convenient place?
  • Invest in a portable assistive listening system that may be used and set up before meeting.
  • Make sure this accessibility information is included in any press release, announcement, Facebook, flyer, or any other media release.
  • When arriving at site, have your accessibility person check in venue to make sure the accessibility is functioning and in working order.    
  • Have signage in a prominent location.
  • Make short announcement at beginning of meeting telling about the assistive listening system and point to where there are headsets, if needed.

So, who is ready to join me in this pledge? Who is willing to step beyond the pledge and root it in the tradition of political discourse in the state of Iowa? Speak up – loud and clear. Remember, I have hearing loss, so it will take a bit more effort. I, and thousands of others with hearing loss, as well as those who are barred from physical access, am worth it. So, let us begin.

Written by: Mary Dyer, Commissioner, Deaf Services Commission of Iowa