Get-hooked November 29, 2021
#Inclusive – Meryl Evans believes that celebrating differences can make this world a better place
International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is celebrated every year on 3 December. The theme for this year ‘Building back better: towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world by, for and with persons with disabilities’.
Marking this day, Newz Hook brings to you “#Inclusive – Building Resilience post COVID-19 in the lives of people with disabilities” where we feature people with disabilities who are passionate about accessibility and inclusion. We start our series with Meryl Evans, who is an accessibility marketing consultant.
Know Meryl Evans
Meryl: I was born hearing-free aka profoundly deaf. Here’s something that will surprise those who haven’t met me. The most common assumption people make about me is that I know sign language. I don’t. That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing. There’s no right or wrong. There’s no superior or inferior. It just is. Deaf and hard of hearing people are all different. I can only speak from my own experience. When you meet one deaf person, then you’ve met one deaf person. To listen, I rely primarily on lipreading and my bionic ear, which sounds cooler than a cochlear implant.
I’m an author and contributor to books on technology and business. In my day job when I’m not being an accessibility and caption pusher, I am an accessibility marketing consultant.
How did the pandemic affect people with disabilities?
Meryl: The pandemic affected people with disabilities in many ways, a lot of it in good ways. For people who struggle to get out of the house and go to an office, they could finally work from home. I’ve been a remote worker and consultant since 2005. In 15 years, I may have had five video calls and rarely any meetings. I’ve worked in a solitary setting, mostly communicating with clients and colleagues by email.
Thanks to the crisis, it compelled video meeting platforms to add captions. And now I have meetings all the time, even three or four in one day. Although, I work to limit it to no more than three meetings. While the captions and lipreading help, I still experience concentration fatigue if I’m on too many video calls. Because of caption videos, my career has taken off and people invite me to speak at their events.
Of course, the pandemic hasn’t benefitted everyone with a disability. I know one person who struggles with video calls because they’re too loud. The person hears a lot of extra noise with hearing aids and isn’t a lipreader. We need to be mindful of how a tool can be helpful for one person but a problem for another.
Experience during the COVID-19 pandemic
Meryl: At first, the pandemic was rough with masks everywhere. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go many places. But when I did, I had some anxiety in the early days. Now, I’m prepared for whatever comes. People have been respectful. But it’s not always the case as there have been stories about people with disabilities getting poor treatment.
One restaurant would not serve a deaf woman. Since they were wearing masks, they refused to write anything down or use a phone to communicate with her. The company’s name was all over social media and accessibility supporters boycotted the chain.
Companies need to not only pay attention to digital accessibility but also the accessibility of their business through all customer touchpoints. And for their own employees.
3 things that you would like to see in the post COVID-19 society?
- Many companies claim they support DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion), but they often leave out people with disabilities. I would like to see more companies adopting an accessibility culture that’s welcoming of people with disabilities. Accessibility is everyone’s responsibility. Not just the IT department or development team.
- It would also be great to see more companies make remote working and hybrid working a part of their culture. It’ll allow people with disabilities to do jobs they want to do without the problems of being in an office. It will also ease traffic and help the environment.
- And I would like to see people be kinder and more respectful of each other. We’ve become an uncivilized society and we’ve forgotten how to disagree with each other respectfully. The world would be a dull one if everyone was like us. We should be celebrating differences not shutting them down.
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