How Accessible Was VidCon 2017?

VidCon US 2017 is over and it’s been a sad two days as I’ve come back to Toronto for some rest. 

[Image Description: Ally Taylor, Rikki Poynter, Tommy Edison, Annie Elainey, and Molly Burke sitting at a VidCon panel. Photo courtesy of Liat Kaver from Google.]

[Image Description: Ally Taylor, Rikki Poynter, Tommy Edison, Annie Elainey, and Molly Burke sitting at a VidCon panel. Photo courtesy of Liat Kaver from Google.]

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be a featured creator at VidCon for three years in a row. This year, I was on the Disabilities On YouTube and Accessibility On YouTube panels. I was also a “disability advisor”, which I was hired to be along with Ally Taylor by one of the VidCon staff last year after the proper CART system and ASL interpreters failed to show up to the Disabilities panel last year. This year, I wanted to see how much VidCon has improved.

To be honest, VidCon didn’t make much use of us. We received one main e-mail and then it turned into small conversations here and there. But there was no real utilization. This is something that I definitely feel could be improved upon. 

Now, I can only really talk about things I have experience with. I’m deaf and I deal with a lot of chronic pain. Those are things I have more experience with when it comes to accessibility. If you wanted to know more about wheelchair access or service dog stuff, you’d be better off asking Annie or Molly.

Let’s talk food first.

Last year, a friend had an allergic reaction to soy milk in the middle of viewing a panel. This was due to containers not being labeled properly in lounges. Instead of labels being placed onto the container directly, there were cards placed on the table which could easily have been moved around. This affects people with other allergies such as lactose intolerance and also those who are vegan. Mostly important, it could potentially kill someone, like my friend almost experienced. I brought this up with VidCon and I was told there would be changes. As I walked around the lounges, I saw that some in the featured creator hotel were properly labeled.  However, one of the green rooms I had been to before my panels were not labeled properly. As someone who consumes plant based milk, I found this frustrating.

Which brings me to talking about options for all featured creators of different diets in the featured creator cafe. The food menu on our packet was very different from reality. As a vegan who had brought this up months before the convention happened, I expected there to be choices that weren’t just a piece of lettuce and tomato. So on day one, I walked in expecting a good ol’ build-your-own stir-fry. What I saw was the opposite. It was completely different food and to boot, lacking in vegan options. I brought this up to VidCon and it was changed and more options were added. Although, the menu was still different from the original menu on the packet. 

Now, this isn’t all VidCon’s fault. I was told that they were working very hard to make sure everything was presented the way it should and that options were there. It was an issue of the distributors.

Now let’s move on to the stuff you’re probably really here for: the deaf accessibility. Before my first year at VidCon, I don’t think there were any options for CART or ASL interpretation. During my first year, we had CART and an ASL interpreter at my captions workshop. If we had any interpreters during my first year, I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think there was. Last year, CART and ASL interpreters were provided for the disability panels (except for the first one that I was on - remember that a proper CART system and interpreters failed to show) and interpreters were available on the main stages. Up to 15 other interpreters were also on call.

This year, VidCon amped it up a little more. This time, for both featured creators (well, me - I was the only deaf featured creator, I’m pretty sure) and regular attendees. Not only were up to 15 interpreters available as on call again, but VidCon released an interpreter request form to everyone. This opened up a huge door. Instead of only being able to understand what was going on at disability panels, attendees could go to whatever panel they wanted and find an interpreter that they asked for. 

There is one issue that needs to be discussed - the lack of captioning at VidCon movie nights. I don’t know how often these were, but I do know that there was a screening for Power Rangers. A pal of mine told me that when she went to view the movie, there were no captions available. This is something that I wish would have occurred so that everybody, hearing, deaf, and hard of hearing, etc. could enjoy. When staff were confronted by this person, using interpreters were suggested. Interpreters don’t really interpret movies. That’s what captions are for.

All in all, things have definitely improved since 2015. Ally and I will be having a conversation with VidCon staff about these issues and improvements in the near future. Here’s to hoping for an even more accessible 2018!

Deaf Visibility: Name Tag VS Earmolds | Guest Post

When it comes to many disabilities, such as deafness, things are not visibly obvious.
Throughout my life, I’ve had many conversations with  people regarding how I look in terms of my deafness. Whenever I tell someone I’m deaf, I get common responses such as. “I’m so sorry”, “I’m suprised you speak so well”, or “You don’t LOOK deaf”. In some instances, questioning the validity of my claim.

[Image Description: Tan hearing aids with dark blue ear molds sitting on a countertop.]

[Image Description: Tan hearing aids with dark blue ear molds sitting on a countertop.]

Now because my deafness isn’t visually noticeable, it has led to a few misunderstandings with people. Especially at my place of work because my job sometimes requires me to talk to clients  in person. To be fair,  some of these misunderstandings have occurred simply because the person didn’t know I’m deaf. Because of this, some hearing individuals have recommended to me to wear a name tag that says I’m deaf in order to avoid confusion with clients.
 
However, when it comes to name tags, many of them don’t understand why I’m opposed to the idea. Why if I had to choose, I would prefer to wear decorated hearing aids with brightly colored earmolds. Personally I believe wearing a nametag that just says I’m deaf reinforces negative comments such as"you don't look deaf."  Mainly because when someone says that to me I feel that what they're really trying to say is that I “don’t look like a capable human being.”
 
But this has caused some to ask why are hearing aids so different? How if that’s the case why would I  prefer to have brightly colored ear molds so my hearing aids are very noticeable? Especially when technology has reached a point where I could practically have them be invisible. And I feel this is where people miss the point.
 
Because at the end of the day,  I DO want my deafness to be visually noticeable. I have no shame or desire to hide my inability to hear.  However, things such as the color of the molds,  the accessories added on top of the hearing aids, and how I present myself with them is a reflection of my style and personality. I feel that HOW I go about presenting myself as deaf is important. Mainly because it plays a role in how I choose to define myself. That it's a way to tell people who I am, not what I am.

Sincerely,
JoseG

Deaf Accessibility In Hotels

Since I do a bit of public speaking, I’ve been traveling thus getting put into hotels. During the beginning of my traveling life, I was put into non-accessible rooms as I really didn’t think too much of them. I never really heard much about them before. As I started learning about accessible rooms, I started asking for them more often when I know I’m going to be alone, which is 98% of the time. (For Buffer, I’m usually with my hearing boyfriend so there’s not really any need for an accessible room.)

I want to tell you about deaf accessible rooms. These rooms tend to be accessible rooms to various disabilities at once, but I can’t speak much about blindness, chronic illnesses, etc., so let’s just stick with deafness.

Here are things you should be able to find in a deaf accessible room:

Deaf Friendly Doorbell - I’ve seen two versions of this. The one I’ve seen the most is an actual doorbell that you push which causes a light inside the room to flash. Most of the time, this light is in the “living room” part of the hotel room so you can easily see it from where you’d likely be the most. Another version I’ve seen is a light is attached to the door and when someone knocks, the vibrations make the light flash. I’m not a huge fan of the latter because it’s only attached to the door. When I was in a room with this, the wall that was near my bed would cut off where you could see the light. Lights should be somewhere a lot more noticeable. Also, the light didn’t always flash when someone knocked.

