Category Archives: education

Let’s Have a Chat About Accessibility and Being Hard of Hearing

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.

 

 

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Sitting with the Bad Guy

A student had to write an essay in response to this quote:

Said student didn’t do so well with the essay, partly because they didn’t understand the concept of “easy and preferred answers”.

If human life had accurate easy and preferred answers, philosophers wouldn’t exist. Argument wouldn’t exist. There would be no need for thought.

Much as it may seem otherwise, I am easily bored. (It’s difficult to notice because I am also easily entertained by my own imagination, which can be whipped out at the drop of a hat. Do what you want with this statement.) The process of thinking is enjoyable to me: the result may be fine, but the means of getting there is what I appreciate. Maybe that’s why I never excelled at math: correct answers are not as pleasurable as good answers.

I also appreciate “liberal education”. I don’t want to miss anything interesting.

On Twitter and blogs, I follow an odd assortment of people. Very few of them are people I agree with—or necessarily like. I want to read about things I don’t know about. I want to read what the ex-cons and the anti-contact MAPs and the disgraced editors have to say. I want to read what the rabble-rousers and prejudiced people think. After all, “[y]ou can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in” (Arlo Guthrie). It behooves me to become familiar with the light, the dark, and that wonderful, explorable, murky grey area in between.

A few months ago, my daughter phoned me. She’d just witnessed her first car accident, and she’d been sitting with the person who was at fault–the crasher–as the victim had a whole slew of people with him. The crasher was having a bit of a rough time with what had just happened, so my daughter sat on the curb and listened until the authorities showed up. My daughter said the crasher was pale and shaking, obviously in shock: to my daughter, there were clearly two victims, and victims should not be left to flounder.

A very long time ago, I was in the same situation as my daughter’s brief companion: I was once a crasher. Like the crasher in my daughter’s situation, I knew I was at fault and was trying to process everything while standing alone on the street corner. The priest from the nearby church came to stand with me. We didn’t talk much; it was just easier to get through that waiting period with someone close by.

I was thinking of this as I read my student’s (failure of an) essay. They had used “right” and “wrong” as adjectives for “answers”, and I realised how rarely those terms are appropriate, in my experience. Perspective is a definitive thing, and the human race has yet to share a single perspective.

Naturally, it would be very nice if everyone would share my perspective–or would that bore me?

I believe we have the right to judge things as “correct” or “incorrect”, “good” or “bad”; however, personally, I want to be quite sure I’ve got all the information before I make that judgement. I’m not ashamed to change my mind–and I’ll gladly do so if I find it necessary–but it’s that whole ounce-of-prevention-pound-of-cure thing. Backpedalling is like work.

 

 

Notes towards the Definition of A Good Student

It’s the beginning of this school year, and we again come to that eternal conundrum of civilisation: Who is a good student?

Well…

  • a good student views the beginning and ending of the school year as a mere change in schedule
  • a good student has a schedule, but also knows when the schedule can/should be tossed out the window
  • a good student is organised, even if the method of organisation is comprehensible only to them
  • a good student knows how they learn best
  • a good student does concern themselves with grades received, but only to keep track of their personal progress; sometimes an A+ is the only acceptable grade, and at other times a C- is the goal
  • a good student understands that teachers can open the door but cannot make the student walk through it
  • a good student knows what makes their heart thud with happiness
  • a good student can come to terms with what boredom they must suffer in order to achieve the happiness that makes their heart thud
  • a good student will say “I already know that” because their inherent compulsion to learn will have them bursting to follow that sentence with “Teach me more”
  • a good student knows that age has no bearing on who is the teacher and who is the student
  • a good student has no limits, no prejudice, no fear

 

About Libraries

Activity Being Avoided: None. It’s a writing day. I’m allowed to be doing this.
Music In My Head: Kaa Khem — Yat-Kha
Tea Being Drunk: None. It’s water. I celebrated the civic holiday with chocolate cake, and I now have the same stomach ache I recall from childhood.
Books Being Read: Rebecca–Daphne du Maurier, My Happy Days in Hell–George Faludy

The Globe and Mail published this on Friday: Amid growing demand, GTA libraries are helping to fill a social-services gap

That’s my library they’re talking about at the beginning of the article.

Much as I appreciate this article, I’d like to correct the author: libraries have always filled a social-services gap.

 The small town I grew up in didn’t have a lot for kids like me: there were church groups and Brownies, and sport things. As a child, I had some friends but was more interested in books. (The inside covers of my childhood books all have death threats for the sister who had the audacity to thieve from my shelves.) I was eleven years old when I started volunteering at the local library. Very likely, I wasn’t what the average librarian might call helpful, but I was very happy to be there, touching all the books, getting quite side-tracked by reading the books I was supposed to be sorting, and maybe being a little bit useful or something. I felt mature.

I felt like I was being educated in a way that school could never offer.

The building was dusty, high-ceilinged, hushed except for the creaking of old wooden chairs and titanic reading tables. I can’t find any pictures of the interior, but here’s the exterior of heaven:

Image from Canada’s Historic Places

In 1980, someone made a prediction about the town: because of all the sinners and implicit sinning in the area, God was going to lose His patience and deal with the whole sinful mess. Sadly, God (or someone with a flourishing complex) chose fire to express His displeasure. Along with a good handful of other places, the library went down in 1980.

