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Diversity and Disability

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Q:

My sister tried to attend an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. She’s obese, with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. She’s also deaf. She was lucky enough to find a member of the group who knew American Sign Language and could sign for her. Unfortunately, one of the other group members complained that the signing was distracting. The translator felt uncomfortable continuing, so my sister stopped attending.

My sister has struggled with weight issues and health problems for years and was delighted to have hope and fellowship. It was heartbreaking to see her stop attending because of this type of ableist discrimination. I hope you reach out to your groups and do some training and education on creating an inclusive community.

While we were very disappointed with our experience at that particular meeting, I still hold out hope that my sister might benefit from OA. Do you have other groups that are more inclusive?

A:

I am sorry to hear that your sister had an unpleasant experience at one of our OA meetings. Please do encourage your sister to go back to an OA meeting. If she feels uncomfortable at that particular meeting, she may be able to find another meeting in your area. If that was the only meeting in your area, please encourage her to attend again. Even though a member present at the meeting complained about the person who was helping your sister by translating the meeting into ASL, your sister cannot be excluded because someone complains about a possible distraction.

There are government regulations that protect persons with disabilities who wish to attend our meetings and, if necessary, have an interpreter. If the person who tried to help your sister is a member of our organization, they should be familiar with our Traditions pertaining to anonymity. Even if your sister brings a non-member to a meeting, she is allowed to do that. However, the non-member should be informed that anything said at one of our meetings, including the names of members present, should be considered confidential and should not leave the meeting room.

All OA meetings are listed on our website on our Find a Meeting page at oa.org.

— Members of the Board of Trustees provide answers to Ask-It Basket questions

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