A Theatre Festival Rejected This Man's Volunteer Application Because He Has A Disability
The festival has apologized after a heap of backlash.
This is Daniel Hughes. As he has in the past, Hughes applied to volunteer at this year's Edmonton Fringe Festival. This year, however, they said no.
According to a letter he shared on Facebook last Saturday, Hughes' application to be a "friendraiser" was denied because he is non-verbal due to a disability.
"Over the years, our needs for volunteer support during the Festival have changed and evolved, and due to the nature of the current demands on our Festival, we are now obligated to engage only those volunteers whose skill sets match those of the job," said the letter.
"For instance, all volunteers on the FriendRaisers Team must now be able to actively communicate and engage with Festival Patrons, both asking for donations and explaining how the Festival benefits from this support."
As he noted in the Facebook post, the letter was addressed to his primary support person — not to Hughes himself.
Hughes was also upset that instead of being offered a different volunteer position, the festival extended an invitation to a "Community Day" event.
"I can't believe they think they will make things better by inviting me to a special needs party," wrote Hughes. "Why can I not be a citizen and participate like others?"
A Facebook page setup by Hughes' family, Let Daniel Volunteer, noted that his aide can communicate verbally.
"They want someone who can explain how the donations are used and where they go, fair enough, but this issue is far from insurmountable," wrote Hughes' brother, David.
The Facebook page also posted that at least one other person had received a rejection letter similar to Hughes'.
"It's hard enough for the disabled to find ways to be social and interact without non-profits taking opportunities away from them," wrote David.
"All he is asking for is for a little bit of consideration and help, so that he can take part in something that he enjoys, and have a positive impact on his community."
On Sunday, the festival posted a reply apologizing for the way Hughes' application was handled.
"We have attempted to reach out to Daniel to discuss how he can be involved if there is an opportunity that matches his skill set for this Festival," the note said.
That, however, wasn't good enough for Hughes' supporters.
"Just a little too late to apologize when your TRUE COLOURS an shown for all the world to see -- LOUD and VERY CLEAR! You people are absolutely unbelieveable. Complete and absolute HYPOCRITES!" wrote one commenter.
"Very disappointing. I don't know of any volunteer-dependent organization that would seriously turn down an offer of help for such transparently discriminatory reasons, and then have the gall to back that up with "apologies" like this," said another.
Later, the festival posted a longer apology admitting that they did not reach out to Hughes directly to talk about his volunteer experience.
The festival confirmed that "a few others" had received similar letters.
"We did so many things wrong, and this is not excusable," wrote Marc Carnes, president of the festival. "We work to be an inclusive organization and festival — truly we do. But today it is clear that we still have a lot of work to do in that area."
As of now the Fringe has apologized, but it remains unclear whether Daniel will be given the opportunity to volunteer at the festival.
The festival now says it has gotten in contact with Hughes' family. Although he declined to volunteer this year, he will return in 2016. The post said the festival is working with the family to improve volunteer procedures.