My heart broke. I think there might still be a small fissure beneath the thick scar.

Not to be thwarted, I volunteered at the school library. It was limited in both size and scope, filled with a lot of books that were, frankly, boring. The library contained books that were “appropriate” for W.A.S.P. children up to Grade 8.

I needed better than that. I needed adult books. I needed my big library.

We moved to a larger town just before my 13th birthday. The library there was much the same: old, creaky, educational and safe.

I had even fewer friends as a teenager. Didn’t need them. I had Timothy Findley and Jane Rule.

Can’t think what I’d be, or where I’d be, without public libraries. Certainly, I would be a demand on social services. Where else, pre-internet, would I have learned to be who I am? Where else would someone like me find sufficient sources of words for their sanity?

It’s always good to see public acknowledgement of our need for libraries.

If you need further proof that a good chunk of society’s money needs to go to libraries, you can also check out WMTC’s Things I Heard at the Library. (She’s a librarian, not just someone who would be a drain on society if she weren’t given enough to read.)

The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent

My political, social and spiritual comment for the week:

The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent, by John Erskine (1915)

tl;dr (excerpts)

• When the wise man brings his list of our genuine admirations, will intelligence be one of them?

• “Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever.”
Here is the casual assumption that a choice must be made between goodness and intelligence….

• …as a race we seem as far as possible from realising that an action can intelligently be called good only if it contributes to a good end; that it is the moral obligation of an intelligent creature to find out as far as possible whether a given action leads to a good or a bad end; and that any system of ethics that excuses him from that obligation is vicious.

• We make a moral issue of an economic or social question, because it seems ignoble to admit it is simply a question for intelligence.

• In the philosopher’s words, we curse the obstacles of life as though they were devils. But they are not devils. They are obstacles.

• But the lover of intelligence must be patient with those who cannot readily share his passion. (Damn. Ed.)

• Meanwhile he continues to find his virtues by successive insights into his needs. Let us cultivate insight.

Workshops in Mississauga

Activity Being Avoided: feeding the cats. Feel free to send them sympathy, but they’d prefer food. The torture will continue for another half hour.
Music (Not) In My Head: listening to this
Tea Being Drunk: just hot water. I’ve been sick, and I’m sloshing with liquids.
Books Being ReadMartin John — Anakana Schofield; An Unfortunate Woman — Richard Brautigan

Ask, and ye shall receive.

At the last Mississauga Writers Group meeting, some of the members were noting the group’s emphasis on the business aspects of writing–the post-writing stuff–and they expressed an interest in the practical aspects of writing. In response, Michelle Hillyard and I have designed a series of workshops for the beginning writer. These will focus on the pre-publication period.

You can keep track of these on my Upcoming Events page.

Depending on how these go, we’ll consider doing more or doing repeats.

(Yes, I know the Queer Literature workshop is in July: that’s when Peel holds its Pride Week. June is for Toronto’s Pride Week, and we are trying to be… not Toronto.)  Never mind. This was deemed “very specific” and they wanted me to water it down with other topics.

You’ve Brought It on Yourselves

Activity Being Avoided: nothing, really: I’m just waiting for Windows to update on my other computer.
Music In My Head: Tin Man – The Avett Brothers (Hey, at least it’s a different song.)
Tea Being Drunk: none. I’m trying to not float away.
Book Being Read: A Man for All Seasons – Robert Bolt

In an effort to avoid branding, I decided (upon finishing Homology and then again upon finishing To Be Human Again) that I would write about something other than sex. It’s an awesome topic–and I use the adjective literally, not colloquially–but fitting into a box just isn’t my thing.

You monsters, though, you just won’t let it alone. Every time someone proposes an excellent idea, some eejit takes everything back a couple of light-years. For chrissake, I just finished a book for you monsters, demonstrating that there’s reason for everything deemed “deviant”, and you ignore me.

Well. That means I just have to write more.

A recent issue of The Walrus had an article that is good, in that it offers reason and a possible solution to a problem that has not been solved in the history of humankind. It’s aptly entitled Why Would Someone Choose to Be a Monster? Indeed. No one chooses such a life–and no one is asking that pedophiles be allowed to go on their merry way; the point is that we come to understand their perspective so that we can find a way to accommodate their needs without people getting hurt.

And then CBC–written and edited by people who, by virtue of residency and calling, are obliged to be unswerving readers of The Walrussensationalises the idiocy of our justice system with the ever-so-useful term “dangerous offender” in the headline.

Mr. Lund, the “dangerous offender”, has been sentenced to indefinite incarceration; the article notes that he spent more than half his pre-trial incarceration in segregation.

This is a human being. What makes his life any less-important than the lives of the people he’s hurt?

Currently, I’m working on a nice, often-pleasant love story. You monsters, however, have left me in a position where the books beside my bed are starting to display a disturbing tone (again) and the characters are starting to find a place in my head. You monsters have boxed me in, so I’ll have to find a way to use it to an advantage–anyone’s advantage.

I leave you with a video that is a socially-acceptable step in the right direction. Apply it to sexual mental illness. Don’t take us backwards, please.