Flipping the Tin

Accessibility - Deaf Awareness

April 23, 2021 Sardines Digital Engagement Season 1 Episode 2
Accessibility - Deaf Awareness
Flipping the Tin
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Flipping the Tin
Accessibility - Deaf Awareness
Apr 23, 2021 Season 1 Episode 2
Sardines Digital Engagement

In this second episode of Flipping the Tin, research assistant and Deaf Studies specialist Rachel England joins English Language and Linguistics lecturer Gerardo Ortega in discussing the challenges  of digital conferencing, and how to facilitate these events to be more accessible, and  deaf aware. 

Show Notes Transcript

In this second episode of Flipping the Tin, research assistant and Deaf Studies specialist Rachel England joins English Language and Linguistics lecturer Gerardo Ortega in discussing the challenges  of digital conferencing, and how to facilitate these events to be more accessible, and  deaf aware. 


[ELISA] Welcome to our podcast called 'Flipping the
Tin', we chat with event industry specialists

policymakers, and conference attendees on
the future of events and conferencing. Today

we have two brilliant guests to speak about
accessibility issues at academic conferences.

Our first guest is Rachel, she is a research
assistant at the University of Birmingham.

She obtained her BA/BSC in Deaf Studies with
Psychology at the University of Wolverhampton

in 2002 and a postgraduate certificate in
Deaf Studies at the University of Bristol

in 2008. Since 2011 she has been working as
a research assistant on numerous projects

across the UK including the syndrome and vision
research unit within Cardiff University looking

at the mysterious benefits of bifocals for
children with down syndrome prior to joining

the University of Birmingham. She has also
worked as an advocate at the British Deaf

Association and as a Research Coordinator
at the Arts Council of Wales, she has done

much sessional work for the National Deaf
Children's society which has included delivering

training and hosting family events today she's
being assisted by BSL to English interpreter.

Hi Rachel, thank you so much for being here 
with us today what has been your overall experience

with in-person conferencing and accessibility?

[RACHEL] Before the pandemic face-to-face conferences 
were fine they went very smoothly and it was

very easy to do but then after then the pandemic
came with lockdown and we all turned to Teams

or Zoom or different modes to get access and
that became a problem for deaf people to be

able to see the interpreter all of the time
or maybe if there's another person who can

sign as well it doesn't matter everybody's
signing all at the same time on these little

tiny you know stamp size pictures is very
difficult and then an extra problem is I wear

glasses and I have a high prescription as
well and I need a very big screen so looking

at you know so the visual problem and
the deafness is a big problem um so I know

it's very bad we've sort of experienced for
a lot of deaf people, we've just been thrown

in there having to learn it very quickly,
learn how to pin somebody looking at two screens

at the same time if there's PowerPoints and
so it's sort of like learning at the same

time learning your job as well and so it was
quite a panic to start with sometimes, when

people are not deaf aware and sort of like
this event going on it's really difficult

to follow or to keep up so for example. For
example, some people you know perhaps finish

speaking and then they ask if there are any
questions, I might have my hand up ready but

there's always a delay with the interpreter
reinterpretation, so sometimes I'm ready to

speak I've got my hand up I'm ready to sign
at the same time but maybe the other person,

somebody else has got in there before me so
then I step back and you can't get to say

anything so you can stand there with your
hand up but sometimes it gets missed so you

can't you can put your hand up but it'll get
missed a lot of the time. I might start speaking

and then I'm obviously speaking over somebody
else because they're still speaking so it's

really really difficult, very difficult to
create a system that's deaf-friendly, I know

the sort of like Zoom meetings when I know
I've got a Zoom meeting coming up, I feel

so stressed inside I tried to manage and I
tried to cope with it the best that I can,

but I must say it's not at all deaf-friendly
it's not very good it creates an awful lot

of stress, and it brings the stress levels
very high and that's my experience.

[ELISA] Okay thank you, that's unfortunate have you 
been able to attend any virtual conferences

that were handled or were accompanying your

[RACHEL] Well recently in Birmingham, I've got a workshop 
which involved 100 people or something like

that, I know 100 people were allowed to be
involved to participate, but really I saw

the sort of like the dates coming up every
week and the topics. At first, I realized

that I pinned the interpreter on the screen,
so I could see the interpreter but as it was

going on, I felt like I just couldn't cope
with it. I just didn't feel like I was part

of it and, I feel that for academic conferences
it's very important to be able to ask questions

and to understand what's going on, but I just
felt really excluded so that's a big problem,

so I didn't really go into any of the other
sessions. Luckily it wasn't part of my work,

it was optional, I just wanted to get involved,
which I normally would have done but because

it was online it wasn't worth the stress levels.
Before I've been involved in a workshop there

was up to 40 people, I think there was about
40 turned up, maybe 20 - 30 - 40 something

like that, I've been in before but one of
the presenters on this where there was 40,

