Friday, August 6, 2010

Access Comes in Many Forms

July 26 was the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Our agency has an Access Travel Team which specializes in accessible cruising. Many conversations last week among our specialists and with colleagues who are involved with “access” in the travel industry were retrospective. Stories and memories that made us laugh, some that reminded us of times when we had wanted to bang our heads against walls and a few that were emotional. “Access” still isn’t perfect, but we’ve come a long way and can appreciate all that’s happened so far that has created possibilities for many more people to travel…. And to do so more safely, comfortably and enjoyably.

Clip from our interpreted commercial.

This week Connie George Travel Associates had a commercial on an internet radio station. Our commercial was about our experience of booking cruises for people who have various abilities. It was a great way to celebrate the anniversary of the ADA because of the show’s unique nature.

What made it unique is that this is the first time ever…. ever… that deaf people could enjoy a radio show focused on the deaf community.  While there have been some test pilots of a handful of broadcasts having been live-captioned such as the 2008 elections, there's never been a commitment near this level.  

Think about it. Deaf people have not been able to enjoy the radio. But Wednesday night, Toginet Radio on the internet debuted a new weekly show, “The Keith Wann Show … Cultural Bridges”, that can now be enjoyed by the deaf community worldwide. The show's subject matter is deaf culture-related and the show is live captioned during the broadcast so anyone with internet access can “read” the show as it’s taking place. Deaf people who miss the show can view an ASL interpreted version that’s posted the next day and hearing people who miss the show can later listen to a podcast. What a great way for deaf families to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ADA and also a wonderful way for hearing people to better understand deaf culture and to learn that we have more similarities than differences. How’s that for available and inclusive?

I’m not at all surprised that Keith has managed to come up with the first ever inclusive radio show. I met Keith back in 2006 when he was a workshop presenter and an entertainer for an ASL interpreter conference that our agency booked on a cruise.. I’ve never known anyone with as much creativity and energy as this guy. Keith is a coda (“children of deaf adults), comedian, actor, speaker, teacher, husband, father, entrepreneur and volunteer who comes up with innovative ways of truly bridging the deaf and hearing worlds.

The past 20 years has been a pretty wild and exciting ride for people with all types of ability levels. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 20 years will bring!

~ Connie