I went to a poetry reading on Saturday night. It was at The FOLD, which seems to pride itself on accessibility–‘cepting it wasn’t accessible for me. Two of the four presenters didn’t use the microphone that was right beside them.
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a few years know that this seems to be a poetic problem.
If you want me to pay you for your art, I need to be able to take part in it.
There’s not a lot about accessibility for hard-of-hearing people (though apparently one-quarter of the population has some type of hearing loss). Here are my suggestions for HoH accessibility:
1. Always use a microphone.
OU TUNT BEE I CA UH-UR-TAH OO. (Loud doesn’t mean I can understand you.) The microphone consistently makes all the sounds louder, which means I can pick up more consonants. Make it a good microphone, too. Static and blaring make things unintelligible.
2. Make sure you have decent speakers hooked up to said microphone.
Squawking and fuzzing aren’t good here, either.
3. Light the presenter’s face.
Lipreading doesn’t work well in mood lighting.
Lipreading, though, has drawbacks: B and M look the same; F and V look the same. Accents really mess with lipreading. Shouting, emphasis and extreme emotion also contort lips. For most people in most situations, lipreading is only half a language.
4. Offer closed-captioned videos or print-outs of the reading.
ASL is nice, but not everyone is fluent in ASL. People who don’t use it regularly might be good enough to have a conversation, but poetic language is probably beyond them.
5. If you can’t make your event accessible for me, just let me know.
I don’t expect everyone to accommodate my ears. People who don’t speak English wouldn’t expect you to translate the whole programme into their language.
Just don’t lie to me and take my money.
For communication tips, read the Canadian Hearing Society’s page.