TTY - Before you try to tell me “Nobody uses TTY anymore!”, I’m just gonna tell you right off the bat that you are incorrect. Oral deaf people use it if they’re not texting and there are countries that don’t even have video phone options yet, so even if they use sign language regularly, they have no choice but to use TTY. Moving on. This is still a useful tool if you don’t have an iPhone that has TTY software or if there’s no video phone and you don’t have an app on your phone. (Which, not having one isn’t likely if you’re Deaf ‘cos you’re likely prepared but go with me here.) I don’t use these myself since I have an iPhone and TTY software, but this is good to have if I can’t use the one on my iPhone. I’m not sure if video phones are available in any accessible rooms. If you know of any hotels that have them, let me know.

Vibrating Alarm Clock - The most important thing to have if you’re doing work travel. I’ve forgotten my own alarm clock once and that was a stressful time, so it’s nice to have one of these in a room as backup.

If you’ve experienced or seen any other accessible features for deaf and hard of hearing people, let me know in the comments. I’m most interested to know if anybody has seen a video phone of sorts in their room.

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Talking Accessibility At Apple

[Image Description: Tim Cook and Rikki Poynter sat down, engaged in conversation.]

[Image Description: Tim Cook and Rikki Poynter sat down, engaged in conversation.]

From May 14th through May 18th, I was invited to be a part of Apple’s three day long Global Accessibility Awareness Day event. I was there along with James Rath and Tatiana Lee from Accessible Hollywood.

Since I can’t give away too many details, I will say this: we were there to be on a panel regarding accessibility and disability as well as to have a one-on-one sit down and chat with Apple’s very own CEO, Tim Cook.

It was an experience that I never thought would happen and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. It was the first that I had ever been to Cupertino, let alone the Apple Campus.

I got to meet up with old friends and meet new ones. Kids from a local Deaf school came to a screening hosted at the campus and we had a conversation. I found out that my videos had been shown often in their classes. Every time this conversation happens, I get so sappy. I get even sapper when they tell me they like my videos. No, kids. I’m not about to cry. It’s just that you brought invisible onions and you didn’t know it and now I’m tearing up. That’s all.

The one-on-one with Tim Cook was great. We talked about Pokemon, Pokemon Go, captions, the captions option in Clips, etc. James talked about accessibility for blind and visually impaired folks. Tatiana talked about music, working out, the Watch, Clips, and music.

Big thank you to Apple for this opportunity. It was by far some of the best few days of my life ever.

What Happened At Playlist Live Orlando

So, Let’s talk Playlist Live.

In case you don’t know what that is, Playlist Live is an online video convention that seems to be more for Viners (although, now that Vine is officially dead, will it be more about YouTube now?) than YouTubers. Regardless, online content is its thing, just like VidCon. Playlist Live is held in two areas: Orlando, Florida, and Washington, D.C.

A few weeks ago, I made an announcement saying that I was going to run a workshop called Disability Representation and Accessibility at Playlist. This was the first time I was going to be there.

Getting things set up was a very interesting and a little bit of a difficult experience. Because I wasn’t involved in a lot of the conversation regarding accessibility, which was a huge mistake and I really should have been adamant to Playlist and my network that I need to be involved in my accessibility because I know what’s best, I didn’t know what I was getting until the very last minute and that was just too late. But I was assured that I would having CART and interpreters at my workshop. I also wanted an interpreter, but I originally wasn’t allowed one. Why? I never received an answer, but I wasn’t taking no for one and I said that I need to have an interpreter so I can also enjoy the event like everyone else. There was irony in the fact that I was asked to run a workshop on disability representation and accessibility and not being given an interpreter.

I got the interpreter within a day and that made me wonder exactly what was going on behind the scenes.

If you want to see a full vlog of stuff that went on at Playlist, you can view the vlog I uploaded to go along with this here. But this article is meant to talk about one thing (besides the fight for an interpreter): I didn’t get to do my workshop.

A few weeks before Playlist, I confirmed that I was doing a PowerPoint presentation and I would be doing an activity, so I would be needing a PowerPoint projector and screen as well as index cards and pens to run the workshop. I got my okay and then I was looking forward to the workshop, although I was very worried that nobody besides two friends of mine were going to come.

I went to check in to my workshop 30 minutes before start time and I asked about my index cards and pens. Nobody had any idea what I was talking about. Then I go into my workshop room when it starts and I’m confused because I thought it was another waiting room because there was no PowerPoint screen and no screen for the CART.

So CART is trying to figure out how/where to set up and I’m still walking around going, “Okay, so you all are here for the workshop, but how am I supposed to do my workshop when nothing I need is here…?” So my interpreter and I are running around trying to figure out what happened and trying to find someone to tell us why my stuff isn’t there and to get someone to put the stuff in there. At this point, my head is is spinning a bit and I’m not thinking very well.

Now my interpreter is running around by herself trying to find out what’s going on and I go back to my room to tell everyone what is happening. This is about 10-15 minutes into what is supposed to be my workshop. Fast forward 20-25 minutes into the workshop and people are coming in with equipment. I think to myself that it’s going to take them 10-15 minutes to get ready then it’ll take me and my own equipment to go with it about 10 minutes to get ready. By the time everything is setup, there’s very little time to present.

So I didn’t. I wasn’t given what I needed to do a full fledged workshop and it couldn’t happen.

But we did manage to make it into some sort of discussion rather than a panel or a workshop. I gave a quick summary of what the workshop was supposed to be since someone asked. Then others with different disabilities chimed in on their own accessibility needs, or helped out with what I would’ve explained in the workshop. So something happened, at least.

Was it what I wanted, what it was supposed to be, what it should’ve been? No. But I’m glad we got something out of it. I just hope people enjoyed at least that part.

I sent Playlist a message and hadn’t received anything since. My manager talked to them, but I have not been reached out to personally. They told my manager that because two panels/workshops before me did not use it, they did not test it out and did not place the screen for the third workshop to use it. This response makes zero sense to me, as I am not the first two workshops and I said I needed it in order to do my job.

I received no chance to reschedule my workshop that weekend and have not been offered any other solution.

When Viewers Abuse The Community Contribution Captions Feature

As you may or may not already know, I am a strong advocate for [proper] closed captioning on YouTube. For the last three years, I’ve made numerous videos about closed captioning from explaining the how-to basics, demonstrating one of the easiest ways to caption, and making actual campaigns regarding captioning.

On September 25th, 2016, I created a one day campaign called #NoMoreCraptions. Although similar to my first born Lights, Camera, Caption! campaign and workshop, the thing that sets this one apart is that it’s about automatic captions and incorrect submissions from those who help their favourite creators caption their videos (and even creators themselves).

In my 3 Ways To Caption video and at my Lights, Camera, Caption! workshop at VidCon last year, I mentioned community contribution and actually recommended it if you were not able to caption videos yourself and if you couldn’t afford to pay for them. I found it to be a really helpful tool. But as time goes on, I’ve started becoming tired of the fact that community contribution existed and that is because of how much more common misusing the tool is becoming.