I knew them quite well because I knew the
two colleagues as well and they had both had

deaf awareness and they could both sign very
well but prior to the workshop everybody was

sort of like trained and says please be patient
with me you know that we need to pin and so

on and so it could carry on. But then somebody
just started speaking, I didn't want to be

rude or anything, but I didn't know who was
speaking because I was pinning the interpreter,

so I didn't know who was speaking, and the
rest went quite well but normally online conferences

when there are lots of people say 100 or more
or anything around there you know you can't

pin them all, you know so nobody really understands
they all need deaf awareness first. I mean

if there are four or so that's absolutely
fine, but once you've got lots of people on

the screen at the same time it is very difficult,
especially when there's no deaf awareness.

Sometimes they'll say, oh right we've got
a deaf person here so we all need to be aware

of her needs, but really there's no training
or anything and sometimes it's too late you

know everybody just starts speaking at the
same time, the interpreter can't follow. So

it's very difficult, a big challenge actually
for me as a deaf person.

[ELISA] I can understand that and that yeah that's
why we are here that's why we're trying to

kind of raise this debate and talk to you
and make conference organizers aware of your

needs. Before we dive into that a little further,
I'm going to introduce our second guest who

is Gerardo Ortega, he's a lecturer in the
department of English Language and Linguistics

at the University of Birmingham. His research
focuses on the sign languages of deaf communities

and the gestures produced by hearing people.
A key aspect of his work is how deaf and hearing

people acquire a linguistic system expressed
with the body and processed through the eyes,

his investigations use various methodologies
to better understand how the body contributes

to human communications in different populations
of deaf and hearing children and adults.

Hi, Gerardo thank you so much for being here,
and thank you so much for taking the time!

What has been your overall experience with
in-person conferencing and accessibility before

this pandemic hit?

[GERARDO] Well, thank you very much for the invitation. 
Before the pandemic, I think that conferences

in our domain were very well catered for people
from all walks of life, so from here for hearing

people and for deaf people as well. So we
always made sure that, well we were signers

some of us, and there were sign language interpretations 
so it was easy to really communicate with

people. Or at least we had the experience
of looking after all types of populations

and look for the best way for them to communicate.
But unfortunately, the pandemic really hit

us very hard and very suddenly and I don't
think that we had the technology, in general,

to really cater for all these people for all
populations and it was really challenging

to really catch up because of the different
needs that we have. So we have these conferences

online and virtual but as Rachel was saying
it was incredibly difficult to really communicate

and make it accessible to everyone. Because
if you think normally people interact face

to face so you whether you're hearing or deaf
you have your interlocutor in front of you

and you can see all their bodily actions and
these are important cues. We know from research

that these are very important cues to let
the other person that you're going to take

the floor and communicate and the other way
around. The body tells the interlocutor when

this person has finished talking and then
is the other person to reply. All of this

is gone in a virtual environment all of this
is completely disappeared and this is particularly

more challenging when it comes to deaf people
and communication using a sign language, because

if you consider that we are looking at the
screen with lots of small screens for with

all the attendees, some of them don't have
their cameras on, some of them are just not

looking at the screen so it's really difficult
to know whether they're engaged in a conversation

or whether they're typing or not. And on top
of that you also usually have a PowerPoint

presentation and then you also have a chat
function right. So just consider the number

of things that are happening within this really
tiny space and if the vocal channel if the

voice is not accessible to someone then vision
is the only sense that you can rely on and

of course it is really challenging for anybody
trying to catch up with people who are signing

people, who are raising their hands, and then
somebody writing on the chat, and then texting

something and then you have to read the slides,
so there's just so much going on. And not

only that like Rachel was saying if you consider
that you're looking at a screen and then the

number of people if they're more people then
it reduces the size of the person, you end

up looking at an interpreter that is the size
of a stamp. That is really difficult, that

is really difficult because our human body
and our cognition are designed to look at

like full bodies, that's how language evolved 
because we are used to facing people in face-to-face

interactions. So virtual reality, the virtual
environments that we're working on are not

really designed for communication where we
can have access to the visual representation

of the body to see the interaction with others 
and that really has a negative impact on communication.

Definitely with people who are hearing, but
more so with deaf communities, and this is

a huge problem, because if we really want
to strive for a community that is accessible

and is inclusive then we really have to do
our best to cater to everyone.

[ELISA] Absolutely, have you been involved in organizing
or attending any virtual conferences over

the last year by now, that you thought some
things were happening in the right direction,

or any other examples where you think there
was some thought that went into it already?

