As we live our daily lives, many of us take for granted the simple things in life, with one of those being our senses. If you have ever had a large bandage on your hand or arm that limited the use of that appendage, you realize very quickly how important your fingertips have become in simple and mundane tasks like tying your shoes or buttoning a shirt. If you have ever had a cast on your foot or have been forced to use crutches, or even worse a wheelchair, you became aware of the obstacles that are all around us.
Many of us in the telecommunications industry are familiar with the various disabilities that affect the sight and hearing of our employees and coworkers. After all, we have to comply with the ADA laws that exist in the US, and the notorious section 508 compliance. But much of the time, those that administer, and even implement ADA compliance never take it to the next level.
Have you ever asked for the opinion of someone who is hard of hearing or deaf on how your ADA compliant solution benefits them? Did they find it useful? Did it improve, or at least partially improve, their ability to communicate with their coworkers, their peers and even customers?
I think it’s fair to say that many of us, even those of us who should know better, may not think things all the way through when it comes to accessibility. Case in point are the two videos I recorded and recently posted on YouTube from “The Podcast Zone” at the NENA 2013 Conference and Expo that was held in Charlotte North Carolina. While we were recording audio podcasts with several industry leaders and professionals, Toni D. Dunne, ENP, who is a colleague of mine, suggested that I record some podcasts using an ASL interpreter.
I jumped at the opportunity, and recorded a great interview with Christian Vogler from the Gallaudet University, and Jan Withers who works for the state of North Carolina on disability issues and access. These videos are currently on my YouTube page.
It wasn’t long before I got a note from another good friend and colleague in charge of disability rights for the city of Los Angeles, Richard Ray. He complimented me on the videos, and was certainly able to see the person I was interviewing and their use of ASL, but my back was to the camera and there was no one there to sign what I was saying. Because of this, a hearing impaired or deaf viewer would only see half of the conversation.
The happy ending to that story is were now looking at ways to close caption not only these videos, but make other content available, including my podcasts, to the hearing impaired, deaf.
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