Those are Harry Lang’s words quoted by I. King Jordan at his presentation during the recent ALDA/TDI conference in New Mexico. Communication is not limited to spoken languages only – it can happen in other ways such as via captioning, sign language, cued speech, lipreading, paper/pen, typing, Braille, etc.
The conference was hosted by two organizations, Association of Late-Deafened Adults and Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc., for attendees with various levels of hearing and communication abilities and preferences. One thing I liked best about the conference is that it offered all types of communication access – captioning, sign language, hearing loop. While I prefer captioning to access information in spoken English, I find it easier to use sign language interpreters to voice for me when I sign as not everyone can understand my speech.
It was not my first time attending a conference that is accessible via various communication options, but I felt that the ALDA/TDI conference was the most inclusive I’ve been to. The conference organizers provided not just professional interpreters for presentations and formal events, but also student interpreters for breaks, exhibit hall, and social events. This conference made me feel more included than HLAA conferences (whose organizers are selective about providing sign language interpreters) and especially AG Bell conferences (where many people look down at those who don’t have good speech or have limited listening and lipreading abilities).
ALDA’s motto about communication is “whatever works” which I like. Attendees and presenters could use either spoken or sign languages or both. I usually read sign language when listening to someone using it and rely on captions or interpreters when someone is using spoken English. I liked it that many late deafened people were trying to use sign language whenever they can – even if it was a “CSL” – “crappy sign language” – as Bill Graham, one of conference presenters and a co-founder of ALDA, was joking about. It was nice for me to be able to use various communication modes with attendees depending on their communication preferences – from pure ASL to PSE to using voice and lipreading or paper/pen – and, if needed, using sign language interpreters.
The conference was also about advocacy. I agree with I. King Jordan when he said during his presentation: “Speak up and speak out. Advocate for yourself. And share information. So that is very helpful. I think we need to advocate for ourselves and for each other.” It is important not just to be able to use communication that works for you, but also to advocate for full and equal access to information. I enjoyed attending workshops about access to online media, movie theaters, 911 texting, etc.
It would be nice to see more events being inclusive and more people using various communication tools than just spoken languages. Below is a video that I would like to share where Patrick Boudreault, a Deaf linguist, says that the universal language is in our minds – i.e. it doesn’t matter if we use ears and mouth or eyes and hands because all information is processed in our brains. When you come to think of it – if we could read each others’ minds, we would’t need any of those communication tools and can just use our minds regardless of our hearing abilities.
(Video – The universal language is in our minds)