Yeah, definitely I think that one of the things
that I was involved in the organization of

UKCLC, the UK Cognitive Linguistics Conference,
and this was held virtually in the University

of Birmingham organized with some colleagues,
Bodo Winter, Marcus Perlman, and Florent Perek

and this was a really good conference. I think,
and we used a really good platform I found,

and this was organized and suggested by the
organizing committee. And that was actually

really successful it allowed interaction with
all the attendees and there were multiple

discussion boards where people were interacting 
and they were posting and sharing papers discussing

ideas and so on. The format of the presentation
itself I think was somewhat successful but

unfortunately, even though we had sign language
interpretation for some of the sessions, we

faced these difficulties of not having full
accessibility for everybody. So of course,

if somebody was presenting then you would
have to have the presenter and then you would

have another screen for the interpreter and
then you will also have the slides for the

presentation so this is the best thing that
could be done. But I don't think that it was

the best accessible way I don't think that
it was easy. Because let's remember like Rachel

was saying just a moment ago a conference
is not just like the presentation itself,

it's also interaction it's also having the
ability to ask questions, it's also the ability

to say I have a comment, I would like to make
a remark, and if that is not visible and if

the presenter does not see who is raising
their hands because of the number of screens

that are available, there then this person
is going to be forgotten in the background.

I think that one of the things that is really
important for us to think forward if we are

going to continue planning conferences virtually
in the future is that we have to make sure

that everybody's aware, that not everybody
successfully has access to sound and that

we really have to make sure that there is
some form of visual visibility for all of

them this is going to capture the attention
of the presenter and it's going to make it

a lot more inclusive.

[ELISA] Very interesting to hear about that so for
our listeners and for people at home and trying to look into these ways of making
conferences more accessible to everybody,

what has been done within your research that
we can take over to conferences to make them

more accessible?

[RACHEL] Well personally for me perhaps the best idea 
I would have is to create something to make

it accessible to deaf people is that perhaps
have it led by a deaf person. Because a deaf

person would know how to pass on the information,
where a hearing person leading perhaps wouldn't

know how to pace it, so they might go too
fast or too slow. If you haven't got that

experience it's hard to actually explain it
to a person who's never been through it. I

think the most successful way would be to
have it deaf-led and they could control sort

of like the pace of it an academic participating
perhaps in different software so I have knowledge

about that and to have training on it. I was
given some free online training myself but

inside I was anxious I was nervous because
I knew that the teacher was hearing and she

had got no deaf awareness, she'd never met
or trained a deaf person before but I needed

to go to this training. I knew inside straight
away, I could feel myself straight away knowing,

I shouldn't try to do this because it was
in there was an extra challenge. Because I

had to watch the interpreter I had to watch
the screen of how to do things because it

was on software so we had to watch how to
do this IT thing that was being done and I

couldn't watch the interpreter, watch what
they were doing, watch the presentation and

listening at the same time. Hearing people
would watch and then they would practice,

but it was absolutely impossible for me as
a deaf person to get access to this training,

I couldn't keep saying, can you stop a minute
and let me watch and then watch the interpreter

and then practice it. It just wouldn't be
practical, I think there were about 45 people

who were involved at the time. Then the lecturer
just jumped from one part to the next and

I had to very quickly just say in the chatbox,
I'm sorry I need to quit, I can't follow it's

absolutely impossible for me to do it. I did
ask if we could do a one-to-one and she was

really lovely and says that that would be
absolutely fine so that she'd be able to learn

how to make it accessible to deaf people in
the future. So she was getting some training

from me as I was getting training from her.
It was good, it was an impact on the trainer,

and it was really good and she learned very
quickly that keep saying hold on a minute

let me look at this screen, then look at the
next screen, instead of it flowing as it would

for a deaf person then she did say that it
was a big impact for her so she learned very

quickly of the differences between deaf and
hearing trying to train them online. You know

hearing people might pick up the information 
straight away but for a deaf person it's impossible,

deaf people aren't stupid, it's just technology
and how it's working at the moment that there's

a problem and it's not accessible to a person
who is deaf like myself. I think in the future

perhaps online trainers maybe if they were
deaf-led would perhaps be able to help because

they would be able to do the pace they're
not a hearing person and be who with no deaf

awareness because it would be very difficult
for them to empathize and to know how to make

the adjustments that are needed, so that's
the best suggestion that I can say right now.

Also, I think to limit of numbers that would
be in the conference, that also has an impact.

I know before I did a conference with Gerardo
and there was about 40, yeah i think it was

about 40, so that worked quite well. So the
presentation, the presenter knew how to control

the tie-ins how the pace, and everything else.
It was sort of like sometimes it's just lost

for me, I think it to be successful you need
to limit numbers, a deaf person to lead it

as well so they can control the pace.

