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Accessing Information through Technology

Consider, for instance, Fernandes's discussion of technology and access in her literacy narrative for the DALN. Although the archived interview is distributed over three primarily chronological segments, the first third of the literacy narrative frames the interview itself largely in terms of technology and access. First, Fernandes identifies accessibility as a pressing public issue; she contends that as digital technologies permit more people to post more video and audio files on the web, the less accessible the Web becomes to members of the Deaf community.

Against this warning, Fernandes then sings of the equalizing qualities of a specific technology: the text-messaging capacity of the smartphone which at the time of the interview was associated with a product called the Blackberry. She asks:

Why deaf people love Blackberry? Why? Because we can talk. [Note especially compelling gestures here, as if to say, Isn't that obvious?! Do I have to spell it out for you?] Everybody ... all people want to talk with other people. That's a normal human tendency. So we do that [gestures texting] not because we are trying to ignore you but because we want information and this [texting] gives it to us. And I get it from my husband. I get it from my parents. I get it from my friends, people who don't know sign language, people who know sign language. So it's more like an even ground or [to an interviewer] you said the right word ... interface that lets [...] different people come together and communicate using the same tool. (part 1, 17:51-18:41)

Fernandes contends that by facilitating the virtually instantaneous exchange of text, the Blackberry not only levels the playing field between those who can and cannot hear, but it also alleviates much of the anxiety associated with earlier accommodations. Fernandes extols the benefits of the Blackberry within the context of her own experiences as a seasoned traveler:

[The Blackberry] has obviated the need for so many things that I used to worry about. For example, I used to go to hotels and worry if they had an ADA kit [footnote] ... if they have an alarm that would wake me up if they had a way for me to see ... a flashing light. How would I know if someone was in the hall? Now with the Blackberry I don't need any of that because I can connect it to anyone, anywhere, anytime from anyplace. I don't need all the other accommodations I used to worry about. I have a lot more confidence with the Blackberry. (part 1, 13:02-43)

The mainstream public dialogue on access tends to assume that access is unidirectional and heavily weighted in favor of Hearing norms, norms that take for granted, for instance, being able to hear the hotel's wake-up call or fire alarm. In the critical incident above, Fernandes challenges this Hearing norm. For as much as the smartphone makes information available to Fernandes, it also helps circulate - that is, make more accessible - what she knows and cares about among her friends, family, and colleagues. In the critical incident that follows, another Contributor makes innovative use of digital technology to give his Hearing friends access to the sounds of his world.

Access and Deaf Culture Access and Technology Access and Discourse
Jane Fernandes Jane Fernandes Brenda Brueggemann
Christopher Driscoll Warren Francis Anonymous

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