I'm at a conference put on every year by a company who focuses on software and services for education, primarily elearning. I've come to this conference six times and at each, have made valuable connections for work and gathered lots of great information.
I've been teaching community college students both in a classroom and online for about 14 years and have worked both as a teacher and academic support with a broad diversity of students in terms of age, socioeconomic status, culture, and with a wide range of learning and/or physical disabilities. I've studied and been involved in the movement toward universal course design that addresses all learners. I am not ignorant to the needs and challenges of various populations.
Today, however, all of it became a little surreal after witnessing something that stopped me in my tracks, made me take stock of what I think I understand, made me realize more than ever how important me doing the work I do with some sense of passion is and made me better understand that which I didn't know that I didn't understand.
I went to a session at the conference titled, '100% Online Faculty Training" and the basic premise is to increase the number of faculty certified to teach online by offering the required training completely online; this is of major interest to me and my colleagues back at home. I sat and waited for the session to begin, the doors closed behind me, the room got quiet, the first of the speakers got up front and started signing (American Sign Language) then, there was a voice. A minute or so in, the other speaker gets up, begins to sign and again, that same voice.
Both presenters were deaf and the voice was that of an interpreter orating the speakers sign language. I have many times seen interpreters sign a speech so that deaf attendees can partake and have even had interpreters in classes I have taught to accommodate deaf students but this was the complete opposite, I had never seen or thought of it and was totally blown away.
Perhaps it's me that's over thinking this or that's far more naive that I care to believe. I get it, it makes perfect sense, I had just never put the pieces together because I thought I had no reason to. However, witnessing this offered me insight as to the challenges of someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and how while with determination and availability of resources, can choose to overcome those challenges and succeed but more eye-opening was how I feel like I take something that seems as simple as the ability to hear for granted.
On a grander scale, I hope this will help to to realize such things without having to stumble across them, that I will be more grateful for all that I am able to do and that I do my part as a person and as an educator to ensure that all people have the same opportunity to learn and succeed.