Closed captions are an accessibility tool. Community contribution is part of that. It is not the place for viewers to add in “craptions” or other unnecessary commentary and “jokes”. Unfortunately, there are viewers out there that like to misuse this tool for their own amusement.

A perfect example is Markiplier fans. (Disclaimer: This is not about all of his fans. I’ve seen some pretty awesome fans out there. This is just about those that actually do this.) I’ve been told over and over again by my followers about the amount of craptions that happen on his channel. Some recent examples that I received (by recent, I mean like a little over a month ago since I haven’t been able to do this article yet) can be seen below:

[Image Description: Markiplier and two other guys sitting beside of each other. Craption says: "*mark being like: he is the most deaf idiot in the world*"

[Image Description: Markiplier and two other guys sitting beside of each other. Craption says: "*mark being like: he is the most deaf idiot in the world*"

[Image Description: Markiplier and two other guys sitting beside of each other. Craption says: "stop asking your master when you can go out with me *giggle of a retarded 11 year old*"

[Image Description: Markiplier and two other guys sitting beside of each other. Craption says: "stop asking your master when you can go out with me *giggle of a retarded 11 year old*"

Of course, Markiplier isn't the only YouTuber who has had this stuff on his channel. People have told me that they have seen it on JackSepticEye's channel in the past as well as others.

If you are someone that wants to contribute to closed captioning on your favourite YouTuber’s channel, this is unacceptable. I know some people will find it funny, even some deaf people maybe (although maybe not to this extent - ableist/audist slurs and all), but I’m someone who likes it when people use technology properly, okay? Especially when it comes to accessibility. That’s just who I am. If you don’t know how to properly write out captions, I made a video of a little guide here.

YouTubers, I cannot stress this enough: please look over the captions on your videos regularly. If you know you can actually afford a service but don’t want to pay for them, look over your captions and make sure people aren’t misusing the community contribution. When the YouTube Heroes program started promoting adding closed captions to YouTuber’s channels, this isn’t what they were referring to.

Being Deaf And Weather Aware

[Image Description: Canvas is black. White text says, "Always stay weather aware."]

[Image Description: Canvas is black. White text says, "Always stay weather aware."]

As someone who has been studying, learning, and tracking severe weather for the last seven years, I know how serious severe weather can be. Living in North Carolina for most of my life, I’ve gone through a few outbreaks: the biggest and most recent ones being the April 16, 2011, April 25-27, 2011 and April 25, 2014 outbreaks. (I’m sure there are more from before then, but I didn’t really start paying attention to the weather until October 2010.)

When you don’t know much about the weather, trying to figure out what’s going on can be a pain. It’s often difficult for it to be accessible to hearing people who know very little about it. (Some of it is real ignorance and some of it is they just don’t care.) But there are a lot of people who do care about what’s going on and want to be prepared, like d/Deaf and hard of hearing people who may not be able to hear the sirens (which are only there for people outside) or the storm itself. Most storms do not wake me up and if they do, it’s only because lightning struck extremely close to my apartment which lead to shaking.

In this post, I want to give tips to help fellow d/Deaf and hard of hearing people stay weather aware. All of these tips are to help you out while you have power but also in case your power goes out.

1. Get a deaf friendly weather radio.

Nobody, hearing or deaf, is supposed to rely on sirens outside. Like I said earlier, sirens are for people who are outside, not inside. So don’t rely on those only, no matter who you are. Get yourself a weather radio that has visual settings to let you know whether you have a thunderstorm warning, tornado warning, etc. These special alarms contain a strobe light to light up your place as well as a bed shaker if you’re asleep when new alerts come. You can find these alarms at Harris Communications. (This post is not sponsored. I’m not being paid or anything to promote their products. They don’t even know I’m doing this article.)

2. Keep a collection of weather apps.

Apps on your smartphone are obviously visual and mostly deaf friendly! But do not, whatever you do, rely only on that weather stock app that’s automatically on your smartphone. It’s a terrible app for this kind of stuff. Don’t stick with The Weather Channel app either. They’re not your best source for weather. They’re not going to help you understand the risks of severe weather in your location like your local meteorologists can. Now, finding the best local meteorologist can be tough. I understand. I used to follow a station religiously and now I don’t rely on them for weather, just actual news. If you’re in the Charlotte and surrounding area, I highly recommend Brad Panovich from WCNC and their WeatherCaster app.

3. Follow your meteorologists on Facebook (and other social media).

I follow two meteorologists that I use (one of them including Brad) on Facebook. You could also follow them on other social media if they use it (I also subscribe to Brad’s YouTube channel), but I find that meteorologists tend to update Facebook the most.

4. As long as your power is on, keep your TV on the weather.

Okay, I understand you might be wanting to watch the basketball game or the new episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and that’s fine. This tip is not expecting you to keep your eyes peeled to the weather like I do 24/7 during an event. But if there’s a thunderstorm warning happening, I do advise you to just check the breaking weather reports on TV since you’ll often see the track of the storm and you can be a little more alert just in case there’s some rotation which could result in a tornado. If there’s a tornado warning, get away from the TV and into the bathroom or the room on the lowest level in the middle of your place, but also take your phone and/or laptop with you. Make sure to keep your electronic devices charged. You need that backup if your power goes out!

All in all, be responsible and use common sense. Learn the difference between a watch and a warning. I know there are many people that like to think severe weather isn’t serious, but then you see a bunch of news reports the next day about extreme damage and deaths. Sometimes, you cannot avoid being a part of that, but if you can take the best precautions available, take that advantage. 

A Regal Caption Glasses Review

[Image Description: black glasses and a remote controller]

[Image Description: black glasses and a remote controller]

On the night of my and my boyfriend’s two year anniversary, we saw the new Power Rangers movie.

Ever since the CaptiView came out, I’ve been enjoying going to the cinema a lot more. No more wasting $10 on a movie ticket just to sit in front of a big screen and hear muffled words and leave not understanding 90% of the movie.

Devon and I were having a weekend getaway, so we were in an area that we’ve never been to. We went to a cinema that I’ve never been to so this made me nervous because I didn’t know what kind of accommodations they had, if they had any at all. (Devon is hearing, so he doesn’t have to worry about any of this stuff.)

When we get to the cinema, we ask if they have anything for me. I’m really hoping for the CaptiView, but as it turns out, they only have the caption glasses. Let me be real with you here - I’m a lover of the CaptiView. I like that it’s nowhere near my face and I can clearly see the screen and also view the captions. When the person at the ticket booth said they only had the glasses, I was already dreading the experience a little, but I was willing to give them a try since I read some reviews in the past that praised them.

So I tried them for a whole two hours and… yeah, I don’t like them.

  1. They do this weird tickling sensation on my nose that irritated me for the whole two hours. It then eventually started to hurt on my nose having them on for so long, and my ears and head hurt. 
  2. My eyes weren’t feeling too great having to focus on extremely small green text that had no background behind it. The text on the left side was faded which made it difficult to read. 
  3. I hated having to keep my head still in order to keep the text still, to keep it below or above the movie screen wall so it stayed on black background. That made my body, especially my neck, extremely uncomfortable. There were “buttons” that you could push on to move the text placement, but it didn’t work out the way it should have for me.

