I have been to many conferences the last 10 years. For a deaf person like me that is not the easiest activity to do. The biggest challenge for me has always been to get the sessions and presentations I like to attend captioned. I am able to lip-read and understand most people when the conversation is 1 on 1. But a speaker who is presenting his/her speech, or where the audience gives feedback or asks questions, for me that is simply impossible as a lip-reader. I only have 2 eyes and a limited amount of energy. My eyes would simply explode.
I joined the Dynamic Coalition on “Accessibility and Disability” (DCAD) of the IGF. This Dynamic Coalition has its focus on equal access to Internet and ICT services and as additional task advising the IGF on how to be more accessible for people with Disabilities. So I ended up in Hyderabad, India and Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
The biggest issue was to find enough sponsors to pay for the remote captioning for our 2 workshops (ISOC contributed significantly to the remote captioning, thanks!). The IGF had only the main session captioned. So I could only participate in our own 2 workshops and the main sessions. I felt like having my wings clipped.
Now for the IGF in Vilnius, Lithuania something like a miracle happened…The DCAD was informed that all workshops will be captioned! Mr. Markus Kummer explained to us that the IGF considers accessibility very important and that he believes in the benefit of captioning for all attendees.
He is right. If you are a non-native English speaker, the captions do help you to understand the presentations. Same goes when a non-native English presenter is speaking. The accented English can be harder to understand. The captions will help here.
And for me?
For the first time in my life I can just join any workshop anytime I like and be ABLE to follow the presentations! I do not feel like a clipped duck anymore! My deafness does not limit my participation in the IGF anymore.
Thank you IGF and I hope that this is the beginning of an all inclusive IGF where all people with Disabilities can fully participate and work on an all inclusive and accessible Internet!