How (Not!) To Be Inclusive: Deaf Academic version


a) Ask the deaf academic if she is willing to write a grant to cover the cost of her interpreters or CART captioning.

b) Return the deaf academic’s conference registration fees, telling her that she cannot come to your conference because her interpreters are too expensive.

c) Tell the deaf academic that she is welcome to attend and bring her own interpreters/CART captioning, and you won’t charge them registration fees (but she’ll have to pay for their services).

d) Tell the deaf academic that she is welcome to attend and bring her own interpreters/CART captioning, and you will only charge them half-cost registration fees (but she’ll have to pay for their services).

e) Tell the deaf academic (who is a graduate student) that she is welcome, and provide accommodations as requested. Upon her arrival greet her warmly, taking her aside to let her know that she is the most expensive person attending the conference, costing even more than the keynote speaker.

f) Cover the cost of the accommodations, but at your next organization board meeting, title an agenda item “the interpreter problem”. Minutes from this meeting will include the following suggestion from a lawyer on the board: hold an essay writing competition that will be judged by a subset of the board, with the best essays getting the prize of accommodations to the next conference.

(g) Tell the deaf academic (an assistant professor of philosophy) that she should meet the organization halfway, and pitch in expenses, just as you do when you upgrade your flight to business class from coach. Ignore that as a Professor of Medicine with a private practice, the cost to upgrade to business class is negligible for you, and the cost of accommodations for the conference is equivalent to two months take-home salary for the philosophy professor.

h) Welcome the deaf academic to the conference, and then, at the disability task force meeting, yell at the deaf academic for not using her CART captioning because she arrived late to the conference due to a delayed flight.

i) Provide interpreters to the conference, but have a staff member follow the deaf academic to make sure that she is using the interpreters for each session of the conference. If the deaf person decides to speechread a colleague and talk to them without accommodation (though the interpreters are standing by at the ready) be sure to note this when the interpreters bill the organization.

j) Provide interpreters to the academic organization professional meeting, but chastise the deaf academic when she uses her time during the annual meeting to talk to professional colleagues and meet with them to discuss their mutual projects. Claim that the definition of the annual meeting is restricted only to providing access during official sessions, and does not include conversations in the hallway or at receptions.

k) Grudgingly agree to provide interpreters for the conference, but tell the deaf academic that if any sessions run overtime, the deaf academic is responsible for paying the overage costs. Get extremely defensive after receiving a letter about the illegality of this from the National Association of the Deaf Law Center (that was cc’d to board members) and say that’s not what you meant at all, thus scapegoating the deaf academic once again.

l) Refuse to pay for the interpreters after you have invited the deaf academic to give a talk.

m) Refuse to pay for the interpreters after the deaf academic has given the talk.

n) Talk to members of your department about changing your open-to-the-public colloquia open to the department only, so that the deaf academic from another university who sometimes attends your colloquia is excluded, and your department doesn’t have to pay for accommodations.

o) Pay for the colloquium interpreting, but deny the request for the interpreters to interpret the group dinner afterwards. Disinvite the deaf academic from the dinner. Gaslight her by telling her that the dinner invitation was mistakenly made and only meant for members of the department. Look unembarrassed when you are all at a gathering the next day and the other non-department members attending the talk reference the dinner conversation, making it plain that this was not a department-only event, but a hearing people only event.

p) Restrict the deaf academic’s communication access to only the session of the conference that she is presenting, saying that this is all your budget will permit. Tell her she’s welcome to attend the whole conference, nonetheless.

q) Tell the deaf academic (a graduate student) that she will not get an honorarium for her talk because you will use the funds to pay for her interpreters instead. Do this after she has booked her travel and is counting on the honorarium to cover those costs.

r) Agree to provide interpreters, but use a staff member’s church network to find someone who “knows ASL”. Book that uncertified, untrained, and unqualified person for a sophisticated academic conference demanding topnotch skills, then claim that you followed the law by providing an “interpreter.”

s) Ask the interpreter out for drinks while she is interpreting. Refuse to accept ‘no’ for an answer. Refuse to acknowledge the deaf academic while you are doing this. Better yet, tell her to go away because you have something private to discuss with the interpreter.

t) If you are the spouse of a person giving a colloquium talk, complain to the deaf academic afterwards that the interpreter was distracting people from the important points of your spouse’s paper. Tell the deaf person that she should tell her interpreter to sit down, and suggest that maybe the university should stop providing interpreters, given the visual distraction.

u) Ignore the deaf academic’s request to contact the interpreting agency that provides local interpreters who know her academic discipline and the technical terms of discourse. Instead, hire the cheapest agency in town, providing unqualified interpreters for non-signers to gawk at, but no access for the deaf academic.

v) Ignore the deaf academic’s expert knowledge grounding her objection that the interpreters provided were unqualified for the assignment. Respond by saying, “They were moving their hands weren’t they? They looked like they were working hard to me!”

w) As a conference attendee, tell the deaf academic that the inept and unqualified interpreter working the conference is doing an amazing job.

x) Remind the deaf academic in each email how much her accommodations are costing the organization.

y) Provide accommodations for the official events of the program, but none of the social events. In feedback after the event, note to the deaf academic that other people attending the event were disappointed that she did not join them for the social events, underscoring the expectation to be collegial.

z) Tell the deaf academic that she will not get the honorarium all other workshop participants received since hers was used towards the cost of her interpreters.

