It is a response we deaf and hard of hearing people often get when we ask hearing people what they are talking about. When we follow up, they say something like: “Oh I forgot, but it was not important.” There are also other comments like “Never mind”, “Hold on a minute”, “You don’t need to know.”, “We just talk about [just one word and no more details]”, “Please be patient”, “I’m sorry I don’t know sign language [to make an excuse not to communicate via writing]”, etc.
Many hearing people do not realize how much they take for granted the ease of access to any aural information and oral communications anytime and anywhere. Telling those words to deaf and hard of hearing people hurts them and makes them feel less important and not worth to be included. For these reasons, Hellen Keller said: “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.” It’s not our hearing inability that prevents us from communicating with hearing people – it’s their unwillingness to communicate with us in a way that makes it easier for us to understand them.
I came across a couple great blog posts where deaf people express their feelings about this:
I would recommend that you read those articles – what they share is also experienced by myself and many other deaf and hard of hearing people. Sadly, it happens everywhere – with hearing family members, hearing friends, and hearing strangers. It took a while for my family members to realize that I need to know what they are talking about in front of me. Though they do not know sign language, I’m grateful to them when they try to include me whenever they can by repeating or writing what they talk about in groups.
I would have understood about organizations or individuals not aware about accessibility, but there’s no excuse for those who advocate for accessibility not to make their aural information accessible for deaf and hard of hearing people. Sadly, even there are people and organizations involved in accessibility sometimes don’t think about people like myself. There have been ironic instances when some accessibility advocates post podcasts that are not accessible via transcripts or say that “Transcript is under way” after posting a podcast (instead of making a podcast accessible first before posting it online for everyone to enjoy). Also, often accessibility advocates share their video and audio that is not captioned or transcribed and make excuses that those are not their video or audio (if they care about accessibility, why are they sharing inaccessible media in the first place?).
Those are just a few selected examples that accessibility advocates do not practice what they preach, but there are many more that I have came across – including “accessibility” webinars that are not accessible for deaf and hard of hearing people. After the recent CSUN 2014 conference, WebAble TV posted video recordings of talks about ACCESSIBILITY that were NOT captioned. How they could ignore the group of people who rely on captions? They added insult to injury by telling us deaf and hard of hearing people to be patient and wait. They refused to remove inaccessible videos and to upload them again with captions despite being asked to do so. Although their conference was accessible for deaf and hard of hearing attendees, their online recordings were not. It’s especially surprising that that conference has been happening for the 29th year. CSUN folks are excluding their “family” members by not making their aural recordings accessible to them.
Below is an image with 2 screenshots of WebAble TV page with videos (that were inaccessible when first posted online). The screenshot on left shows a keynote speaker video that did not have captions even though the CC feature is on. Another screenshot on right shows another speaker video that was also not captioned even with the CC feature on, and on top of it the message was added later to say: “We will be posting the captioning for each video file as it is completed. Thank you for your patience.” It may not be obvious, but it’s actually addressed to deaf viewers only which is not the right thing to do. What the video producers should have done is to have all inaccessible videos removed and to post the message for everyone to say something like: “We will post new videos once they are captioned. Thank you for your patience.” That way it would be addressed for everyone, not just deaf people. It would be a big difference.
Why is there a rush to post video and audio for those who can hear? If deaf and hard of hearing people are being told to be patient and wait, then hearing people should be told the same – to make it fair for us. It’s not like somebody would die from waiting. I would like to see people – especially those preaching about accessibility – stop making us being the last to get news and feel like second class citizen. Telling us to wait is NOT accessibility. It’s equivalent to saying: “I will tell you later.”
Please share all aural information via quality captioning and transcription with us NOW, not LATER. We deserve full and equal rights to communication access at the same time like everyone else.
If you need more advice about making your aural information accessible, feel free to contact me.