My husband and I traveled to a beautiful MN resort this past weekend. It was a weekend away, around our 15 year wedding anniversary and we were there to learn. Chad and I went to a conference called 2015 Collaborative Experience for Parents and Professionals of Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing. This conference was put on by Commission of Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing, MN Hands and Voices and a few other organizations. We arrived Friday afternoon and headed home Sunday afternoon. It was a weekend of learning, meeting people, laughing and enjoying each other.
While there we learned so much and probably could write a post on each thing I saw and learned I am going to focus this on one point that was brought up at the very end of the day on Sunday. One of the keynote speakers we had during the weekend was Susan Elliott. Susan is a DHH teacher from Colorado. She was engaging, informative and funny. Susan slowly lost her hearing as a child and it was a scary and confusing time for her. I can relate and I am sure many others can relate to this feeling. At the end of the conference she had us all come up in the room and form a circle. She asked us to name things we have learned this weekend. Things were said like we are not alone, put it in writing when talking about IEP’s, have roots and wings. When we were done with that she asked us one question, “What does every deaf and hard of hearing individual worry about everywhere they go?” The answer is access. Of course access would be the answer. I worry about this, can I hear in this place, what will the accoustics be like? The list and questions go on and on and will vary from person to person.
This simple question made me realize how much I loved this weekend and part of that was because of access. Every speaker we saw in a large group was voiced, ASL and CART. This was my first time with CART. For those who may not know what the heck I am talking about CART is Communication Access Realtime Translation, it is closed captions in real time. A CART reporters captions everything that is said similar to a court reporter. We had CART displayed on a couple screens in the room and we also had website they were displayed on so if you had your phone, ipad or something similar you could have the captions right in front of you.
I did go to a couple breakout sessions were there was no CART. I ended up bringing my own streamer like an FM system with me. I put that on the table and it worked very well picking up the sound from the microphone.
When someone asked a question with no microphone the ASL interpreter was slow enough at those times I could catch the questions that were asked with no problems. Access was there all around us and at every activity. From our meals, to the talks to the comedians that we enjoyed each evening. Access was there.
There was a feeling of belonging, strength in numbers and most of all full access for all. I went home feeling renewed, informed, and ready to take action. A weekend of full access is one we won’t forget anytime soon.