A world of difference🌍
In preparation for my new job, I have been signed up to do an online course that is a week long, 9.30am - 4.30pm. Yes, online! As a deaf person, I like to make sure that I know exactly what is happening when, how it's going to be done, who is doing it and to have as much information about the course as possible. (Of course, this also applies to social events and similar...) I received this information half an hour before it was due to start the training (through no fault of my HR dept.) which flummoxed me a bit but that was ok.
The main things I was anxious about was would I be able to see the other trainer, would I see the other participants, would I have materials, power point images, would I be able message if I couldn't hear anything and would I be able to keep up?
Anyway as it turned out, I felt the training was very well prepared. The trainer was online the whole time so I could see her face to lipread - the only bug bear I had was that I couldn't make her picture larger to help me lipread with more ease. Some of the participants chose not to use the webcam which was fine, and some did which made it easier. Sometimes they were not clear so my trainer with numerous prompts from me in the private chat, repeated what they said, repeated any questions that were asked and encouraged people to use the chat system. There was a power point on the whole time which obviously was a great help and it made the whole process much easier to follow and I had printed out all the material in preparation. If you are deaf, it is important to be armed with as much info as possible, it really helps you prepare and can help with topics of conversation and give you ideas as to what people may talk about. The trainer asked questions and you could simply put down what you thought in the chat. I decided to put my webcam on and I think I must have quite an expressive face as a couple of times she asked if I was ok as I looked quite confused! It's easier to get their attention with a wave if they can see me.
I did feel for the trainer as she was listening to someone ask a question and then she was repeating it and popping a quick note on the web chat for me then carried on talking and I'm messaging her at the same time saying her picture has disappeared from the screen! Talk about a multi tasking pro! I also sent a message to the general chat when I was trying to private message her but it was all fine. At one point we had to watch an online video from an outside source but there was a written transcript of the audio below the video which was very helpful. I think perhaps it would be useful to have someone who could volunteer to bullet point things that are being said off screen but I think the whole thing is such a minefield anyway!
One issue I have always had when taking part in online courses, long zoom calls, work conferences, talks and presentations that it's actually quite hard work trying to lipread and listen at the same time. If I have a break and close my eyes for 2 minutes, I've then lost the flow of the conversation so it's pretty intense. No wonder I need glasses! I often come away with bad headaches as I'm concentrating so much (I don't know if other lipreaders have this issue?) and I have to allow myself time to relax and have an early night to give myself a break to try and get rid of the headache.
Anyway, I came away from the training sessions I've had so far this week feeling really positive about my new job role and I feel that the training I'm receiving has around the same quality as everyone else's and that is a huge thing for me. I'm used to missing out and not getting it all but I did make a fuss and the trainer was informed about my needs. It's interesting when I think about it, after any sort of training that I have, I think about how much I've managed to hear and understand and the numbers in my head have always been around 70-90% but this one I feel I got about 95% so I'm really happy. We actually covered topics such as inclusion and equality and I feel it is so important to make people aware of these issues and learn about how they can empower people. It may only mean making a small change in how you communicate with someone or it may be including them in something they have not been a part of before - but it can make the world of difference.