January 13, 2022. In a recent year end interview, a representative of a disabilities organization on the Island made a number of misleading comments about people with hearing loss and the challenges they face in communicating in the wake of pandemic safety measures.
…Misleading statements made….
Here are some of the statements that came out of the interview:
“….For people who are partly deaf ….it took the provincial government ‘a long time’ to get sign language interpreters at their COVID-19 health briefings…”
“…People who have hearing impairments and use sign language, it is their first language. It’s how they speak to their community members, and they should have been able to get very pertinent information that affects their lives in their first language, like the rest of Island citizens…”
If you have hearing loss, do these statements represent you? They don’t apply to me. Many of us have consistently asked for real-time captioning in the Covid briefings. To date, this is not provided, unless you count the computer-generated captions found on YouTube, with all the errors and misstatements.
Did you know that professional captioners have the same training as court recorders? Can you imagine the outcry if, instead of a court recorder, the legal system used artificial intelligence to capture what is said in a trial?
Having a reporter reach out to an organization dealing with disabilities seems like a great idea, but it may have been wiser to reach out to specific groups and ask for their input. Hear PEI would have corrected the misconceptions BEFORE the interview was published.
….Hear PEI responds…
After learning about the interview, Annie Lee MacDonald, on behalf of Hear PEI, responded to the person making the misleading statements:
“…I just want to refresh your memory on the reference you made in the interview where you spoke about hearing loss and sign language, implying that those with hearing loss rely on sign language. This is not true and I don’t know of anyone who is hard of hearing relying on sign language to understand. Only the deaf rely on sign language.
Hard of hearing covers a wide spectrum on PEI and people rely fully on oral communication with closed captioning, real-time captioning, speech transfer systems, and speechreading to communicate more effectively.
It is a misconception in Government that sign language takes care of the hard of hearing. It is of no use to us whatsoever.
I am not aware of how many Islanders are deaf and require sign language. I had requested real-time captioning for these government briefings as 50% or more of PEI’s population over 50 have some degree of hearing loss. Since masks became mandatory many individuals are realizing they have a hearing loss because they hadn’t realized they were compensating the loss by speechreading…”
Bottom line…. If you have hearing loss and don’t use sign language, speak up and make your voice heard with what YOU need for hearing accessible communication.
….Technology changes the traditional methods of communication….
Technology has had an enormous effect on the way we communicate…. Email and text messaging allows for instant communication. Cochlear implants allow people who once would be considered deaf to hear. Real-time captioning software, albeit not perfect, turns speech into a written format. Telecoils for hearing loops and Blue-tooth provide much needed added value to hearing accessibility tools.
Pocket talkers, microphones, and speech transfer systems (also called window intercom systems) provide amplification undreamed of 100 years ago.
I was reminded of the changes that technology have brought when I spoke with an American friend who became legally blind a few years ago due to a degenerative disease.
“…Have you learned to use Braille?…” I inquired. He had a lot of assistance from the American Foundation for the Blind, so I assumed he had to use Braille. To my astonishment, he said he didn’t need Braille and it wasn’t recommended that he learn it. Instead technology keeps him independent.
He uses a white cane….. which has a sensor to let him know if anything is in his way! A special program on his computer lets him dictate his email messages and a voice reads out the emails he receives. His cell phone works in basically the same way for making and receiving calls. Audiobooks keep him in reading material and described video lets him enjoy what is on TV. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time we see him he has new technology tools that we can only marvel at.
If you have hearing loss, what is on your wish list for better communication? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.
Did you know that you can subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube? Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ
© Daria Valkenburg