I had coffee the other day with Nathan Kohn. He goes by the nickname en_zyme, and it’s easy to see why. He relishes the role of bringing pairs of people together to see what kind of new reaction can result.
This time, it was to meet Jonathan Henner, a doctoral student of his at Boston University. The topic was how to include deaf people in the Python community.
The discussion was wide-ranging, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten interesting tangents, but I got this jumble of notes:
Accommodating the deaf at Python community gatherings is a challenge because it means getting either an ASL interpreter, or a CART provider to close-caption presentations live. This presents a few hurdles:
- Neither solution is best for all deaf people. Some prefer ASL, but ASL doesn’t have a large technical vocabulary. CART has the advantage that it also helps those that are a little hard of hearing, or too far back in the room, or even with speakers who have an accent. But some deaf people find CART to be like reading a second language.
- ASL interpreters and CART providers cost real money, and need space and special equipment.
- For international gatherings, such as PyCon 2015 in Montreal, there’s the language question. Montreal may have more LSF interpreters.
- For project nights, which involve small-group interactions, we talked about having the communication over IRC, even among people sitting together.
Programming is a good career for the deaf, since it is heavily textual, but they may have a hard time accessing the curriculum for it. Jonathan is exploring the possibility of creating classes in ASL, since that is many deaf people’s first language. A common misconception is that ASL is simply English spoken with the hands, but it is not.
We talked a bit about the overlap between the deaf and autistic worlds. The Walden school near Boston specializes in deaf students with other mental or emotional impairments, including autism. Jonathan made a claim that made me think: that deafness and autism are the two disabilities that have their own sub-culture. I don’t know if that is true, I’m sure people with other disabilities will disagree, but it’s interesting to discuss.
There were a lot of avenues to explore, I’m not sure what will come of it all. It would be great to broaden Python’s reach into another community of people who haven’t had full access to tech.
Has anyone had any experience doing this? Thoughts?