I’m simply just not a fan of the caption glasses. I’m a CaptiView fan, which I know people either love or hate just like the glasses. While it can be frustrating putting the CaptiView into the cup holder, it was great having it in one spot knowing that it would (usually) stay there and I can move around as much as I wanted to stay comfortable, which is something I couldn’t do with the glasses. You still get the green text on a CaptiView, but the background is solid black so it makes for easier reading. The text is also bigger and it’s not faded like it is on the glasses.

So, overall, I give these glasses a big No with a capital “N”. From now on, I will make sure to find out ahead of time if a cinema has glasses or CaptiView. If they only have glasses, I won’t see a movie there.

You can see my video about accessibility at the cinema here.

Now it’s time to battle it out. Which device do you prefer: glasses or CaptiView? Leave your comments below!

Facebook Has A Closed Captioning Problem

[Image Description: Facebook's logo. A blue background and white lowercase "f".]

[Image Description: Facebook's logo. A blue background and white lowercase "f".]

As you probably know, YouTube is my main platform for my videos, but sometimes I upload my videos to Facebook as well. Sometimes, it’s for extra views, because it’s an important video to share, and to make it easier to get stolen videos off of other Facebook pages. (It’s something about Content ID or something. I don’t know. Ask my manager.)

Just like I upload captions to YouTube videos, I upload them to Facebook videos. Very rarely do I have viewers tell me that captions don’t show up on YouTube videos (but that’s why the first line in the info box is to fiddle with the settings if nothing shows up). However, I can’t say the same for videos on my Facebook and I’m not the only one who gets people commenting that there are no captions on the Facebook videos.

I work for both Ai-Media and DTV News and at least once a week (mostly on Ai-Media), there are people commenting about the lack of captions when captions have, in fact, been uploaded. Ai-Media is very adamant on being accessible to d/Deaf and hard of hearing people, as is DTV News. I mean, we at DTV News call ourselves the 100% accessible channel for a reason. Even though we can see the captions on our laptops and our phones and we tell them there are indeed captions uploaded and how to turn them on, we get replies saying there are no captions. Sometimes, we are told this nicely. Sometimes, we’re being screamed at.

Facebook has a closed captioning display problem and I don’t know what or why it is. I only know that for quite some time now, captions usually display automatically for iPhones and not always for Android users. I’ve noticed more Android users having to fiddle with their settings to get captions to show up. On Apple products, there is an option in the accessibility settings to automatically display captions when available. This usually worked for me and all the phones I’ve used up to this point where I am currently using an iPhone 7 Plus. I’ve started to notice that when I view videos using this phone, captions don’t show up, but they work fine on my 6. Why is that? I don’t know.

It’s extremely frustrating, but know that if there are no captions on a Facebook page that is about accessibility and typically captions, it’s likely not the person’s fault, but the fault of Facebook and technology settings. I wish I had a real answer as to why Facebook has this issue, but I don’t. Maybe Facebook will see this article, or someone with more power than me will bring it to their attention, and they’ll try to fix it. Who knows?

Until then, my only suggestion is to watch on a laptop/desk if available or if they have another platform, watch the videos on there. My videos are always on YouTube first as that is my main platform. So if captions don’t work on Facebook, they will work on YouTube.

Presenting A Deaf Identity At DEAFinitions

[Image Description: four hands (lighter brown, dark brown, white, and tan) spelling out "DEAF" in ASL.]

[Image Description: four hands (lighter brown, dark brown, white, and tan) spelling out "DEAF" in ASL.]

It is the week after DEAFinitions and I am back in my apartment ready to tell you all about the event.

If you don’t know, DEAFinitions is a two-year-old Deaf Studies conference held at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. The organizers of the conference e-mailed me back in November 2016 about attending and giving a presentation and everything was finalized in February.

[Image Description: Rikki standing on the floor with a CDI. Slideshow behind them reads: Rikki Poynter - Finding A Deaf Identity]

[Image Description: Rikki standing on the floor with a CDI. Slideshow behind them reads: Rikki Poynter - Finding A Deaf Identity]

DEAFinitions had many presenters that hosted a one hour talk each. There were multiple ASL interpreters and CDI (Certified Deaf Interpreters) and a fancy CART system. I say fancy because instead of an actual stenographer, you (or an interpreter) would talk into a regular mic and then some sort of recording device and the words would show up on a screen. It was pretty accurate, which surprised me.

I gave a presentation on a topic I hadn’t really talked about live at an event before: growing up as a mainstreamed deaf child and finding Deaf culture as an adult. Contrary to what you might think since I talk about it a lot on YouTube, it was pretty difficult for me to talk about live. I guess it’s because I’m so used to giving workshops and such on closed captioning. If you ask me to talk about this stuff at a panel, that’s easy since there are usually questions regarding specific things. But one hour to talk about my life story live? Much different. I had everything planned out, even wrote a script to go off of, but my brain ended up mixing everything up and things didn’t quite go the way I planned them to.

Nonetheless, it seemed to go very well. At the end of the presentation, there was a line of people waiting to talk to me, something I didn’t expect. (This is the part where a few friends of mine go, “But, Rikki, you’re famous!” and I go, “No, no, I’m not.”) A lot of stories, experiences, and sweet messages were exchanged and it got to the point where I was literally starting to tear up in front of everyone.

[Image Description: Carlisle standing on the floor in front of an audience, giving a presentation in ASL.]

[Image Description: Carlisle standing on the floor in front of an audience, giving a presentation in ASL.]

I did go to a few other presentations, most of them done by people I had never heard of before. Of course, I had to go to Carlisle’s presentation which talked about how comics were a great learning tool for d/Deaf and hard of hearing children.

[Image Description: A photo of three people, from left to right: Rikki, Whitney, and Carlisle.]

[Image Description: A photo of three people, from left to right: Rikki, Whitney, and Carlisle.]

One of the best things to happen that weekend was finally meeting my friend, Whitney Meyer, in person for the first time. She is an actress, model, and figure skater and you may recognize her as Tiffany DeSalle from Scream Queens. She came to Amherst from Boston to see my presentation and she, myself, and Carlisle along with Whitney’s mother went out to dinner, drinks, and dessert. It was a fun time.

Overall, it was a great weekend and I thank the organizers for inviting me and flying me out. Hampshire College in the process of raising funds for a third year of DEAFinitions. If you would like to help out, you can donate to their GoFundMe page here.
 

My Relationship is Different, Not Lesser | Guest Post

I’m a deaf girl in a relationship with a hearing man, and I consider myself the lucky one by virtue of not (usually) having to hear the ridiculous comments we get.

My hearing loss is progressive—I’m mildly-moderately deaf right now, but I’m going to continue losing my hearing. Moritz, my boyfriend, once explained to his mother that I’ll likely lose all of my hearing one day. She responded with a (genuinely concerned) “Oh no, what’ll happen then?”

“She… won’t be able to hear?”

I imagine that comment came from the same place a surprising amount of comments towards us come from: “How do you two communicate with each other?” Or, if they’re feeling particularly presumptuous, “But you can’t communicate with each other!”

