Staunton City's Vision and Priorities for Inclusivity

Staunton City's Vision and Priorities for Inclusivity

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Co-sponsored by Staunton Organizing, Reclaim Augusta and Local & Vocal Staunton started this petition to Staunton City Council & City Staff

Join together with other Staunton community members to advocate for inclusive policies and the establishment of an Equity Commission. Help guide our city's vision to prioritize goals for diversity and inclusiveness by signing this letter. 

To: Staunton City Council & Staff


As you revisit our city’s priorities and vision during the upcoming City Council Retreat, we ask that you address the following considerations in your discussion about inclusiveness:

-Adopt a universal design approach for policy that supports diversity, achieves equity, and fosters inclusivity in policies and programs across all city platforms. According to the National Disability Authority, "Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. An environment (or any building, product, [policy] or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. This is not a special requirement, for the benefit of only a minority of the population. It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples' needs. Simply put, universal design is good design.”

-Implement a strategic plan to institute a city commission on equity and inclusion to serve as a resource for city government and the community with duties such as; advising Staunton City Council and City staff on issues of diversity; providing guidance to create a more equitable, accessible, safe, welcoming, and inclusive government and community; and promoting practices for conducting outreach, removing barriers, and increasing public engagement.

-Invest in community engagement by designing programs and initiatives to honor the current City Council “Inclusiveness” Vision which states that “No one is left out and everyone has a voice in how the City is run. We strive continually to improve Staunton’s quality of life by involving all citizens.” The City should foster community collaborations that utilize the abundance of service providers and non-profit organizations that work to fill the unique needs of marginalized community members. The City should encourage all boards/commissions/committees to add seats specifically for consumers of their services and their most vulnerable stakeholders.

-Institute a strategic plan for ongoing audits of the city’s performance concerning issues and priorities of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Analyze how successful the city has been in achieving its current inclusiveness priorities which include; (1)conduct a citizen survey and use results to develop and implement a proactive strategy to achieve more citizen engagement, (2)review and modify as necessary all City policies to ensure that they are aligned to achieve inclusiveness, including attention to the diversity of staff and management and salary equity, and (3)enhance and support efforts to promote the complete and diverse history of the city so that we enhance civic pride, instill ownership among all citizens, and create momentum for the vision.

-Provide remote accessibility to all city council/board/commission/committee meetings, including special-called meetings and meetings held outside of city hall chambers.

-Require city staff to conduct an ADA self-assessment for the city.

In addition for your consideration, we have included a statement below provided by Virginia Beach (Johnson St.), a member of Staunton’s Deaf community.

Concerned Community of Staunton

*Comment from Virginia Beach
“ The main thing that comes to my mind in regards to equity for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People is the need for Equal Communication Access, as well as recognition of Deaf Culture. One of the things I frequently notice is that when "Culture" is discussed - such as the diversity of different cultural groups; presentations, events, projects, etc. focusing on various cultures; and similar issues and situations - Deaf Culture rarely gets mentioned, let alone included in such. So many see Deafness as a disability, not as a culture. Thus they do not recognize or respect the Deaf Community and its language, customs and traditions, social norms, and the like.

Equal Communication Access means ensuring that accommodations are being provided to assure that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing (please do not use the term "hearing impaired" - it is considered offensive in the Deaf Community) have full access to information, services, activities, etc. in the community. This means the provision of sign language interpreters when needed or requested; captioning of televised or video media; assistive listening devices; CART services (real-time captioning); etc. And we do not need to be getting excuses such as "we don't have the money," "we can just write back and forth," "you can read lips, so we don't need an interpreter," etc. etc. We as Deaf people know what our communication needs are. If I say I need a sign language interpreter, I don't want someone telling me otherwise.

Audism and Hearing Privilege are very real issues for the deaf and hard of hearing community. We fight this form of oppression and marginalization on a daily basis. 75% of all Deaf people are either unemployed or underemployed. We struggle to find good-paying jobs because employers think that if you can't hear, you can't do the work.

We are often at the mercy of hearing people who make decisions about us and for us...without really talking to us and find out what our true wants and needs are. Many times these individuals know very little about Deaf Culture and the Deaf Community, and yet they consider themselves perfectly qualified to decide what is best for us - in education, in employment, in social services, in mental health, in medical care, in legal services, etc. We need to have a voice, but how often is our voice included?

Does the Staunton City Council even provide sign language interpreters for their public meetings and events? We have the Shenandoah Valley Club for the Deaf here in Staunton; they have their own clubhouse (near the Farmers Market). Have any of the members ever attended a meeting at the Deaf Club? Invited board members of the Deaf Club to sit down with them and share some of their thoughts and concerns? If not, why not? How can the concept of equity apply to us if we are not being included?

These are my initial thoughts. Feel free to get back to me if you wish to discuss this further. The idea of an Equity Committee is intriguing, and I would like to see Deaf representation on such.”

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