We walked into the large auditorium and took our seats — positioning ourselves so I would have a good view of the podium in case I needed to lip read the speaker. As the program began, my eyes instinctively looked around for the captions. But there weren’t any. There were four large screens, all projecting the speaker and later a video he was playing, but not one displayed captions. I was disappointed, especially since one of the main topics of the talk was the importance of diversity and inclusion. Maybe they needed to practice what they preached.
Diversity and inclusion is a popular talking point at corporations, government entities and institutes of higher learning, which I think is wonderful. I believe we all do better work when surrounded by people with a diversity of skills, experiences and backgrounds.
But, most of the discussion seems to focus on diversity of race, religion, sexual orientation and the like. These are all important aspects, but why is the concept less often extended to include disability? And particularly hearing loss?
The day after the presentation, my experience continued to bother me, but I knew nothing would change for the next meeting if I did not make my voice heard. So when the survey email arrived soliciting feedback on the event, I filled it out, asking the organizers to consider providing open captions at the next session. “It would be a perfect way for the organization to demonstrate its commitment to honoring diversity and providing inclusion,” I explained.
I went on to say that captions not only help people with hearing loss, but also individuals for whom English is not a first language. Even my husband, who falls into neither of those categories, always finds captioning helpful whenever it is available.
The more we advocate for ourselves, the more likely it is that things will change so I decided to go a step further. I sent emails to the organizers and others I knew at the institution that hosted the event. I was respectful and factual, but also to the point. Talking about diversity and inclusion is not enough. Action is required.
I am excited to say I got a response a few days later. They were excited by the suggestion and looking into the cost. I plan to follow up in a few weeks. I wonder if the next event will be captioned…
Readers, how do you advocate for inclusion for people with hearing loss?