[ELISA] Great thanks for that Rachel! Gerardo have
you seen any techniques that you use in your

research or that you have seen anywhere that
you think could translate into these conferences

and academic conferences in the wider sense.

[GERARDO] Yeah, I, first of all, would like to just 
acknowledge Rachel's point, I think that very

often people who organize this conference
are very well-intended but they don't really

have the knowledge or the understanding of
how to be accessible. Normally abled people

plan accessibility for disabled people and
I don't think that that should be the way.

Deaf people should be involved in this case
or people who have first-hand experience on

what works and what doesn't. I think that
beyond any kind of research, this is one of

the things that conference organizers, should
all take into account. But now we're looking

at research, I think that we have very strong
evidence that says that as I was explaining

before that humans were designed for face-to-face
interaction, and of course the things that

are removed from this communication with online
platforms can be adapted or can be modified

so that they can help a little bit, the ease
of communication, so one piece of advice would

be just something as simple as looking at
the camera, we know from research that actually

eye gaze is a very important cue to signal
turn-taking in communication. When we blink

the eyes as communicators, we look at the
eyes and we acknowledge that the eye gaze

is going to tell us when the person has finished
communicating and when it is the other person

turned to take over so when we are when we
have our cameras off, and we were just like

typing or doing something different, this
is completely gone so something as simple

as just looking at the camera would really
facilitate communication. Another really important

point here is that we have to be aware that
even though technology can allow us to do

several things at the same time, the mind
has limited cognitive resources and we cannot

really pay attention to absolutely everything
that is happening online. From my personal

experience, when I've been teaching online,
there are students who are texting on the

chat and there are some people asking questions
then there is like a symbol of raising your

hand, and I have to focus on the content that
I am delivering. So there's just so much going

on that even though the technology allows
for it that doesn't mean that the cognitive

capacities of the human mind can keep up with
everything that is going on. We have to consider

that people who attend this conference have
different abilities, different ages, different

digital literacy, so we cannot just assume
that because technology allows us to do certain

things everybody's going to keep up with it.
So this is, I think, probably the two pieces

of research that I would like to suggest,
like making communication as face-to-face

as possible, just try to recreate it as naturally
as possible, just by looking at the camera

giving access to your bodily actions looking
at the eyes and also trying to understand

that we have limited cognitive abilities and
capacities to keep up with everything that

is happening on the screen and that more is
not always more. Sometimes less is more.

[ELISA] Very good advice! I think we've highlighted 
a number of issues that have come to the front

because of the pandemic with accessibility
and pivoting to virtual but have there also

been any positives from moving to virtual?
Have we been able to talk to colleagues that

we haven't been able to talk to normally,
what have been the positives in that sense?

And I'll start with Rachel again there.

[RACHEL] If it was as, like a small group, that would 
be quite positive you know because you'd be

able to catch up with people and you can catch
up with people anywhere in the world at any

time. But for large groups, I'm sorry to say
this, but I can't think of any positives at

all for a large group conference. Say small
groups might be better but also I think, all

right a positive would be you can show people
across the world about deaf awareness and

perhaps then you know you could say, oh it's
a new topic Zoom you know it's more relaxed,

for hearing people that is, and maybe they
might understand and realize now the concentration

that you need looking at Zoom. That it can
hurt the eyes and that's very much like a

deaf person's world so perhaps they have to
rely on Zoom as well, so it's hurting their

eyes, so maybe that's a positive. More of
an impact, more deaf awareness, I think training

as well and that's needed, for me I'd realize
about that online training is needed, it doesn't

matter about the pandemic or not, training
needs to be there to give an impact to different

people about different situations. Perhaps
develop from there and that would develop

more deaf awareness and support people in
achieving different jobs, so I guess that's

you know that's a positive in a way making
people more aware of what it is that's going

on. I can only repeat again these large group
conferences, I'm afraid as I say you're not

going to get a deaf a deaf-led one or very
rare, I have followed a deaf-led group but

everybody was deaf on the group on the Zoom
meeting so they all had deaf awareness and

it was deaf-led, so that people would stop
and say, can you see me did you see what I've

just said and the pace was aimed at deaf people
so it's a massive problem with deaf awareness,

so I'm sorry to say I can't really think of
many positives, sorry about that.

[ELISA] That's about live conferences predominantly, 
I think. But what about when event organizers

record the sessions and transcribe them professionally 
afterwards and still give you access to ask

questions afterwards and continue engagement
through text-based. Is that something that

you think could help increase accessibility
to conferences that you would normally not

be able to attend, because they are far away
or because your budget wouldn't allow for

you to travel that far?

