Towards A Digital World : A Community Left Behind

ARREY- ECHI
Posted November 20, 2021 from Cameroon
Thinking about life Generally.
Thinking about life Generally. (1/1)

The world as we knew it, changed drastically in 2020.

The Novel Coronavirus (COVID 19) unleashed it's deadly fangs into the world without mercy.

Life grounded to a standstill. Lots of loss of propety, jobs and life followed.

The human spirit of resilience could not be broken and so, while citizens around the globe went into an enforced sabbatical, the digital space came alive even more forcefully. Work, school, conferences even tele medicine became the norm.

One way or another, life has to go on even if it means from the comfort and safety of our homes.

While these efforts at a semblance of life in a most confusing and chaotic period since after World War II when majority of us were yet to be born and only got to read in books happen  were vastly applauded, there was one community that got even more frustrated with the turn out of this digitally advanced world- the deaf and hearing impaired community.

I have written about the challenges and difficulties I experienced as someone with hearing impairment in a masked world. Today, I will write about some of the challenges I have experienced over the past almost two years since the beginning of this COVID 19 era as the world became increasingly digital and how left behind I felt.

With the need to continue living through a period determined to ground life at a stand still, technology became the ruling king. That means practically everything went online.

When I heard about online conferences for example, I was  super excited about being able to access some high profile conferences which could have otherwise been impossible without some sponsorship or visa to travel.  I imagined being in the same room with so many people I have only hoped to one day be able to meet them albeit virtually and as the conferences approach, so to my excitement. Still, this same excitement would slowly start to wane when asking how inclusive the conferences were going to be for people with hearing impairment was usually often met with 'We didn't think about that but thank you for letting us know, we will consider that next time'. Or with responses like 'Please register and attend and we will see how to make it work for you' only for me to register, attend and find myself looking at my screen for long hours, unsure of what I was even doing there; starring blankly and willing someone to do the needful. When this repeated itself many times, I decided to opt out of the conferences, calls, zoom meetings  etc altogether.

I mean my time was just as valuable. I couldn't continue logging into conferences and ending up starring at my screen instead of doing something else, no matter how much I wanted to be at the said conference, especially after repeatedly asking how inclusive the conferences would be and being reassured there will be ways to look into matters.

A few actually tried.  As a matter of fact, I got two groups to include closed captions during their conferences, got others to find transcribers pro bono or sign language interpreters. Challenged many others to think out the box and think inclusiveness when arranging their webinars, zoom calls or conferences. These were small wins but not entirely as the vast majority continued to be indifferent to the plight of the deaf and hearing impaired community despite the fact that things were changing rapidly and faster in an increasingly digital world.  

In 2020, I enrolled into an MA program in Human Resources Management. Before even registering, I asked questions, emphasizing that I am hearing impaired and would need to know how they intend to make the program inclusive for me. I was assured that my concerns would be taken into consideration and I should go ahead and apply.

Needless to say, after many months of back and forth with me suggesting how best my needs could be accommodated and the powers that be doing something else entirely, for the first time in my life out of frustration and despite wanting so badly to do that MA program, I had to drop out. I will forever be grateful to the two female lecturers who went above and beyond to try to accommodate me take this program since it was an online program but it wasn't enough because, I had more lectures and course loads to carry to be able to complete the MA.  I still nurse dreams of going back for the program though I am weary because I am still unsure how things may have changed since then. 

The daily struggles and questions just to be sure I could easily and confidently attend an online program without much ado painfully  and forcefully brings to the fore, the realities of a community left far behind in a fast paced and advancing digital world.

Technology giants were not too quick, I dare say to make their platforms more accessible for the deaf and hearing impaired community or those who used the platforms for their conferences, meetings etc were not too inclined to think beyond the 'normal' and think inclusion in all it's dimensions.

Even when invited to talk on shows and platforms, I had to ask, how are you going to make this inclusive so that I do not appear like a blabbering fool on air speaking seeming gibberish? 

That is why I am always grateful to World Pulse for being ahead of the game and leaving no stone unturned towards a more inclusive and all encompassing community where no one feels left behind, where everyone feels included and carried along as the tides ebb and flow and  inevitable change happen.

I recently completed MIUSA' s WILD virtual program for three weeks and I was more than impressed and touched by the length with which everything was done to make EVERYONE present feel included and I was like this is how inclusion has to be!  World Pulse and MIUSA are two powerful organisations focused on empowering women and that includes taking into account disability rights and inclusion and they have a simple but powerful model that can easily be replicated over and over to make room for diversity and inclusion. For that to be effective and powerful such that everyone feels included and not left behind while the world moves faster ahead, there has to be the WILL to do so.  I have been with some few organisations recently who are making the efforts after listening to my quest and suggestions on how to make their platforms more inclusive.

Aspire for Equality is one such platform which had take my concerns to heart and start including close captions to their online conferences.

The battle is still a long way but every little steps where the will is existing is a sure assurance of what can be done when there is both a will and a desire to make sure no one is left behind.

Until people start thinking inclusion fully, as the world moves and grows digitally, disability justice  and inclusion will remain elusive because the deaf and hearing impaired community will remain the community that is constantly left behind in a fast changing world.

 

 

        

This story was submitted in response to Disability Justice.