With the place my hearing loss is in right now, I can still actually communicate orally. But as it gets increasingly harder, I’ve been using American Sign Language more and more—when I’m around other people who know it, it’s my preferred method of communication. When my boyfriend and I are anywhere where the background noise is loud enough that communicating orally is impossible for me, we sign.

If I need to ask a question to a store clerk, I sign it to Moritz and he asks them for me; which often results in “Why can’t she ask me herself?”. Because she’s deaf, sir.

The comments given when I’m around can be annoying, but the most annoying ones always seem to be directed to my boyfriend when he mentions that his girlfriend is deaf. I guess people are tactful enough to not say them when I’m around, but not tactful enough to know not to say them at all.

“She should get a cochlear implant!” Nope, thanks for the input.

“Is she, like, really loud when you have sex?” Definitely inappropriate!

“Doesn't that bother you?” If it did, he wouldn’t be dating me.

Of all the comments directed at either of us, though, there’s only one type that really bothers me:

“Wow, you’re such a good person.”

“Hey, good for you, that must be hard!

“I could never date a deaf person.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

Yes, this bothers me more than any of the others. (Yes, including the sex one). These comments are hurtful to me because they’re coming from a place of viewing deafness as something undesirable, something bad. My boyfriend is a martyr for dating me, a saint, because who would ever want to date a deaf person? He deserves sympathy for dating me, because dating a deaf person is inherently lesser.

That’s what bothers me. Deaf people don’t need hearing people looking down on us. My boyfriend and I haven’t been in a three-year relationship because he pities me. There are a few unique challenges to our relationship due to my hearing, but we’re a pretty standard young couple. We go on dates, we video call, we kiss. And we talk constantly—we just talk with our hands instead of our voices.

xo
Miri Josephs
twitter.com/mirijosephs
 

See Rikki Poynter Present At Hampshire College

[Image Description: collage of a board with Hampshire College written on it. Right side shows presentation info which is written in the article. Not enough space in image description area.]

[Image Description: collage of a board with Hampshire College written on it. Right side shows presentation info which is written in the article. Not enough space in image description area.]

I am very pleased to announce that on Saturday, March 25th, 2017, I will be making an appearance at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts for their DEAFinitions Deaf Studies conference.

A few months ago, the school contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in giving a one hour presentation there. A few months later, I was confirmed. 

My presentation is called Finding A [New] Deaf Identity and it will be about my personal journey with being diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of 11 (yeah, I finally did the math correctly and it turns out I was diagnosed at 11. More on that in Thursday's video), growing up as mainstreamed oral deaf kid, going through middle and high school, and finding Deaf culture and acceptance after a few years of being uncomfortable with my deafness.

The conference lasts from March 25th through the 26th. My presentation with be on March 25th at 6 p.m. Amherst is about two hours away from Boston, so if you're in the area, I hope you can come. I have made an event page on my Facebook page, so please RSVP here if you are interested. Make sure to fill out this registration form if you are attending.

Hope to see you there! 

Being Confident As A Deaf Person

[Image Description: Rikki sitting in her car, looking at the camera. Background colour is pink. Text says, "Finding Acceptance."]

[Image Description: Rikki sitting in her car, looking at the camera. Background colour is pink. Text says, "Finding Acceptance."]

A video has been uploaded on my YouTube channel to go along with this article. If you would like to view the video, you can do so here.

Over the past few years of talking about deaf awareness across my social media platforms, I’ve received comments asking if I was always as confident as I am now, how I became confident, etc. I thought that this was a good thing to talk about since self confidence is something that affects everyone all the time (and I’m doing a presentation about deaf identity at the end of March, so this post will help me get my thoughts together).

Growing up, I was not as confident as I am now (and even now, I’m still not always confident or accepting of my deafness). 

Now, I was 11* when I was diagnosed. At 11-years-old, having hearing loss wasn’t much of an issue for me. All I cared about was Pokemon, Sailor Moon, food, etc. Even around other people, I didn’t notice or pay attention to it. When I was hanging out with my friends, all we did was run around and play games outside or play Pokemon. Not much communication needed for that. Regardless, I don’t remember having much of a problem with communication then.

Fast forward a few years to middle and high school and that’s when low self esteem and self consciousness started to pick up. School was really the biggest and only culprit, as the life of a normal teenager typically consists of just school and home. School work was difficult depending on the subject. Having to write down facts from uncaptioned videos was the worst. If you haven’t seen my video about the time my U.S. History teacher in 11th grade made fun of me in front of the class, you can see that video here. I’ve also dealt with comments from my math teacher who would tell me I should be “paying more attention” when I didn’t understand something.

Making friends was difficult, but I believe there were more reasons to that than just being half deaf. However, there were plenty of cases when my peers would talk to me and I wouldn’t get all of what they were saying and I was too scared to ask them to repeat themselves. Sometimes, I’d guess what they were saying, reply, and say the wrong thing because I misunderstood what was being said. Lunch was a fun time, but it was difficult to keep up with 2-3 conversations at once.

My confidence was really in shambles once I graduated high school. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. Not only could I not afford school, but what was I going to do about accessibility? How was I going to get a job? I spent four years trying to apply for the simplest jobs. I only got one interview during those years and they told me I didn’t pass it.

I wondered about my dating life (or lack thereof). During years 18-21ish, I was constantly worried about whether or not I was going to find a boyfriend because, oh no, what if I don’t understand them? I was resorting to online dating which didn’t make it any easier. 

Things didn’t start to look up until my early 20s when I became more active on Tumblr. There, I came across the “deaf” tag and started reading posts from real live deaf people. Since I grew up knowing only one other deaf person who was also oral, it was so weird seeing a group of people who were like me but also different. This was when I discovered there was a deaf culture, identity, etc.

And that’s how I got to where I was today. Even though I was doing makeup videos on YouTube when I discovered more deaf people, I would not have been able to do the videos I do now if I hadn’t discovered them. The new friends I made then inspired me to create videos like the first deaf related video I ever did and “Shit Hearing People Say”.

Representation is important. Seeing movies like “The Hammer” and “SuperDeafy” makes me feel good. I feel less alone when I see people like me on the screen. I’m a big believer of representation helping with someone’s self esteem and confidence. That’s why I wanted to make these videos  and continue to do so. That’s why I’ve wanted to branch out and do different things. So that people like me who feel alone will now that they’re not.

Note: For a few years now, I said I was diagnosed when I was 12. As it turns out, I’ve been terrible at math for the last few years. I was diagnosed in 6th grade, yes, ‘cos that’s when I started a new school. But it seems I forgot how old I actually was in 6th grade. I was 11. So I was diagnosed at 11-years-old, not 12, oops.
 

A Deaf Experience In The Education System | Guest Post

[Image Description: A man with short hair, glasses, a bit of facial hair. He is wearing a black hoodie.]

[Image Description: A man with short hair, glasses, a bit of facial hair. He is wearing a black hoodie.]

I was born hard of hearing. To me all sounds were muddled and vague. And I thought that was normal. At least that was the case until I reached third grade, when I took a hearing exam and I was told that there was something wrong with me. Very quickly, the news was delivered to my parents. They took me to a few doctors but they couldn't figure out why I was completely deaf in my right ear and had minor hearing loss on my left. And for some reason, hearing aids were never brought up so I never had them.