[RACHEL] After the training with the lady that I told 
you about, she had recorded it and that did

help me to watch it later on, it was almost
like my notes it reminded me of what it was

that I'd learned. But the problem with video
training you're talking of one and a half

hours and trying to remember everything that
you've learned. So after one and a half hours,

she was struggling to be able to send me the
information she didn't know how to do that

so she had to google it and spend time to
learn how to be able to send the information,

yes so just going back, she recorded the session
so it was an hour and a half long, she says

that she's sending me later a link on google
drive but I hadn't got a google account so

we had to ask her if there was a different
way that she could send it that we could have

it transferred, but it was too large to transfer
and we hadn't got the money to pay for anything

so she says to try and save it. She was saving
it on the computer and then it wasn't allowed

to be saved, the Birmingham University is
very strict on viruses and what you save on

this, it wasn't allowed to download it so
it was quite stuck really being able to get

access to the recordings of it, so until that
gets developed. In theory, yes, that's a great

idea but then you know where are you going
to keep this recording where are you going

to put it how can you access it you can't
keep it. I've tried skype with an interpreter

and have that record but it takes away a lot
of the broadband you need a very strong broadband

if it's not strong enough that can be a problem
as well, so you can't always get the interpreter

because it keeps freezing on-screen so these
are a lot of the problems that i'm seeing.

I don't know if it's appropriate or not because
there are quite a few problems.

[ELISA] Okay, yeah that's good to think about as well 
and to keep in mind. Gerardo for you the same

question did you find any positives uh in
the move to virtual have you had similar experiences

to Rachel.

[GERARDO] Look at the moment over the last couple of 
years there has been a really strong drive

in academia to make science open and accessible
to everybody and so we tend to put our data

and our research in open repositories. Actually
the pandemic one of the positive things that

have brought is to make science more accessible
to more people and in this sense, I'm probably

not talking about like in the sense of communication 
but like to reach broader audiences given

that at the moment all the conferences and
all the talks that used to happen in specific

locations and people had to travel to the
U.S or to Europe or to Latin America or to

Australia or to Hong Kong that had a tremendous 
cost for a lot of people. Unfortunately, attendance

at academic conferences became a luxury for 
rich universities and for rich academic institutions

and now one of the things that we're seeing
is that given that everything is online there

are people who don't need to pay 2 000 pounds
to travel to the other side of the world,

they don't have to pay a tremendous registration
fee because there is no catering, there is

no coffee everything is happening in everybody's
living room, so I have seen that definitely

one of the positive things of these online
conferences is that people from all over the

world can attend. The cost has reduced significantly, 
sometimes there is no cost at all for people

and that really helps the main purpose of
science to make it accessible or at least

accessible in one form to a lot of people.
Yeah, so that is definitely one of the things

that has been positive, and also one of the
things is that people have been thinking more

about how to make all these talks or all these
poster presentations available for people

in the future so another positive thing that
we've been seeing and it's not and it's not

something that we didn't really think before
is to record the lectures transcribe them

for people and have a sign language interpreter
whatever the sign language is, so it is not

that it was nothing it was not possible before,
but the pandemic cornered us to really do

it and to make it happen. So now one of the
positives that I see is that in many countries

talks are interpreted, recorded, transcribed
for people to use. Recently, we had a workshop

here in Birmingham and this is exactly the
format that we had, we broadcasted live on

YouTube, there was a BSL interpreter live
for this session, and the interpreter was

right next to the presenter so that it was
equally accessible to everybody and then there

was also speech to takes transcription, and
all of these resources are now available online

for free for everybody. Of course, we didn't
think about this before, it's funny that actually,

a pandemic had to make us think about this
but fortunately, it is happening now and at

least I see that in Birmingham we are making
sure that this is a practice that we continue

for the future. So definitely one of the positives
of the pandemic is that we were forced to

think and to implement accessibility for people.

[ELISA] That's great, that's good to hear that there 
are some strives to work being made towards

that. Rachel this is a question for you, the
pandemic has affected all of us in numerous

ways but has it affected your networking abilities, 
have you been able to do some of that within

the conference context, or has that completely
fallen away?

[RACHEL] Well, I would say that before one part of
the conference that would be important was

networking, it'd be quite important for me
and asking questions, seeing the presenters

making comments being part of all of that.
Putting your view out there and linking that

to the topics or maybe people are speaking
about the research that I'm doing and what

they're doing, just get that chitchat going
to understand about life and what's going

on but then that's been a problem, so if like
it was deaf led by a deaf person and it was

the pace of a deaf person it would be fine,
I'd probably be able to cope but if it's hearing

person who's leading it's more problematic
and it's very difficult for me as a deaf person

to participate. Or if i'm really honest it's
quite easy for me to just sit back and say

nothing, I can watch all my colleagues asking
and making comments and hoping that one of

them will ask a question that I'm thinking
about and then I think great it's been covered

now. But at the same time sometimes you can
ask questions afterwards, sometimes they say

well stay along if you want to ask questions
afterwards, sometimes that might be possible

sometimes not but sometimes I don't answer
if it's not deaf-led or not controlled by

a deaf person or a person who's aware of deafness
so as I said before I just stand back because

I've tried to put my hand up and it gets missed,
it depends on the energy on the day really.

