Open Mouth Reading Series is a nonprofit literary organization located in Fayetteville, Arkansas that hosts monthly readings and workshops each month, as well as an annual festival and writing retreat. Our mission is to bring nationally touring poets into meaningful contact with our local community.
Until March of 2020, we had always offered our programs in person, but once the COVID19 pandemic reached Arkansas, we had to rethink how we do things. We decided to view the pandemic as an opportunity to work on becoming a truly accessible literary space. We pivoted to online events—we will continue to host online events even when we return to in-person programming— and hired an accessibility consultant specialized in the intersection of disability and literature. With this consultant, we completed a six-week training on gaps in access to literary spaces across the ability spectrum, and have since begun implementing changes, including access copies, captioning services, and ASL interpretation services.
This expansion in services is dear to us and we have committed a great deal of time and heart to getting it right, but we have a gap in our funding: ASL interpretation services cost about the same per reading as the stipend we pay our featured readers, effectively doubling our most predictable monthly costs.
All of our programming is (and will remain) free or low-cost, which means much of our funding comes from small donations from individual donors in campaigns like this one and from our Patreon account (where recordings of our online workshops and readings will soon be made available). We are committed to providing ASL interpretation no matter what, and we would be grateful if you could help us bridge the gap in our funding! The $3,000 raised by this campaign will cover interpreter services for the rest of 2020, including the multi-reading festival we are now planning.
TL;DR: We believe the literary world has an unprecedented opportunity to commit to accessibility in public readings, and your support for ASL interpretation services will help us build on our commitment to creating an accessible literary landscape.