As a side note to any doctors (or future doctors) out there. Don't tell a 6 (or 7 year old, don't remember exactly when this happen) who's going deaf that he (or she) is just gonna randomly not hear one day. Because that just creates a bunch of anxiety that a kid just doesn't need to deal with.

Now a thing to note about my Mom and Dad is that they were born and raised in Mexico. So in true Latin pride fashion, they didn't want me to be labeled as a "special needs" kid.

I gotta admit, I was really happy when my parents told me that there was nothing wrong with me and that I shouldn't let anyone try to convince me otherwise. So like any kid I followed their lead. I refused to be called special and pushed away everything associated with the word from that point on. This of course led me to misinterpret their behavior and chose to ignore my hearing situation instead of actually dealing with it. However I couldn't hide the fact that I was beginning to struggle in school. I kept confusing one word for another and that often led to awkward situations.

Not wanting me to fall behind, my parents set me up with a hearing teacher and I started speech therapy. It's here that I began to realize that I was different. A few times during the week, while all the other kids were at recess playing. I was stuck in the classroom with my hearing teacher, practicing how to read a person's lips.

“Now Jessie, I'm going to say potato and tomato. I need you to watch closely and see how my lips move differently when I say each of these words.” These were the types of exercises I would do. I would watch my speech therapist's lips repeat words over and over and over again until I could notice the subtle differences. 

This eventually became a routine for me, training my eyes to focus in on the minor details, piecing together what a person is saying from the bits and pieces I did hear to hold up conversation, and getting me to sit in the front of the class where I could better interact with the teacher. Needless to say this took a lot of work. Luckily for me, my grades greatly improved and I managed to graduate elementary school with honors. 

Now a thing to note is that I was taught a bit of ASL as a kid, but to my parents English was their second language and they were still trying to fully master it. So being taught ASL in a language they were still figuring out at the time, meant that they wouldn't be able to get very far. Not to mention, like most immigrant parents they wanted me to carry on our native language, so we only spoke Spanish in my house. 

Because of that, I quickly dropped ASL because I thought it was pointless to learn a language that nobody else knew. Up until recently I didn't even know that there was such a thing as a deaf community or deaf culture.

This is how life was for me in middle school and high school. And occasionally I would run into frustrations when I told people I was deaf. I would get responses from people like "oh you don't look deaf" and "I'm surprised you're an honors student despite being deaf". Which made me go "Seriously people?"

One of my biggest frustrations about school was that I would put in a lot extra work to not only keep up but to stay ahead. Only to have the schools go ahead and say, "oh he's doing great in school so there's no reason to accommodate him." Despite the fact that I was running myself into the ground. But I still kept up this pace because it was the only thing that I knew that would work for me. 

And it's during high school that I suppose I became more jaded when interacting with others because the way I saw it. If a person wasn't going to put in the same effort to communicate with me as much as I did. Then they weren't worth getting to know.

Now after graduating high school, I was planning on going to college to become an engineer in the hopes of developing technology to better accommodate my limited hearing. However due to personal circumstances, I wasn't able to attend college. So I instead entered culinary school and pursued my other passion which was cooking.

It was in culinary school that I discovered a love for writing and I grew to love chef culture because there is a mutual understanding between chefs that doesn't require words to be spoken. 

Now to me, Chef work seemed like a good field to be in because I was taught that in a restaurant when a person talks to the cook, the cook repeats what is said and the person confirms what was repeated. I loved that this form of communication was encouraged in culinary school. 

However from my experiences that wasn't the case in some of the restaurants I worked in. I eventually decided to stop working in restaurants when I found myself in situation that I never want to be put in again.

It was a busy dinner rush and there was a lot of background noise. While I was busy cranking out food orders (I was a line cook), the owner barged in and said he needed cooked rice ASAP. But before I could tell him that I didn't hear him he quickly left the room. About 15 minutes go by and he comes back, looks at me and says "Where's the rice that I asked for?" I told him I didn't understand what he was asking me. His response was saying that I was "fucking useless." After that it's no surprise that things didn't end well at that job.

Now recently I took a hearing exam and found out that my hearing is getting worse. One the reasons why I never knew this was happening is because it's been dropping at such a slow rate over the years that it was difficult for me to notice. So in the hopes of making up for lost time I decided to directly do something about this. 

I put in the work to learn about deaf culture and the deaf community, started the process to get hearing aids and learn ASL on my own. Now I am planning to take ASL classes but I'm trying to work things out at my job so I can get the needed free time and work schedule to do so. 

At this point I'm even considering take a break from work entirely and focus more on learning ASL and attending deaf events to meet other people like me. But I worry about how that would eliminate the financial stability that I've worked so hard to build. And if I choose to remain in this path it maye remove my chances of living independently from my family because they worry about me and don't want me to live on my own. 

Sincerely,

JoseG

The Same… But Different | Guest Post

[Image Description: A man sits in front of a patterned wall. He has very short, dark hair, glasses, and a grey beard. He is holding an instrument in his ear.]

[Image Description: A man sits in front of a patterned wall. He has very short, dark hair, glasses, and a grey beard. He is holding an instrument in his ear.]

We’ve all heard that statement at some point in our lives, or a similar one.  It always means we (or something) are all the same but, we also have our differences.  On a grand scale, we are all human beings but, our differences lie in our nationalities, history, race, gender identification, and much more. 
 
How does this apply to those of us who are d/Deaf?
 
We are the same through the commonality of hearing loss.  We are all d/Deaf to one degree or another.  Maybe we’ve only lost 10% of our hearing, or we’ve lost 100%.  We can identify as hard of hearing or d/Deaf which, again, is the same but different; different words meaning the same thing.
 
Our differences lie in how we became d/Deaf and our experiences during that process.  If you were born deaf and raised in a hearing environment your experiences are vastly different than someone born deaf and raised in a Deaf environment.  Personally, I am a late deafened adult.  I cannot give voice to the experiences of a person born d/Deaf.  I can tell you what it’s like to be hearing all through school and early 20s before realizing my hearing was going away.
 
Born hearing, I enjoyed the same things all hearing children did.  As a teenager, I hung out with hearing friends, learned to play the saxophone, went to concerts non-stop, performed on stage in several plays, and could identify my friend’s cars by their distinctive rumble coming down the street.
 
By the time I started noticeably losing my hearing, I was married and living in an area with no resources for hearing loss.  I sucked it up and started doing something we’ve all done, I faked it.  If I couldn’t understand someone I’d just smile and nod and hope I didn’t just agree to help hide the bodies on a night with no moon.
 
As the years passed, and several moves later, my wife and I had two boys; I watched them grow, learn to walk, and talk then suddenly, I realized I couldn’t understand what my own children were saying to me.  As someone who had been hearing, this was devastating.  My hearing began going downhill quickly and I didn’t want to lose my children’s voices.
 
This led to finding an audiologist who prescribed hearing aids.  God, I hated those.  Yes, they worked remarkably well for about six months but my hearing fell off so rapidly they ended up not doing anything for me other than amplifying sounds.  They did nothing for clarity or understanding.  I felt I had spent $5000 for nothing.
 