About Teresa Blankmeyer Burke

Just another deaf academic/advocate/activist blogging about life.
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15 Responses to How (Not!) To Be Inclusive: Deaf Academic version

  1. Kirk VanGilder says:

    I’m gonna bookmark this for future use. Although my main professional society has been exemplary with accessibility for me (after the first go around which included some of these moves), some of the smaller professional societies for niche specializations have been much more of a hassle along these lines. So, for future haggles, I’ll reference this post and simply say, “If you see yourself doing any of these, you’re doing it wrong.”

  2. kmccready says:

    Rebloged, tweeted and facebooked. BTW your post didn’t have a separate photo so the space for a photo shows as a blank on facebook when I copied the link.

  3. Rebecca Raphael says:

    Truth. Some of these things have happened to me, and the ones I haven’t encountered haven’t because I didn’t ask for accommodations.

  4. Phyllis Wilcox says:

    I am weary!
    Reading the Inclusive (Not!) responses, recalling the episodes of exhausting struggles, pushing the memories out of my mind—thinking of YOU going through each and every one of these, a through z. It’s something we should all note. Especially when we experience something as marvelous as Mike Sandoval’s memorial this morning. The Albuquerque interpreting “crew” is a notch apart from most other places, I’ll have to admit.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences, Teresa.

    • Teresa Blankmeyer Burke says:

      The Albuquerque interpreting community is a notch above because of the work you have done here — thank you, Phyllis! And there is no rest for the weary, but I am heartened at the big picture, which is moving in the direction of more awareness, albeit all too slowly…

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  6. ocean1025 says:

    As a fellow “Deaf Academic,” this is what bothers me:

    I posted this on a FB interpreting page, and got three responses of people clicking the “crying face.” I found myself growing a bit irritated.

    I don’t want people crying over this post. I want them to feel proud that a Deaf person wrote this. Proud that she referred to herself and other members of the Deaf Community as a Deaf Academic – as we have rightfully earned that title! – and that she spoke up to educate others about these experiences and how they are not appropriate and not the way to handle our communication accessibility needs. Proud that she’s educating society about what not to do when it comes to meeting those needs.

    We don’t need tears. What we need are more people like you Teresa… standing up and calling it like it is.

    We don’t need tears. What we do need is allies…people like Phyllis above rolling up their sleeves and educating, advocating, and providing those needed services.

    Scream if you have to…rant and rave if you must. But spare us your tears.

    We need your support, not your sympathy.

  7. Brenda Dencer says:

    May I share your response with my interpreting group? The article is worthy of discussion and even more so with your comment. There is no name attached and my intro would to explain that this was a comment on the article already posted.

    Brenda Dencer, SC: L

    • Teresa Blankmeyer Burke says:

      Absolutely, Brenda. You’re welcome to share my name as well. I’m writing on this topic in my scholarly work as well, so letting people know about the other writing I’m doing on about this seems only fitting! Thank you for your interest — I’d love to learn what your group has to say!

  8. Dave Smith says:

    Amen to all of the above. Although I have to admit as part of the Special Ed/Deaf Ed community we don’t have these problems as often since most such organizations typically budget for the expenses. The one mainstream organization that is outstanding is the MLA (Modern Language Association) and I had a good experience with NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English). Can anyone else out there name professional organizations that are accommodating?

    • Teresa Blankmeyer Burke says:

      Dave, I love the strategy of naming those organizations that have implemented excellent accommodation practices. I’d add the American Philosophical Association (all three divisions), the Society for Disability Studies, and the Society for Analytical Feminism to this list! Congresses, conferences, and workshops that I attend on a regular basis that do a good job include Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress (RoME) at the University of Colorado — Boulder, and Workshop in Normative Ethics (WiNE) in Tucson.

  9. ocean1025 says:

    Brenda ~

    Was your comment aimed at me?

    Allow me to introduce myself, and Teresa, maybe I should clarify my identity to you as well.

    My name is Virginia L. Beach. I am Deaf, a Gallaudet graduate, and while I’m not an “Academic” on the same level as Teresa (I don’t teach in a university setting), I am a Deaf Professional who has taught and lectured on campuses in the past, and currently work in the Social Services field with Deaf consumers, as well as teaching ASL.

    First of all, I should explain that I have a real pet peeve about most of those darn FaceBook emojis now being used to express your thoughts on a post. Half of the time I’m left to wonder what the person actually means when they click the “WOW” icon or the “SAD” icon – what prompted them to do so?

    The point of my comment was that while such an article as Teresa has written above can certainly provoke feelings of unhappiness or anger that such attitudes and behaviors still prevail in this day and age (twenty-six years after the passage of the ADA), that we need to rise above that. We need to first of all to recognize and respect the power and strength of the Deaf Community and their growing recognition of such. More and more we are no longer content to just sit back and “accept the way it is.” We are speaking out, and this article is a perfect example of such. That’s why I commend Teresa for writing it.

    When I think about how far the Deaf Community has come in just the last ten years, my heart swells with pride. More and more, we are speaking up and signing out – using our hands as our voice as we express our thoughts and feelings about our language, about our culture, about oppression, about language and communication, about accessibility, about audism, and hearing privilege. We are making ourselves seen…and heard.

    Sure, we have a long way to go… but I’m reminded of something that Martin L. King would say – invoking the words of an old black minister:

    “Lord we ain’t what we should be and we ain’t what we gonna be, but thank God, we ain’t what we was!”

  10. Marilyn says:

    Remove attending meetings as an essential job function so you don’t have to pay for accommodations for HOH associate professor. Have AAUP tell you that you’re not prohibited from attending meetings, so there’s really nothing they can do.

  11. Pingback: “Are you friends with the deaf person?” (Net)working with sign language interpreters in academic settings – Pigs can fly

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