A True Story About a Non-Inclusive Wedding

Picture this: a vibrant clash of cultures as my buddy’s nephew was planning his wedding. My Deaf friend lived in Texas and his nephew’s wedding was going to be held in Northern California.  

My friend is completely deaf; he is over 50 and has been around the block many times. He wanted to hire an ASL interpreter for the wedding. He wanted to understand the beautiful words in the wedding ceremony and feel part of the celebration when the people were talking to him and around him. He wanted to feel normal and not left out or excluded from friends and family conversations. My friend is an excellent lip reader but wanted to make sure he understood and wanted to have peace of mind and the independence he’d have using the interpreter for better communication.  

Hiring ASL interpreters isn’t cheap, especially for an all-day event, but he was willing to spend the money to have this extra set of ears. He didn’t want people to pity him. When he excitedly shared his idea with his brother (his nephew’s father), his brother didn’t like the idea and told him not to do it. The brother asked, “Why? You’ve never had an interpreter before.” My buddy felt his heart drop to the floor, and he felt hurt that his brother wasn’t excited and as supportive as he had been when they were younger. This same brother used to use ASL with him and has forgotten over the years. Ironically, they argued about it for days by communicating on the real-time interpreter relay.   

Sadly, he ended up not going to the wedding at all because his brother did not want an interpreter there. He was pretty depressed about it for a while and had to accept his brother’s insensitivity and move on to have peace about it, himself.     

My Thoughts

I understand where my friend is coming from because I have had similar situations with my own family and friends throughout my life. Regrettably, my friend’s brother could not understand how this simple accommodation would have enhanced his enjoyment of this family celebration. As close and loving as family and friends can be, they sometimes don’t completely understand the importance of making accommodations. What friends and family perceive to be “acceptable and accessible” may not be for the person with a disability – it is up to the person who is Deaf or has a disability to judge the situation; hence, a clash of cultures.  

The lack of recognizing what is truly needed, can divide friends and family

What may be deemed accessible by friends or family, may actually be causing a difficult or uncomfortable situation which causes the person needing the accommodation to want to leave or disengage from the situation. The lack of recognizing what is truly needed, can divide friends and family. One may not feel welcome or accepted, and others may feel like the person is being difficult or unaccommodating as well. It shouldn’t be on the person who is Deaf/HOH or disabled to always make the “best of it” or “roll with the punches” because it becomes exhausting, heartbreaking, and the burden of always having to make those decisions can be the final straw in relationships. 

You won’t be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but you can listen with an open mind and understand that they know what is best based on their needs in the situation. Pity isn’t needed, but understanding absolutely is.

How do you feel about this situation?

How would you resolve the situation if you were my friend or his brother?

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A happy young couple are walking out of a wedding ceremony with rice flying all around them.

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