This week I gained some very interesting new insights into accessibility. I learned two things I didn’t know yet. The first one is incredible: It turns out that (some) blind people can see. They have no eyes, yet they can see well enough to ride a bike. And according to these people, the reason why blind people can’t see has a cultural reason. They can’t see because we’re over protective, and because we won’t let them use echo location. It’s the most incredible podcast I’ve heard in a long time.
The other thing I learned this week is that communication issues for many deaf people are also more cultural than I thought. It has to do with the structure of language. For many Deaf people, sign language is their first language. And sign language has a completely different structure than spoken languages.
It’s four dimensional. So the problems these people have are similar to the problems that non-native speakers have: when they read a text, it doesn’t follow the logic of their native language, so it’s much harder to understand. It makes so much sense once you know it. All this was explained in a fantastic talk by Marie van Driesche, who is deaf herself.
It came as a bit of a shock to realise that the transcripts I provide with my podcast are not very useful for her. Written language is hard enough to understand, so a transcript of spoken language is even harder to understand. These things are complicated, and probably impossible to get perfectly right for everybody. Different people need different solutions. For instance my father, who is slowly turning deaf, loves the transcripts:
it’s like hearing you talk! One of the things I can do is take a bit more time to write a proper summary for each episode though.