#DeafAwarenessWeek may be coming to a close but now is the time to think about your Inclusive Communication Strategy. Where to start?
It's easiest to demonstrate through an example.
So it's scenario time:
You are hosting an event. You want to ensure your event is inclusive. Prior to the event, you sent a questionnaire to all delegates and speakers, asking about access requirements. You have a deaf woman as your keynote speaker. Her name is Kelly. She specifies she is a British Sign Language (BSL) user.
What is the most inclusive strategic approach?
a. Provide at least two BSL interpreters for the whole conference. You arrange seats in a way to accommodate comfortable eye contact and space to enable navigation. This enables Kelly to comfortably communicate and network. You address Kelly directly. All signs are easy-read and pictorial.
b. Arrange Closed-Captioning for Kelly to access the talks. You provide a room for Kelly to go in between talks. You encourage Kelly to write down any requests. All signs are written using plain English.
c. You provide one BSL interpreter and arrange seats in a way to accommodate comfortable eye contact, to enable Kelly to comfortably communicate and network. You address Kelly's BSL interpreter and relay messages through the interpreter only.
d. You expect Kelly to provide her own interpreter. You provide a room for Kelly to go in between talks. You encourage Kelly to write down any requests. The signage is written in plain English.
As we already know, Kelly is a BSL user. This could mean that BSL is Kelly's first language. BSL is a language in itself with a completely different structural arrangement and grammatical structure to written English. So we can't assume that Kelly will be able to read closed captions or get by on communicating in writing.
Proactive provision for accessible resources is important. We need to be mindful we identify pro-actively how we can put provision into place so that we ensure each person feels included. This can help bridge the equity gap.
It is important we budget for provision of access. We need to get better at provision for pro-active support, this includes budget. If there are budgetary constraints the most important thing is to be transparent and communicate this on the initial invitation. The best alternative solution will come from communication and collaboration.
We can apologise and not change, not learn from our oversights, or we can activate change – actively engage, take responsibility, and learn how we become inclusive. Not tomorrow, today.
Respect, Value & Embrace difference.