Fast forward about five years and my wife and I were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary in Paris, France.  Without expounding in great length and detail about how wonderful Paris is, I’ll skip ahead to my “ah ha” moment.  We were standing on top of Notre Dame when, as it happened, the bells began chiming the hour.  I knew this because I could feel the sound vibrations of the bells.  The ah ha moment was realizing I couldn’t hear them.  Think about that for a moment, I’m standing on top of the bell tower with these huge melodious bells ringing the hour and I can’t hear them. 
 
That moment sent me in the direction of researching and opting to have bilateral cochlear implants.  This wasn’t a quick decision, I spent over a year researching and talking with my wife. I weighed the pros and cons, ultimately deciding to do it. 
 
I am happy with my decision.
 
Are they the “be all and end all’ of my deafness?  No.  I will always be deaf, from this moment until the end of my life.  But, when I have them on, they allow me to function as close to my old self as I can.  Do I think all d/Deaf people should get them?  No. 
 
Hearing aids and cochlear implants, while the technology is great, are not for everyone.  The decision to use HAs or CIs is extremely personal and should be researched thoroughly which brings me to the real point of this post.
 
We are all d/Deaf but how we got here is different.  We should unite among ourselves; accept that each person has their personal way of coping with their hearing loss.  Support each other in our decisions and educate those asking questions.  If we can do this, without bias toward each other for our decisions, then we can truly make a difference in our advocating for the removal of communication barriers; a united front to caption movies, TV shows, and YouTube videos.  Educating the public and private school systems in how to approach and use different teaching tools and methodologies when working with d/Deaf students.  Carrying this advocacy to the business world to let companies know we are employable and valuable.  We can do all this once we accept, we’re the same …
 
… but different.

Sincerely,

Rob the Deaf Guy
https://robthedeafguy.wordpress.com/

Gallaudet Academic Bowl (North Carolina School for the Deaf) Recap

From February 9-12, North Carolina School for the Deaf hosted the beginning of this year’s Gallaudet Academic Bowl. Other schools will be hosting the matches, but NCSD is the first on the list.

[Image Description: a group of people sitting at their assigned tables watching a man on stage present an introduction and rules for a competition.]

[Image Description: a group of people sitting at their assigned tables watching a man on stage present an introduction and rules for a competition.]

Back in November, a teacher at the school emailed me about the Academic Bowl and invited me/said I should come check it out if I can. Well, I did! It was the first time I had ever set foot in the school. I’ve been outside of it, driven by it, but I’ve never stepped foot in the actual parking lot or the school.

Until now.

[Image Description: a team of four people sit at a table contemplating an answer for a question posted on a screen]

[Image Description: a team of four people sit at a table contemplating an answer for a question posted on a screen]

The Gallaudet Academic Bowl had teams of four from twenty different deaf schools. Two teams sat down at their own tables and would answer three rounds of questions. You had the typical categories like math, social studies, current events, science, and pop culture. The matches started at eight in the morning and ended around five in the afternoon. Day two lasted until later in the evening, but I didn’t go to day two (I was way too tired from being out all day for day one), so don’t quote me on that.

It was pretty fun. Although I didn’t compete in the actual games (obviously), I did answer the questions in my head. (Who wouldn’t?) There were quite a few that I got right. I was very proud of myself.

[Image Description: a man and a woman looking at a camera, smiling]

[Image Description: a man and a woman looking at a camera, smiling]

I wish there was more to say about the event, but it was pretty tame. Nothing really exciting happens when you’re just sitting at a table and answering questions. The best part though was actually seeing my DTV News coworker, Jesse Jones! Nobody at work told me he was flying to North Carolina to host some matches. It took him a couple of seconds to realize who I was (since we all work in different states for DPAN), but it was a pretty awesome moment. It was the first time we met each other in person.

[Image Description: a woman in a suit standing in front of an audience giving a presentation]

[Image Description: a woman in a suit standing in front of an audience giving a presentation]

Later in the evening, there was a Gallaudet club social event. It was actually more like a board meeting where a few people explained the new things happening at Gallaudet. The current president of the school, Bobbi Cordano, spent the last half hour of the event presenting to us. It was pretty cool to see her in person. I didn’t get a chance to meet her and talk with her personally since we were being rushed out once the event was over.

Overall, it was a fun experience. The Academic Bowl isn’t over. It will be on its way to California School for the Deaf, Riverside next. Good luck to all the teams (especially NC)!

ASL Gloves (SignAloud): Helpful or Not?

[Image Description: On a light tan table sits a pair of gloves which are black and blue with a miniature motherboard like thing sitting where the wrists would be.]

[Image Description: On a light tan table sits a pair of gloves which are black and blue with a miniature motherboard like thing sitting where the wrists would be.]

In April 2016, two University of Washington undergraduate sophomore students named Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi created SignAloud.

SignAloud consists of a pair of gloves that is supposed to translate sign language (I’m assuming this is just for ASL - American Sign Language) into speech and text (which, again, I’m assuming is just English).

The video introducing this product has gone viral. You’ve likely seen it on your Facebook feed, shared by your friends multiple times.

I’ve seen mostly two reactions to this invention and they’re both very different from each other. 

The hearing community, or more specifically, the hearing community that knows very little to nothing about sign language, d/Deaf and hard of hearing people, Deaf culture, etc., praises this invention. They’re under the impression that these gloves will close the communication gap between hearing people and deaf people.

On the other hand, you have the Deaf community, along with the hearing community who does know a little bit about Deaf people and Deaf culture, who will tell you that this simply doesn’t really do anything.

Now, those obviously aren’t the only opinions, but they are the two most popular ones. You will also find a group, a mixture of the two groups actually, that can see this going somewhere and that it may have a point.

After watching the video, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is only an invention for hearing people by hearing people. It is nothing more than a device that will only help hearing people. I’ll tell you why.

[Image Description: Two young men look toward a camera. The man on the left is wearing the ASL gloves and signing, while the one on the right is simply standing there.]

[Image Description: Two young men look toward a camera. The man on the left is wearing the ASL gloves and signing, while the one on the right is simply standing there.]

First of all, this is supposed to translate ASL into spoken English, but how does that work when the two guys making it don’t even know ASL themselves? Now, we know I’m not fluent in the language, but I do know that what Thomas is signing is nonsensical. Plus, those who are fluent in ASL can back my statement up because they’ve been saying the same thing. He completely butchered his message from the beginning. If you can’t do “My name is”, that’s a problem. He also attempts to sign, “Hello. I’m well. Thank you.” His “I’m well” is 100% incorrect. Sure, it’s a prototype, but if you can’t even get “Hello, my name is,” and “Hello, I’m well. Thank you.” correct, then that’s a problem. You can’t make a piece of technology translate a language if you don’t know the language yourself. Facial expression is also a big part of the language and these gloves don’t include that.

Also, you know how people who use spoken language have accents? The same works when using sign language. Not everyone signs the same way, not everyone’s hands move the same. Not all signs in ASL are the same, as there are regional signs.

