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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Collaboration, Communication, and Captioning at the Conference

Photo credit
Today was day two of my conference in Chicago. The Web Goddess and I arrived this morning in time for the complimentary breakfast- quite the spread I might add, not your usual muffin/bagel & coffee fare. We went to our first session which was on collaboration between libraries and IT departments. The Web Goddess said she will go bananas if she has to hear the word collaboration one more time. It's the theme of our track for the conference, I pointed out.

Our second session was in a new room. I am happy to say that my ALD (assistive listening device) worked just fine. What a difference it made too. I loved being able to adjust the volume up and down for each speaker's voice.

After this, we gave ourselves an hour off. Oh, did this help me. I took out my hearing aids and curled up in a comfy chair and read a book. Then it was time for lunch. We were supposed to have "roundtable discussions" while we ate. The arrangement was that you could choose where you wanted to sit based on the topic posted on a tabletop sign. The Web Goddess and I deliberately chose a table without a sign so I can't tell you how those designated dialogues went.

Lunch was socially awkward for me. When there was just one or two other people at our table, I felt comfortable interacting. But once more people joined our table, I found myself shutting down and directing all my conversation to my colleague seated next to me. I have always considered myself shy in group situations and now I have to face the possibility that my hearing loss may be partially responsible. I hate it when someone speaks to me and I only catch half of what they're saying.

Earlier that day we had been informed that there would be a raffle drawing at lunch and the top prize was $500 gift card. In my typical hard of hearing way, I assumed the prize was a gift card for the vendor that told us about the raffle. Not interested, I declined to enter the drawing. Imagine my chagrin when the prize turned out to be a $500 American Express gift card. I can only hope I learned something here about making sure I get all the details next time.

The highlight of my day came after lunch when I went to a poster session presented by a team from Eastern Illinois University. They have been working with captioning media. Since that is something the Web Goddess and I have been interested in getting going at our university and we recently received the long awaited software for it, I couldn't wait to talk to these people.

They informed me that it is now the law in Illinois that all media posted to a state website must be captioned. I was unaware of that. As information technology people, their focus was on creating programming that would make the process easier. I was really impressed by their work although I certainly didn't understand all the technical aspects of it. I asked if they had received any feedback on their work (meaning from deaf or hard of hearing students). They just talked about feedback from their colleagues at other universities. I tried to communicate to them how wonderful their work was and what a positive impact it would have for the deaf and hard of hearing. I'm not sure if they really got what I was saying. I think for them they were focused on the technical challenges and the concern with following the law. Nevertheless it's good to know that smart people are working on these issues and making accessibility a reality. They said they would help me in any way they could with my own projects. Collaboration, it's a good thing. (Just don't tell the Web Goddess I said so.)


ms toast burner said...

It sounds like you had a better day than the previous day though I can completely related to the 'shutting down' socially as more people gathered at your table.

And well done Illinois for that law. It's made me realise that I have no idea what my local, provincial or federal laws are in this matter.

I love that photo!

jelly said...

Glad your next day was much better. I understand the 'shutting down' socially, I do that ALL the time. At family gatherings, work, out in public (stores and such). The concentration gets to intense for me.

Illinois is really getting on the bandwagon, huh?

Happy Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

Yes I can understand the shutting down thing. Too much hard work lip reading which you still end up missing the conversations anyway. I tend to chat mainly with one person in a group.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thanks, Ms. Toast Burner, jelly, and Liz. I am so glad to hear that you can relate to my shutting down at the table.

I think it was even more difficult with me as these people were strangers I would likely never see again and there didn't seem to be a point in explaining my hearing loss. Maybe I'm trying to justify my cowardice here...

Actually this wasn't the friendliest group around seeing as how it was made up of computer geeks and librarians. I saw people everywhere avoiding contact by focusing on their mobile phone or laptop rather than interacting with those around them.