"Do you hear what they are saying?"
"I read what they are saying".
I could see a little confused look so I went on to explain: "The people know I do not hear well so, they make sure someone is available to transcribe for me"
"Oh wow! That is Beautiful!' She exclaimed.
The above conversation happened between I and my colleague. She has noticed I sometimes participate on zoom calls and I do so with all the focus needed. Her questions made me think she may have probably wondered how I follow the calls. It is no secret, to everyone who knows me, that I am hearing impaired so attending a zoom call and doing so regularly would have made anyone wondered. "How does she follow?" "is she just starring at the screen?" could probably be questions running through their minds.
So yes, It was beautiful indeed as my colleague exclaimed that I follow these zoom calls and meetings with the aid of transcribers. Even more beautiful is the fact that there are those who have been just as ready and willing to transcribe as the years go.
You see, due to my hearing impairment, I am always reluctant to get involved with anything which requires calls and online discussions. That reluctance has made me miss a lot of opportunities I would have loved to part take in and it would have been the same with my World Pulse journey if I didn't take to heart the encouragement of Precious, the sister who introduced me to World Pulse, to voice my concerns to the Team of The Voices of The Future (VOF) Class of 2016. I was super excited when I got the link to apply. However, that excitement almost died when I saw it would involve more online calls.
So, I took the advise, wrote to the team and asked what they had in place to make things easier for someone with hearing impairment. The reply came in and there was a question showing they would love to make the experience easier for me and so, they asked; " How can we help you get the best out of this and what is your best mode of communication?"
My reply set the precedence of how I would be involved with calls on World Pulse and as my journey progressed to becoming an Ambassador, Featured Change Maker and Encourager, It became even more pronounced as it means more calls to attend. These beautiful, thoughtful acts of love have remained steady companions as I journey on through World Pulse. They have moulded my journey here and have greatly impacted me in more ways than I could count.
From the very first time when Corine so willingly and passionately accepted to diligently transcribe for me during each VOF class to the willingness and readiness with which everyone today is alert to start transcribing when I am in a call, speaks a lot to my heart. I feel the conscious awareness without the need to constantly remind the team that 'hmm, I cannot attend this call because'... everyone is aware and so, it is like a world pulse tradition...where Arrey is on a call, keep the chatbox and keyboard busy' :)
One day during our #ThrivingThursdayCalls, we had to sing. Before I could voice out 'I will not hear the songs', Karen has already typed on the Whatsapp Forum 'everyone should please write out their lyrics for our sister Arrey on the chatbox'.
That single request did me a number. The thoughtfulness went straight to my heart. While I have to constantly repeat myself to some people to please type what the speaker is saying, constantly ask if there will be a transcriber or a way for me to follow their calls since I cannot hear and worst, even dread some calls and outrightly refuse others because there is no chance at inclusiveness, I eagerly anticipate World Pulse calls.
In these calls, I feel loved. I feel heard. I feel everyone is just as excited to see me as I am to see them. I feel part of the team. Are there times I wish I could actually hear and get engage in the chatter and all? Yes. Still, I do not feel left out or slighted because I have been reminded so many times that my presence and voice matters. Seeing Dawn, Manasa, Maeann, Kirthi, Mama Tam, All the weekly EPs, in fact, seeing everyone of you dear sisters passionately ready to go the extra mile and doing so happily means a lot to me. And because of you all, I set my standards high on what I could expect from a zoom call.
You all helped me see that requesting people include a transcriber on zoom calls is not too high a demand to make and it is in fact, something that can easily be included IF they are willing to LISTEN and do so.
I have had to drop out of an MA program because I didn't really feel listened to. I made a simple request of asking that a transcriber be included in each class. However, the organizers felt they could do something else that could 'work'. Of course, two lecturers... both women... really tried to make things easier by trying different online call options, but it was still not enough. My "can you please transcribe' during 90% of the other lectures became like a refrain and in most cases, I ended up frustrated starring at the screen. To be able to pass through that program, I needed every lecturer to LISTEN to what I said could be the best possible way out and so sadly, I had to put a pause and discontinue the program because, it left me more frustrated. The excitement to pursue the program gradually died. During that period, I found myself constantly saying I wished the organisers could take a leaf from world pulse and make things easier.
World Pulse has become the standard with which I hold each person who wants me on their call. I am always saying in my mind, 'If World Pulse could listen and go out of their way to do it, it means everyone could make the effort to be a little more inclusive'. I guess, I will always have this wish that everyone could be like world pulse in being inclusive especially as the world gets more and more digital and anyone who couldn't make the effort would be found wanting. When the bar is set high, it stays high or gets higher, not lower.
And this is possible only because of you all dear sisters who have genuinely embraced me and continue to make me feel very much a part of the team. I am because you all are. Your collective thoughtful acts of love will forever be cherished. They have all contributed to make me the person I am today. They are a testament that when love reigns, we are stronger together. And the circle gets bigger out of the Pulse as more people are gradually making the effort to accommodate me when I ask about including transcribers. This is because you all listened and didn't discard my request at the very beginning. The future indeed, is inclusive.
And again as my colleague exclaimed, It is indeed, a beautiful experience.