July is Disability Pride Month and “We Hear You” was happy to celebrate. Thank you to Google Accessibility, Google’s Disability Alliance and Dimitri Kanevsky for inviting us to screen “We Hear You” at Google and for hosting a post-viewing discussion. It was a terrific conversation that raised awareness about the needs of people with hearing loss and highlighted the many ways technology can ease communication.
The live event was well attended and is available for replay internally at Google. We hope a few excerpts will be shared externally. Stay tuned for details and links.
Technology Boosts Communication
The Disability Pride virtual event highlighted a host of tech tools that aid communication. The film included open captions (visible on the screen for all) and open audio description (audible/captioned for all). The post-film discussion utilized live (CART) as well as auto captioning via the Relate app which has been trained to decode Dimitri’s heavily-accented speech.
Audio Description Adds Vivid Details
I never experienced audio-description before and it was incredible! The vibrant language brought the scene to life. It made me wonder how emotional context could be added to captions too. The audio description also included a dubbed English translation of Roxana’s Spanish which was helpful for those who could not read the translation in the captions.
Questions Focused on Opportunities
Several viewers asked questions to help them better understand the lived hearing loss experience. Others focused on ways Google could use technology to enhance communication.
- How do you refer to your hearing loss and why?
- How can we encourage medical facilities to embrace handheld captioning alternatives?
- Beyond transcripts, how can we make visual representations more useful?
Improvement was the Word of the Day
One commenter complained that viewers needed to access the CART captioning on a separate tab rather than on the livestream itself. This shows that even Google—one of the largest and most successful companies in the world—can do more to improve accessibility. It was terrific, however, to see how strongly disability is included in Google’s efforts to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion.
“We Hear You” Creates a Hearing Loss Connection
Most mainstream media about hearing difficulties focuses on Deaf culture—a beautiful and valid experience—but not a typical one for people with hearing difficulties. In fact, as we say in the film, less than 5% of people with hearing loss use sign language to communicate.
“We Hear You” resonated with viewers. See one participant’s comment below.
Thank you all so much! As a person who also experiences hearing loss, I really connected to your stories and challenges. Especially about how the pandemic and masking has increased the feeling of isolation in our community. Thank you for your advocacy!Viewer comment
“We Hear You” is available to rent or purchase on Vimeo. Learn more here.
Disability Pride New to People with Hearing Loss
People with hearing loss may be new to disability pride. They may even wonder, “Does my hearing loss make me disabled?”
In reality, the answer must be an emphatic YES! This is the only way we can receive the protections we need under the Americans With Disabilities Act. But the word is also fraught with emotion and stigma. Perhaps it is that stigma that keeps some people with hearing loss from accepting it, especially if they developed hearing loss as an adult. Yet, it is part of what makes us uniquely ourselves. We need to embrace it, and own it, and do all we can to not let it stand in our way. That is my goal.
About “We Hear You”
“We Hear You” is an award-winning documentary that focuses on the lived hearing loss experience. It touches on stigma and the challenges that people with hearing loss face in everyday communication. It also shares the silver linings of hearing loss, like meeting people you might not have otherwise met and the power of peer support. Conceived, filmed, and directed across two continents, all during the pandemic, it features 4 women with hearing loss.
Holly Cohen is a hearing health advocate and an executive producer of “We Hear You.” She writes and speaks about ways to break down hearing loss stigma and serves on the Board of HLAA’s New York City chapter.
Shari Eberts is a hearing health advocate and an executive producer of “We Hear You.” She writes the popular hearing loss blog LivingWithHearingLoss.com and is the author of the book Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss with fellow-advocate Gael Hannan.
Toni Iacolucci advocates for communication access for people with hearing loss in medical settings and is part of the strategic team for HLAA’s CommunicationAccess in Health Care Program.
Roxana Rotundo is an executive producer of “We Hear You” and the CEO of VIP 2000 TV, a films and content distribution company. She is a juror of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Readers, is your workplace, classroom or local venue interested in hosting a viewing of “We Hear You”? If so, please be in touch.