If I can put up with all the barriers, if
I've got enough energy because it does really

wear me out and it's a positive day and I've
got a lot of energy going, I might be more

forceful and keep trying to put my part in
there, but I know sometimes people need to

wake up to it sometimes you set an alarm and
it sort of like goes off and people wake up

to that and it's almost like that's what
we need because it emotionally it's draining,

physically it's draining, it's almost like
a step back you know and it's we need our

strength to sort of like keep coming forward
and saying don't forget us don't forget us

but you keep coming forward and getting knocked
back it's draining.

[ELISA] Yeah, I'm sorry to hear that, Gerardo have
you have been able to network in the way you were

before or what have you seen during the pandemic
in that sense.

[GERARDO] That's a really important question and I think 
that the answer will depend on the personality

of the person you ask, I'm traditionally like
old school and I definitely like attending

live conferences because there were a lot
of of the things that you learned, from just

like the chit chat and the coffee break or
having lunch with someone or grabbing a colleague

to ask questions, and just like this informal
conversation that happened afterward. That

was really fruitful and very useful, and it
actually really led to some collaborations

sharing knowledge about certain research that
we weren't aware of and just the bouncing

of ideas in an informal setting is really
useful to really help clarify certain concepts,

but also to come up with new projects so that
I personally find that is really missing and

I definitely cannot wait until we have the
opportunity to do this in a working setting

as well. Like Rachel and another person used
to work in the same group and I always like

to be together with them because we would
really just by discussing things at lunch

we would just know a little bit more about
each other it would create cohesion in the

team and we would come up with ideas of things
to do and so on so. That is gone when you

are working remotely from home, it's straining
like Rachel says it's really draining to be

attached to the computer all the time, so
I personally miss this lack of ability to

really communicate and interact informally
with people because that's also what makes

us human. That aside other personalities,
I've seen that really engage in these type

of platforms, very often in the conferences
that we organized in the UK had these discussion

boards and there was this chat options and
there were people who were just like texting

away their lives and sharing stories and talking
about personal experiences and their research

and people who were traditionally very quiet
to ask a question in a public domain like

in a face-to-face conference they were very
vocal or they were very communicative in the

text format, so I think that it really depends
here as I was saying at the beginning who

you ask and the personalities. Some people
may feel more comfortable just typing a question

and interacting with people online, some other 
people like me I really prefer just the face-to-face

interaction, maybe I'm older and I'm so used
to this kind of texting, so I think that you

can find both ways, you can find people who
find it easier to communicate and express

and interact and ask more questions some other
people are more inclined to have face-to-face

interaction I'm in that group I have to say.

[ELISA] Yeah, that's where we hope also I think hybrid 
events are going to come in to alleviate some

of that, I think Rachel you wanted to add
something to that?

[RACHEL] Yes, I just wanted to say what Gerardo just 
says about the preference for face-to-face

and I see that and I've been using the chatbox
more because I've realized it's the one way

to get the questions out if I've raised my
hands it gets missed or ignored, so I've been

using that more and I feel that's quite a
strong way to get a question over, to just

to put it in the chat. I know recently some
staff network meeting at the University happened

and there were too many people there so I
didn't bother putting my hand up trying to

interact or to speak to anybody and I just
put my points into the chat and that worked

quite well so maybe that's a positive thing
I can say actually. As an academic, a deaf

person working there it was a good way to
try and get access and to communicate with

people. But I am like Gerardo I like to look
at body language, I like the face-to-face

I like the personal touch, I like that humanity
of it all.

[ELISA] Absolutely yeah, I understand that both hideout
of those actual research. So I want to take

it back to the fact that digital is going
to be here to stay, even after the pandemic,

hopefully, we'll get into a time where we
can organize hybrid events, which will have

a physical aspect and some people who are
not able to be on-site with us, due to numerous

reasons will be able to follow online. But
how do conferences make people more deaf aware,

where does that start, we've talked about
having deaf people being involved in their

organization, that's a great great thing and
I think absolutely for larger conferences

with bigger budgets they should always have
an accessibility consultant in that sense

or somebody with the first-hand experience,
but what about the smaller academic conferences

that don't have that much budget but do really
want to make them as accessible as possible

how can we give them some practical tips,
to really start that process? Rachel, this

will be your expertise, I'll start there.

