sasha_feather: Retro-style poster of skier on pluto.   (Default)
[personal profile] sasha_feather posting in [community profile] access_fandom
At My Local Convention, the Access team made a big push toward improving microphone usage this year. This is separate from things we normally do such as marking off chairs for lip readers. Below are revised documents that I wrote to the concom, arguing for an investment in this cause.

I. Hearing impairment is common.

"According to the US Dept of Health and Human Services 1990 and 1991 Health Interview Surveys, approximately 20 million persons, or 8.6 percent of the total U.S. population 3 years and older, were reported to have hearing problems.

"The elderly were more likely than any other age group to have hearing problems (Figure 1). Persons 65 years and older are eight times more likely to have hearing impairment than persons ages 18-34 (i.e., 3.4 percent of the population ages 18-34 have hearing impairment, compared to 29.1 percent of the population 65 and older)."


Therefore: Hearing impairment is likely to be common at our event.

II. Microphones benefit everyone, thus are an element of universal design.

Hearing is difficult in noisy, crowded situations such as cons, even for those who do not have hearing loss. Factors such as sinus problems can temporarily affect hearing. Mics also benefit those with attention difficulties.

Mics save speakers from having to strain their voices or having to shout. They are a confidence builder for people-- they help teach people to value their own voice. It is a professional asset to know how to use a mic properly.

III. Like other aspects of our con: Having good access for hearing will create an environment that will attract people to us; having bad access for hearing will create complaints and disappointed people.

In short: We all benefit from having better microphone usage at our event.

IV. Known barriers and difficulties:

--Mics are expensive
--Cords get in the way and knock things over such as the water glasses. (Proposed solution: cup holders)
--People don't like using mics or don't know how to use them well
--Mods don't always repeat audience questions/comments
--Smaller programming rooms don't have mics (aren’t wired for them.)

V. Proposals:

--Write on back of name tents: "PLEASE USE THE MICS". Name tents sit in front of every panelist.
--Create signs, tape to each panel table to remind people to use the mics. We borrowed the word “Sonorous!” which is the voice-amplification spell from Harry Potter for these signs (we’re a science fiction convention.) The signs had an image of a mic with a green circle around it and text that read, “four inches from your mouth because we’re loud and proud!” (or something like that)
--Buy, borrow, scrounge for more mics. We borrowed six from a college, and rented 2 additional mics on top of our normal number.
--Train mods to enforce this, get them to use mics and repeat audience questions. Repeating audience questions not only allows people to hear the question, it also permits people who are lipreading to maintain their gaze in one direction! Our convention has a “mod squad” training which was effective in this regard.
--Have access volunteers raise their hands in rooms to ask/remind people to use the mics. In this way volunteers can speak up for others who may have trouble speaking up for their own needs.
--Long term: get mics into all programming rooms
--Look into wireless mics if possible
--Address the "I'm shy" issue which often prevents folks from using the mics (and/or other resistance). Personally I believe that microphone use can be “normalized” so that nearly everyone simply does it the way we all put on seatbelts, when they are available.

Microphone use: pretty good, but myself and others definitely encountered able-bodied privilege in the form of people claiming their voices are good enough, loud enough, and gosh darnit mics just aren't natural. In smaller rooms, mic use was worse than in larger rooms. Some people were "mic hogs" (not good at sharing or passing microphones); therefore more mics would be better for 6-panelist panels. Some people gestured with the mics or held them too far from their faces. I believe this shift in culture will take several years but we are off to a good start.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-07 11:32 pm (UTC)
were_duck: Ellen Ripley from Alien looking pensively to the right in her space helmet (Adam smilin)
From: [personal profile] were_duck
This is a really wonderful resource! Thank you :)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-08 12:37 am (UTC)
holyoutlaw: (Default)
From: [personal profile] holyoutlaw
I thought microphone usage was much improved over previous years. I'd like to see more moderators repeat audience questions (I'd also like to see more teachers repeat student questions, for that matter).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-08 03:22 am (UTC)
jesse_the_k: Photo of baby wearing huge black glasses  (eyeglasses baby)
From: [personal profile] jesse_the_k
Yes. Being able to rephrase and summarize a question on the fly isn't always easy. Perhaps this is a specific skill we could mention in the moderation materials? With the advice that folks can practice summarize & repeat with stories on the evening news for a couple nights to get comfy with it.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-08 01:44 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] yarram
Address the "I'm shy" issue which often prevents folks from using the mics

In a moment of extreme snark, my first thought was, "If you are too shy to use the mic, you are too shy to be on a panel." This is not a helpful or constructive response, but perhaps something useful can be crafted from the nugget of snark...

Also, thanks for helping twig me to what bothers me about the "can everyone hear me?" question at panels. You're right that there's a certain amount of audist (dis)ablism being expressed there, and I need to start being more vocal about challenging this. Being deaf means I'm in a perfect position to bat my eyelashes oh-so-innocently and answer "no" from the front row with a straight face. ;-)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-08 02:01 am (UTC)
semielliptical: woman in casual pose, wearing jeans (Default)
From: [personal profile] semielliptical
Really useful post! I agree with you that it takes a shift in culture, and I'll be looking into how I can bring this to some professional conferences I help with.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-08 05:50 am (UTC)
wrdnrd: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wrdnrd
I, too, was really bothered by people on panels who proclaimed that they could speak loudly enough and therefore didn't need to / wouldn't use the microphone. Excuse me, buster, but *i* get to decide if you don't need the microphone. And it's not just a matter of volume -- it's a matter of clarity. The louder a person needs to speak to project, the more strained (in my experience) their words get. A shouted word is harder to understand than a word spoken at normal volume and then amplified via technology that's designed for the purpose. Just because you're LOUD doesn't mean you're projecting properly.

I am not technically hearing impaired. But i have tinnitus, which essentially means i'm trying to hear a panelist over another an existing noise. Shouting at me does not improve my chances of understanding what you're saying.

Perhaps we could impress upon panelists that it's not volume so much as it's clarity. The audience needs to not simply hear, they need to understand.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-09 05:21 pm (UTC)
cesy: "Cesy" - An old-fashioned quill and ink (Default)
From: [personal profile] cesy
Every time someone says they can speak loudly enough, I tend to reply that however loudly they shout, it won't magically transmit into the hearing loop. Shouting loudly is not much use to someone who has optimistically set their hearing aid to 'T'.

This may not work so well at a small con that doesn't have a hearing loop.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-15 03:08 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
YES YES YES YES YES! Thank you. This is a problem in so many settings. Now I will have a great link for any conference planners who don't get it.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-18 04:56 pm (UTC)
retrofit: Amazonian hunter (Default)
From: [personal profile] retrofit
This is really good. I've always done a lot of public speaking at work, and I've gotten to a point in my career where I'm doing more of it, in larger spaces, with larger groups of people. While I have always prided myself on speaking loudly and clearly, I've always been okay with using mics when they were there. In smaller spaces, it used to feel weird to me, but I've gotten over that. Now I ask for them, with all but the smallest groups.

Don't know when I really came to realize that not using mics was a serious accessibility fail, but in the last couple years (as I've been working bigger rooms and bigger groups) I've actually gotten a couple of audience members suggesting I don't need to use one, that it's more "natural" without. I agree that I find it a little disconcerting to see a person standing in front of me, but hear their voice coming over the room speakers, but I know enough now to blow such suggestions off with a "I understand you, but with the mic, I know as many people as possible can hear me well, and I think that's the most important thing, don't you?"

Plus, once you get used to it, using a mic is soooo much easier on the voice.

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