Saturday, September 24, 2016

ALDAcon Day Three - part one

This is the third installment of my experiences this past week at the national convention for the Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA) held in Brookfield, Wisconsin. I was involved in this event as the Newcomers Chair and as a workshop presenter.

Saturday, September 17
Today was the day for my second presentation of the convention. I was excited to share my material on the subject on how to communicate effectively with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

In my workshop, I provided background information about hearing loss, discussed three behaviors a speaker can use proactively to make communication easier for the listener, hosted a Family Feud style game to brainstorm ideas for coping with the problem of background noise, and explained what to do when misunderstandings occur.

I realize that by presenting at ALDAcon, I was preaching to the choir, as they say. To my knowledge there was only one hearing person present in my audience. All the same, I received positive feedback such as this comment from my friend John Garvey on Facebook, "The communication workshop you gave not only put things into context but what can be done to communicate better was tangible....I can use it!" People also asked for the links to the resources I used so they could share the information with others. I was thankful for all my friends from ALDA Chicago who showed up to hear me speak as a sign of support, some of them having already heard the beta version of my presentation the previous year!

I was thrilled that two people I admire, outside of ALDA Chicago, chose to attend. In this photo taken afterwards, I am standing with John Waldo and Rebecca Herr. John Waldo is the lawyer who successfully litigated a lawsuit against major theater chains to force them to provide captioning access. John's work was an inspiration for my Show Us the Captions advocacy campaign in 2012. I wanted to follow up on what he had done and get people out to the movie theaters and using the access now available. When he commented online that the campaign was a good idea, I was empowered to make it happen.

John shared two pieces of advice with me after my presentation. He said to include in my section on social bluffing that people should NEVER pretend to understand when dealing with law enforcement. He also told me that when mentioning someone, it is helpful to place the context of that person ahead of their name. For example: librarian and blogger, Sarah Wegley rather than Sarah Wegley, librarian and blogger.

Rebecca Herr is an advocate I met at the 2011 ALDAcon in Indianapolis. I had surprised her back then by telling her I had come to the con just to meet her, after reading her bio in the program book. She graciously allowed me to have my photo taken with her. Fast forward five years to the Milwaukee con. I passed Rebecca in the hallway and she remembered me. She told me that she was pleased to see my name in the program book this time and that she was coming to hear me speak. When she said that, I felt like I was walking on air!

She did even more for me. She sat with me at two of the meals and shared samples of the work she has been doing in the past year. Earlier, I had been raving about her to my roommate and when she gave me the handouts, I turned to Michelle and said, "See! This is why I admire her so much!" Rebecca has wonderful skills for advocacy and I know I can learn much from her as a role model. I plan to stay in touch with her and share her materials with my ALDA Chicago chapter with her blessing.

Pat Graves, the CART reporter for my presentation, suggested that I could do this presentation for human resource personnel at large corporations. An idea like that had never occurred to me and I'll have to give that some thought and see how that kind of connection might be made. Diana Thorpe, one of the interpreters, said that she could tell I enjoyed public speaking and that I ought to continue making presentations. I have not yet received the audience evaluations, but Kathy Evans, Program Chair, told me they were unusually positive. I deeply appreciate the affirmation I received from this very supportive group of my peers.

photo by Ken Arcia

At Saturday's Inspiration Luncheon, we heard Richard Brown, retired chief judge of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, share his story of coping with hearing loss. I was moved by his speech but his words meant even more to Michelle, who had undergone the same surgery as Judge Brown. 

In my next installment, I will write about dinner plans that went awry and the awesome karaoke party that followed. 

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