[RACHEL] It doesn't matter really, because you've always 
got somebody who's there who's deaf always

and that's part of their work which means
that deaf people if they're getting funded

from work then they'll be funding for an interpreter 
through access to work. But if that wasn't

there like a conference would worry about
relay access get in the access and things

like that which means really if there's no
budget if you ask a deaf person to participate

or to lead a conference or they'd like to
create something, create their own one or

deaf education or to give training before
the conference actually happens, I know a

lot of online stuff now and there's a minimum
of eighty percent is online now for training

so that's a tick to say that it's happened.
But perhaps before the conference you perhaps

you should say that they've watched or done
something on this deaf awareness that can

be free now and then you can tick a box to
say that they've got it as well as they'll

all know and maybe at the end there could
be a little bit of a test just to make sure

that they're deaf aware and to make sure that
they can participate whether that's a leader

you know somebody who's presenting something
it would just be nice really you know to ask

them to ask a deaf person, if they want to
lead something or if they'd like to chair

a meeting there would be no cost because the
interpreter would be paid for out of the access

to work budget which comes from the government
so they wouldn't have to pay for that so sort

of like it would be able to be you know accessible
then for a deaf person at no extra cost to


[ELISA] Gerardo do you have any actual tips for people 
who are organizing conferences and might have

deaf people. And want to just make them as
accessible as possible um and be open to to

to deaf and hard-hearing people?

[GERARDO] Yeah, I think that I'm just going to emphasize 
first again the importance of involving deaf

people in the organization of this kind of
conferences especially if you're definitely

going hybrid in the future there's always
going to be a deaf person there so it is really

important that we bear that in mind. And I
just like to have some ideas some suggestions

that would be really useful this involvement
as Rachel says will bring in an interpreter

that could be facilitated through access to
work that is a sponsored and paid for by the

government so in that sense the budget issue
kind of gets mitigated. In addition, I think

that it's very useful for people to also do
recordings and like if you if it is possible

to make recordings with subtitles that would
enhance the visibility of the conferences

and to make it accessible to people after
that's taken place. Another possibility would

be just asking the presenters to make their
slides available in an open-access format

for people to read in preparation, or just
to have some sort of concrete resources to

follow the main, the core of the talk. Generally
speaking, I think that another possibility

would be speech to text, a possibility I think
that could be live or it could be just soft

as it could be subtitled afterwards for the
talk, but generally speaking, I think that

in an ideal world an interpreter would be
the best thing through these means that I

have said before. But all the others like
pre-recording subtitles, speech to text and

making slides available to the public would
be very useful, in preparation for the conference.

Making the slides available there, I think
that we need to be trained or change our minds,

as our mindset as academics because we typically
just finish our presentation on the minutes

or just 30 minutes beforehand and we just
need to be made aware that if we want, if

we really believe in accessibility we have
to get our materials ready beforehand we have

to send them to interpreters we need to prepare
a talk and get it ready for subtitling and

so on so we just have to contribute from our
part with a little bit of extra work beforehand

just to make it accessible to the world.

[ELISA] That's some amazing tips there and I think
that's definitely something people should

all keep in mind, not just in the academic
realm, but also outside of that. So I just

wanted to ask, and I'll stay with Gerardo
before I move on to Rachel again, how do you

think the pandemic has affected conferencing
in the long term like you briefly touched

on hybrid there how do you think, how are
we going to do academic conferencing in five-ten

years, what will it be what would it look

[GERARDO] Yeah, my prediction is that we're definitely 
going to stick to hybrid for the rest, from

now on, for many reasons, just to give you
an example, here in Birmingham even before

the pandemic hit we were already worried about
the impact of the environment to the point

that we said that if people were coming by
train they would get like a discount in the

registration fee. Because we wanted to encourage
people to use trains instead of planes, which

are more highly pollutant and now with this
I think that it would be really irresponsible

to go back to encouraging people to fly and
continue polluting the world so at least in

Birmingham we are very aware that we want
to A) keep things accessible to people, so

we are broadcasting things live and but also
we're going to try to limit the amount of

travel that people are going to be doing because
it's expensive and it's bad for the environment

and we have seen that there is no need for
that. Of course, we're missing out on face-to-face

interaction and the chit-chat by the coffee
table but I think that those are things that

will we will adjust to that so my prediction
is definitely we're going to continue doing

some form of hybrid conferences and there
will be the possibility to attend physically

but I think that there is also going to be
a strong component of keeping it online for


[ELISA] Great thanks for your predictions there Gerardo. 
Rachel, what do you think? What's the future

of academic conferencing?