Secondly, they say this is an invention that will help Deaf people who use ASL communicate with hearing people who don’t know ASL better. Okay, but how? Because if a Deaf person is using the gloves, the hearing person will know what they’re saying, but how do they respond back in a way that will be understood? Keep in mind that the gloves are meant to eliminate the use of phones and pen and paper.

[Image Description: A man and a woman sitting on a bench outside, facing each other. The man on the left is wearing the gloves and signing, "How are you?" The woman remains sitting still, watching him.]

[Image Description: A man and a woman sitting on a bench outside, facing each other. The man on the left is wearing the gloves and signing, "How are you?" The woman remains sitting still, watching him.]

If you watch the demo in the video, you’ll see one signing “How are you?” How does the hearing girl respond? By talking, using spoken English. There are d/Deaf and hard of hearing people who have residual hearing and might be able to read lips, yes, but what if that doesn’t work? In the demo, they act as if speaking is the correct thing to do when it isn’t. How does that help us? How does that help a more profoundly d/Deaf person who relies on ASL, not lip reading and/or residual hearing?

I’ve spent a long time thinking about what situations these could be used in. People said emergencies, but do you think we’re really going to be carrying a pair of bulky gloves around on a trip to Target? Emergencies happen when and where you least expect them. That's why they're called emergencies. Keeping them in hospitals and police stations was also suggested, but you’d be better off getting an interpreter, which is required by law in the United States, and actually have 100% access to communication instead of being on a one-way street.

People say that it’s not perfect, but at least it’s a first step in the right direction. But how can that be true if the first step isn’t even right and isn’t actually doing or improving anything?

Another thing to note - At 1:55, Thomas says that no other commercial product translates sign language into text, that nothing else is in the market. That’s actually false. 

In 2013, the ProDeaf app was created. ProDeaf translates Portuguese into Brazilian Sign Language and English into American Sign Language. In my opinion (and a friend’s), the ProDeaf app is better than SignAloud seeing as it’s more portable, can be used by both parties, and is free. 

In the early 2000s, others have made an attempt at ASL fingerspelling gloves but were unable to do so due to technology not being up to date. In 2012, the Faculty of Engineering at the Islamic University of Lebanon made ASL fingerspelling gloves with the same technology, but the project fell through due to the gloves being inefficient.

To wrap it all up, if you’re going to invent something that translates a language, be sure to have a basic understand in that language. I can’t become a teacher and teach students Mandarin if I don’t know the language and expect to be taken seriously or be helpful.

How To Ask Your Favourite YouTubers To Caption Their Videos

Since I started suggesting emailing YouTubers and other content creators and asking them to closed caption their videos, people have been asking me exactly what they should say or if I have any tips on what to say. A long time ago, I made a post on Tumblr with a template people could use, but due to my annual “delete all posts from Tumblr” thing, the post was removed.

So, why not make a brand new template on a website where it is most likely to stay? I don’t plan on doing any annual deleting here.

This template is going to be neutral so both hearing and d/Deaf and hard of hearing can use this. Of course, you’re also welcome to tweak it in any way you need to. If you are d/Deaf or hard of hearing, I encourage you to your own story about how captions benefit you. Hearing folks, if you’ve got d/Deaf or hard of hearing friends and family members, you can add that in. Your emails do not need to be an exact copy of this template. This is just for reference.

I have included hyperlinks to all videos and websites mentioned in this template. Before you send the email, make sure the links show up. If not, you will need to go back and add them yourself.

This template can also be used to email anyone else about captions. It does not have to go to only YouTubers; however, you will have to tweak it since a few of the options are YouTube only. 

Now go out and get ‘em.

Dear [INSERT NAME HERE],

My name is [INSERT NAME HERE] and I’m a big fan of your channel. 

I’m emailing you today because I’ve noticed that your videos are not captioned. This leaves out your current and future d/Deaf and hard of hearing viewers who cannot understand your videos 100%. Captions not only help d/Deaf/HOH people, but those with auditory processing disorder or those learning English as well.

Captions will benefit you too. People who need captions will be drawn to your channel, giving you more subscribers and views. Plus, English captions can be translated into other languages, thus giving you even more people from around the world.

You can add captions in three ways: doing them yourself, having a volunteer or volunteer team submit them, or go through a captioning service.

You might think adding captions yourself is difficult to do, but it really isn’t. Please watch Rikki Poynter’s 3 Ways To Caption Your Videos video here

If you choose to have a volunteer submit captions through community contribution, it is extremely important you find someone who takes it seriously and can type well, which includes having a basic concept of proper grammar and spelling. Please watch Rikki’s #NoMoreCraptions video which explains what not to do here.

If you choose to go through a company, Rev and 3PlayMedia are affordable services.

I really hope you will consider adding captions to your videos.

Thank you very much,

[INSERT NAME HERE]

Lights, Camera, Caption!

[Image Description: Rikki is standing in a crowd of people in front of the Anaheim Convention Center, under a big sign that says "VidCon."]

[Image Description: Rikki is standing in a crowd of people in front of the Anaheim Convention Center, under a big sign that says "VidCon."]

Not long before July 2015, I created the Lights, Camera, Caption! campaign and workshop.

Lights, Camera, Caption! was created to help spread awareness about the importance of closed captioning on YouTube (and the rest of the Internet). In the name of this campaign, I made videos about what closed captioning is and how to do it, sent emails and letters to various YouTubers asking them to caption their videos, and hosted workshops and talks about the subject.

I have taken Lights, Camera, Caption! to VidCon two years in a row. I’ve also taken it, to some degree, to a talk I gave at Lycoming College in November 2015 as well as a ten minute segment at the CSUN Disabilities Conference with Google. This campaign has gotten many people to caption their videos.

Now, I’ll be honest. I’ve been slacking on this since VidCon 2016 came around. When I was watching the Women on YouTube panel at the mainstage arena, as well as other panels, I had plans to e-mail the YouTubers I would be interested in watching, who I knew didn’t caption their videos. Some, I had already e-mailed sometime ago, and didn't get a response, so I wanted to ask again. I planned to do these things, but I didn’t do any of them. I got sidetracked by other things that I was working on.

I do not wish to slack any longer. One of the reasons I created this website was to help me get this back on the road. Currently, I am working on a list of people to email. I am putting together supplies so I can also write letters to these creators if they have PO boxes (since YouTubers like to read their fan mail). I want to ask Google and YouTube questions. I’m hoping to get back to VidCon and other conferences and conventions that are similar.

If you would like to help out with supplies and other donations, you can view the available options here.

If you cannot support financially, you can support in other ways. I want to be able to talk about this to people and companies in person. I want to be able to host this workshop in more places. Talking to your schools is the best way to have people make a visit. Put in word to places like the YouTube Spaces and conferences. I, myself, have plans to try to work with the Spaces to see if I can make a workshop happen, just like they do their classes for people with a certain amount of subscribers. If you are interested in my work and want to know what I’ve done and what I can talk about, please see my resume here and my public speaking page here.

Before I end this, I want to make a note that there are people who have asked for tips, or an e-mail/letter template that asks YouTubers and the like how to caption their videos. I will be making a future post about this when I re-draft one up. Please stay tuned for that in the future.