Comments 16

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Emfleur
Nov 21
Nov 21

Amazing one sister Arrey, For someone who has been and see you as a speaker in one of the many global SCD community webinars I got to attend and you were there, all I can say I commend you for always taking a bold step forward and the initiative for change. Go girl!

ARREY- ECHI
Nov 21
Nov 21

Dear Fleur,
It is such a pleasure to read from you here on the Pulse!
Thank you so much for these beautiful words.
I hope you are doing well today as well.
Together, we will keep fighting for the change we seek, one platform at a time.
Looking forward to seeing more of you around.
Lots of Love,

Rahmana Karuna
Nov 21
Nov 21

much gratitude Arrey, for speaking up and i definitely hear you. i am going to share your story along my networks. blessings.

ARREY- ECHI
Nov 21
Nov 21

Dear Rahmana,
Thank you so much for reading and thank you for finding my story a worthy share on your networks. Very much appreciated.

Adriana Leigh G.
Nov 21
Nov 21

Arrey- what an amazing, challenging and important post. I see you, in this post and in this fierce, wonderful photo of you showing your spirit!!

Thank you for sharing and reliving your experiences and hardship with us, somewhere tapping into the patience to help others still learn, despite all of these frustrating experiences. I had no idea the extent of every day, every moment challenges you and so many have to face . I cannot imagine constantly having to ask for the basics of what is needed to participate and having these reactive responses: "We didn't think about that but thank you for letting us know, we will consider that next time'. Or with responses like 'Please register and attend and we will see how to make it work for you' " and it not be done. Arrey this post feels important, and so timely. I wonder if, with your permission and consent, I could share this with my linked in global network to amplify it? This has soooo many messages for so many to hear, and also, some examples of organizations like World Pulse, Aspire for Equality and MIUSA' s WILD virtual program for folks to check out and follow their model to join the path of disability justice. I am on this path, in solidarity, with you, from Montreal.

Hugs from Canada,
Adriana

ARREY- ECHI
Nov 21
Nov 21

Dear Adriana,
Thank you so much for taking the time to read through my post. Thank you for capturing the essence and highlighting some of the points raced. Thank you for seeing how important it is for us to have these conversations. There have been some really frustrating moments but teaching ones too and I am more than glad to share my first hand experience in this fight towards disability justice.

Thank you for finding this worthy of a share on your platform. I am ok with that so long as it helps to amplify these voices more with the support of the World Pulse platform.
And thank you for standing in Solidarity with us in this path for disability justice.
Hugs and love from Cameroon.

Adriana Leigh G.
Nov 21
Nov 21

Yes Arrey some of these moments that you raised are so teachable - and I find can reach people in their hearts to hear first hand human impacts - I am walking alongside you on the path for disability justice.
Hugs and love from Montreal,
Adriana

ARREY- ECHI
Nov 23
Nov 23

Thank you so much Adriana for walking and standing with me and the community. I do agree, personal experiences are great teaching lessons.
Love and light from Cameroon.

MUKABA ZAWADI
Nov 22
Nov 22

c'est vrai que quoique l'inclusion des personnes handicapées resteront insaisissables car la communauté des sourds et des malentendants restera la communauté qui est constamment laissée pour compte dans un monde en évolution rapide. Merci pour le partage

ARREY- ECHI
Nov 23
Nov 23

Bonjour Zawandi,
Comment ça va aujourd'hui?
Vous avez raison. Tant que ceux qui ont le pouvoir d'effectuer des changements continueront de parler et de ne pas agir, l'inclusion restera insaisissable et la communauté des sourds et des malentendants sera à la traîne.
Merci aussi d'avoir pris le temps de lire et de laisser un commentaire,
Amour et lumière

Hello Arrey you are right. Actions should be taken faster otherwise the disables will be left behind. Thanks a lot for creating that awareness and thanks to the world pulse sisters for being there for you at that difficult moment.
Love your efforts
Hugs

ARREY- ECHI
Nov 23
Nov 23

Hi Honorine,
I hope you are doing well today.
Thank you for reading through and for agreeing with me that actions need to be taken for the deaf and hearing impaired community to move along with others.
Until then, we keep doing what we can on our part towards an inclusive world.
Wish you a beautiful week.

Grace Iliya
Nov 23
Nov 23

Dear Arrey,
I understand your frustration and seeing and reading all these beautiful write-ups has further made me realize how important it is to always have all inclusive ways of doing things. You are bold and courageous, i admire that about you. We all have to lend our voices and make a difference. Thank you for sharing this.

Much Love

ARREY- ECHI
Nov 23
Nov 23

Dear Ceegrah,
It is always a pleasure to read from you. I hope you are doing well.
Thank you so much for the kind words. I am glad these posts are helping you think more inclusiveness. Together, we can if the will is there.
Love and light to you.

Grace Iliya
Nov 23
Nov 23

Doing great, thank you. Yes dear, its ringing a bell in my ear. Agreed, together we can achieve much

Love to you too

Marie Abanga
Nov 24
Nov 24

Dear Sis,

Thank you for sharing yet another powerful and soul searching story. You are creating such an impact and I got spurred into writing my own 'left at a loss' story due to my 'invisible disability' after reading one of your stories.
Let's keep raising our voices as you keep encouraging hurray