[RACHEL] Well in my last job, there was a big screen 
in there in the meeting room, and they would

use that for remote meetings because people
were based all around Wales. I think three

different regions, which meant that every
week they could have these team meetings for

all over Wales and that was before the pandemic
so it worked for them, so I think for the

future, I can see it work, for more projects 
developing like this so maybe different universities

getting together and things like that. So
Birmingham working perhaps with a different

university in Germany like we do at the moment
in Cologne, we have our own sorts laptops

at work and that is a challenge but maybe
in the future we could perhaps, if we go back

to Birmingham into the office we could perhaps
start developing research of how we could

get big screens, it's perhaps a great big
an 80 inch one or something like that so then

you'd be able to carry on having these meetings
all over the world and be able to see people

clearly because you'd have two big screens.
And make it more accessible that way there'll

be plenty of space, if you've got the space
then why can't you do this, you could have

these big screens so maybe that's something
that could be done in some research on that

and perhaps you know that could be in collaboration 
with the rest of the world about these screens,

I think that could be a positive thing we
could learn from the pandemic and what's been

missing and what we can do for the future.

[ELISA] That's great, that's good to hear! I think
I'm gonna ask you the question, Rachel, what

is your hope for the future of academic conferences, 
before I ask the same one to Gerardo, what

do you hope they're gonna be like, not what
you think they're gonna be look like.

Well I hope, I know Gerardo likes the old-fashioned 
way like me, we like face-to-face you can

have that catch-up, have a chat over tea,
cake and things like that, I like that and

I like that way, just like Gerardo. That's
to me the normal way but also, I think there

are more learning opportunities to develop
different training and make it more accessible

to world conferences, as I've mentioned before
with big screens so you can all go to one

place one room is still there and you can
still access things and it'll be a lot easier,

so you can see everybody and you'd still all
be sort of together and I think that might

work well. Also sometimes maybe well like
if a lecturer in a lecture theatre and they've

got a big screen there and they put PowerPoints
up you could use that for conferences you

could manage something like that so you get
the audience in the lectures theatres they

come in and they sit down and work it through
that way. You can have an interpreter there

as well so I think maybe for me I can see
the possibility of both the hybrid way so

perhaps still face-to-face but some online
I think that is the hope really because you

get more learning opportunities. You don't
have to travel around the world to like Australia

and have been on a flight for 24 hours, and
then you need a break with your jet lag and

then you do your conference and then you've
got to come back and you know you've got the

flight again for 24 hours and you need your
rest and you're off work for all of this time.

Just to to get over it as well but if you
could all go to one room sit there with a

big screen you know you're off one day to
attend the conference and you've got all this

extra learning and that'd be quite powerful
so perhaps that's the future that I'd hoped

for. So you know if technology could improve
to facilitate something like that

[ELISA] Absolutely that would be great! Absolutely, 
and I think, I hope, that's where we are going

in the future and that's what we are trying
to advocate as well. Gerardo for you the same

question, what do you hope they're gonna look
like and how accessible are they gonna be?

[GFRARDO] I think that my hope is pretty much where 
we are heading toward, hybrid for the reasons

that I explained before, I really value, not
only for personal reasons but for also like

the possibilities that it opens face-to-face
communication, the chitchat, the sharing ideas,

the interaction, the networking, the socializing
with people. I think that this is really what

makes a scientific community thrive, this
kind of interactions is really important,

so I really want to just highlight it, that
it has value and it is not just like for pleasure

to meet your friends but it really has a scientific 
value, I think it's important, so I hope that

very soon we can meet our colleagues from
other disciplines and you know being in a

physical conference at some point. But that
said I also really want that we take the positives

that we have discovered in our in this type
of in this situation to make it accessible

and not only to people who cannot hear like
deaf people but make it accessible to everybody

who doesn't have the financial funds, the
financial means to pay for you know to travel

to Australia to travel, to the U.S, to travel
to Europe in general, because science at the

end of the day is for everybody it's for the
benefit of humanity and it shouldn't be like

like a luxury, shouldn't be a commodity. So
I really hope that we can keep all those elements

continue with accessibility for absolutely
everyone but with them and make it online

and available for people but also we really
hope that we can also have the possibility

to see face-to-face interaction.

[ELISA] Absolutely, and that's really what we stand 
for here at Sardines Digital Engagement, we're

really trying to open that up to the world's
academic conferences and to democratize knowledge

sharing and networking opportunities so everybody
has equal chances. I think that what's left

today is to thank my speakers, my wonderful
speakers, Rachel and Gerardo so much for their

insights, I've really learned a lot and there's
a lot of things I'm going to have to think

about and our listeners when they're organizing
conferences as well. So I really hope this

has an impact, I also like to thank you for
interpreting for Rachel today that is that's

been very great and then and ensuring that
we can have this conversation again thank

you both and I hope to see you again at another
conference or at another interview at some


[RACHEL + GERARDO] Thank you very much for this, Thank you, Thank 
you for inviting us