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Opportunity in adversity. A radical concept?

The other day I listened to Aimee Mullins, – a woman, paralympian, model, and public speaker. She presented on the topic of “the opportunity of adversity”. And when I say I listened, I mean I read, because I watched the subtitles that were included in the video of her presentation. (Three cheers for Web 2.0 technology).

Aimee suggested that adversity, discussed primarily in the context of so-called “disability”, was more a door to opening human potential than a prison. This is especially the case if the person “suffering” the so-called “adversity” is told that they can do things, rather than that they cannot.

Aimee’s right. And there lies the challenge for the deaf and other so-called “disability” communities.

We face the dual task of having to show the wider community that being having alternative needs is not the same as being crippled or unable, as the term “disabled” implies. Simultaneously, while emphasising empowerment, we must remind and encourage people to consider “disability” when developing information or activities for people in their public and private lives. After all, access to information and activities is a right, not a privilege.

Sounds hard? Well, yes but no.

Education is part of the answer. And since women have such powerful influence in their families and communities, speaking to them is really important. That’s because when the community realises that nothing is impossible with the right support, the dialogue turns from incapacity to providing alternative pathways. Think about it:

a) If you’re deaf, you can watch TV or youtube if your show has subtitles or a transcript included.
b) If you are blind, you can study at uni. You might just need Braille or electronic, plain text versions of the books you’re studying so that you can enlarge the writing.
c) If you use a wheelchair, you can still dance. The only decision is whether you choose to incorporate the wheelchair or not in your performance.

I use my website – www.deafplanet.com.au – to provide deaf people with information about travel in Australian Sign Language. However by providing subtitles, I also make my content accessible to people who are not deaf, reminding them that deaf people do everything they do, and that creating accessible content online is really very easy. After all, I do everything with my digital camera, youtube and a free blogging site.

But showing by implication isn’t enough. And that’s where online communities come in. By sharing information, creating discussions, or providing online courses, I can educate people about the simple ways they can think about, and most importantly talk to people with a disability in their day-to-day and online lives. And this is what I would like to do on PulseWire.

Two things can stop people becoming who they should be: themselves and other people. How people choose to live their own lives is their choice. But every one of us has the capacity to be more inclusive, especially in online environments. And it’s places like the PulseWire community that helps us learn how!

Comments

Claudia's picture

Excellent Points!

I was truly moved by your journal entry.

I think your entire piece holds and moves very well from one point into another. More importantly, you bring to the discussion some very important points that are not always present.

First, I like when you say, "Simultaneously, while emphasising empowerment, we must remind and encourage people to consider “disability” when developing information or activities for people in their public and private lives. After all, access to information and activities is a right, not a privilege." Access to information technologies and activities is a right. As part of my education in women studies, I learned that physical structures disable people, and I think an argument like this really forces us to think "outside the box" and to be more creative when more inclusive.

Which brings me to your second point: "But every one of us has the capacity to be more inclusive, especially in online environments." I agree with you and think that what you are doing is so important. I learned so much just by reading this entry!!

Thank You!

Claudia

deafplanet's picture

Claudia, Thanks so much for

Claudia,

Thanks so much for your feedback. I do love writing, so it is a pleasure to hear that you found it well-structured! I really do try! LOL.

You are completely right by the way about the impact of physical structures on people - whether they are disabled or not. I guess the trick is, even when you are developing technologies and structures that seek to empower people (like the internet for example), to constantly ask yourself: how can I ensure everyone can participate?

It's a question that I ask myself daily!

:-) xo

Ann Gloria's picture

very true

again everything on your journal is true it shed a new light to what others might term a disability ,learning so much from you

deafplanet's picture

thank you Ann Gloria - it is

thank you Ann Gloria - it is wonderful to have you as my friend.x

mihoaida's picture

I continue to change

Hello,

I can resonate many things that you mentioned since I also believe in education as a key to change how we see our world from different lens. Thank you for this journal. You helped me to raise my awareness of what I can do to be more inclusive for deaf community when I publish my work on my YouTube channel. After reading your entry, I did a little bit of research on adding cations and subtitles for my most recent video I produced. I worked on it yesterday, and now it has subtitles which can be turned on by clicking 'cc' tab on the screen. As an English language learner, I always turn subtitles on when watching movies and videos to comprehend the stories, so I know that the captions and subtitles are better for children and adults who are still learning English as well.

I will keep what you said in my mind: "while emphasising empowerment, we must remind and encourage people to consider “disability” when developing information or activities for people in their public and private lives." - thank you.

Miho

Miho Aida

deafplanet's picture

that is amazing and exciting!

Dear Miho,

I have watched your video - it is wonderful, thank you so much for adding captions to it! I am glad that I could help inspire :-)

I have now book marked your site so i can keep regularly updated with your fabulously empowering stories of women. If they can do it - we can do it too!

Hil x

Jan K Askin's picture

VOF week 3 assignment

Dear Deafplanet,

Sometimes one reads an article that at first seems to produce a minor shift in thinking, but that then becomes a seismic shift.

Your contribution made me realize that I have not included "disability rights" under an umbrella of oppressed women.

Your description of providing subtitles in a video spoken with Australian Sign language is powerful because it reverses the usual experience of the hearing person.

Thank you for adding an important category to the list of causes where there is a need for increased empowerment among women.

Your sister in the US

Jan Askin

deafplanet's picture

Dear Jan, Thank you so much

Dear Jan,

Thank you so much for providing such wonderful feedback about my article. I am glad that I could raise a little bit of awareness about the need to consider the rights of people with a disability ;-)

I have not read the book Half the Sky, but I have heard it is really fabulous! I am looking forward to reading it one day, and now that I know that it has inspired you, I am looking forward to it even further!

Hil x

giftypearl.abenaab's picture

'The Power of Adversity'

Hello!,
I have enjoyed reading your post across the ocean. You mention very important points and your thoughts 'And since women have such powerful influence in their families and communities, speaking to them is really important. That’s because when the community realises that nothing is impossible with the right support, the dialogue turns from incapacity to providing alternative pathways. Think about it:

a) If you’re deaf, you can watch TV or youtube if your show has subtitles or a transcript included.
b) If you are blind, you can study at uni. You might just need Braille or electronic, plain text versions of the books you’re studying so that you can enlarge the writing.
c) If you use a wheelchair, you can still dance. The only decision is whether you choose to incorporate the wheelchair or not in your performance.' is thought provoking. Anything is possible, excuses will never bring success.
I am happy you are using your website to help deaf people in your community.
Keep sharing you vision on Pulsewire.

Best

Gifty Pearl Abenaab
Founder
Greight Foundation
www.greightfoundation.org

deafplanet's picture

Thank you so much for your

Thank you so much for your kind words, I am glad that I could inspire. May I also just mention that I am VERY inspired by you and the work you are doing with the Greight Foundation. What a wonderful initiative. Good luck with it all, and keep in touch.

Hil x

Bhavya's picture

Too cool! Your entry is

Too cool! Your entry is incredible. I am unsure if you are deaf yourself? Either way your efforts are an inspiration to us all

deafplanet's picture

Hola! Thanks so much - I am

Hola! Thanks so much - I am glad you liked it :) I am definitely deaf myself. Since birth! I wear hearing aids and also use sign language :-)

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