By Fletcher Block, NFTY Southern California (SOCAL)
NFTY Convention was a weekend full of fun, laughter, and new memories. Friendships were formed, community was built, and we were all inspired to lead. Perhaps most importantly, though, change was sparked in our Movement.
During Asefah (business meeting), Ben Haberman and I presented legislation to guide NFTY in taking another step forward in our march towards inclusivity. Our summers at our respective URJ Camps, Camp Newman for Ben and Kutz Camp for myself, opened up our eyes to how we can take simple steps to make our Kehilah Kedosha (holy community) better for everyone. Originally, we presented this legislation to our region, NFTY SOCAL, with the intention of making our local community more accessible to participants of all abilities on the basis of NFTY’s 13 Principles. We wanted to start the process of removing barriers within our region in so that everyone can experience the fun and magic of NFTY. We soon realized that this idea would benefit NFTY on a North American level, and would help us include even more people.
The Resolution to Increase Accessibility for Participants highlights the small, yet important ways NFTY can improve its accessibility for three different groups of people: participants who are hard of hearing, participants who have impaired vision, and participants who might become overstimulated due to the total craziness that is NFTY.
In NFTY, we often use technology to enhance our programming, and this legislation is no exception. We constantly use videos, whether they are promotional videos, candidacy speeches, or even video calls. No matter what type of video it is, we can make them more accessible with the use of subtitles or manuscripts –which aid everyone, not just those that are hard of hearing –in understanding what they are watching. When we are together in person, and don’t have the opportunity to use subtitles or manuscripts, we encourage leaders to use microphones when addressing groups to make it easier for everyone to hear.
Technology also gives us the tools to better communicate on social media with participants whose vision is impaired. Most people are unaware of this feature, but some platforms, such as Instagram, allow for alternate text to be created in combination with a post. This alternate text can be read aloud by the user’s device, sharing details that they might not be able to see.
NFTY events are full of friendship, singing, dancing, leadership, and bonding, which sometimes mean we’re in a big group, or a loud environment. Many people see this as amazing and fun, but for others, it can be overwhelming. For NFTYites who are feeling overwhelmed by their surroundings, we can make sure there are quiet spaces available, where they can go to relax and be in a calm environment.
The NFTY General Board unanimously passed this resolution, which is a huge step towards making NFTY even more welcoming and inclusive, and allowing all of our participants to thrive. Between the changes we’re making on a North American level and the changes we’re making our regions and TYGs, our small actions can grow to make a monumental difference.