Debra's Conference Experience: A Case Study on Challenges Faced by Conference Participants Who Are Deaf

Background

My name is Debra. I am a college student who is deaf. Over the summer, I participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates summer program where I helped develop an open-source 3D-printed wrist orthosis for individuals who have had a spinal cord injury. I attended and presented the results of this research at a national conference focused on prosthetics and orthotics.

Access Issue

A conference can present challenges to attendees and presenters who are deaf. For example, a poster session may be particularly challenging because of excessive background noise.

Solution

I am oral and use hearing aids and lip-reading extensively, so I sat toward the front of all the sessions I attended so that I could more easily read the speaker’s lips. I disclosed my deafness as needed and suggested ways to facilitate communication – speaking louder or clearer (depending on the speaker), making sure to face me so I could read lips, etc. I made sure to do this during the poster session in particular. I also presented at the conference and disclosed my deafness to the moderator before my presentation. I asked the moderator to repeat audience questions during the Q&A session.

Conclusion

This case study illustrates that:

  • Attending or presenting at a conference may be challenging for a person who is deaf, it is not impossible.
  • Disclosure of deafness and providing others with directions on how to help may allow for a more inclusive experience.