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The idea

  • Specifically inviting deaf attendees interested in FOSS to the event - local Ohioans, and then schools with strong deaf/tech presences like RIT/NTID and Gallaudet.
  • Having a combination of volunteer transcribing, and volunteer and sponsored ASL and CART, throughout the event.
  • A low-key way for people to indicate "I do ASL" (stickers, perhaps - this is generalizable to other languages as well.)

Volunteer transcription

I think a lot of people, even if they didn't have any hearing loss, would be willing to attend a realtime text conference rather than a virtual conference that only offered streaming audio, because they could have it streaming in the background or on a separate monitor and be able to be there while getting their work done, scrolling back over the text feed if they get distracted or they miss anything, which streaming audio can't really offer.

Mchua is willing to coordinate volunteer transcription (at least remotely - not sure if I'll be on the continent to come to OLF 2011). This would consist of the following:

  • An Etherpad instance set up before the event, with one document for each session. These would be linked-to from the schedule grid.
  • A projector in each room for displaying the Etherpad document.
  • Instructions and ahead-of-time coordination for volunteers that would result in the following for each room:
    • 2 volunteers who type fast switching off on "primary" transcription - getting as much as possible down in realtime, not worrying about typos, punctuation, or spelling, and skipping over missed words. An easy way to coordinate the switch-off between these 2 volunteers is to do it by slide.
    • 2 volunteers switching off on "cleanup" - filling in missed words and phrases, fixing spelling, etc. behind the primary-transcription volunteers.
    • Any other peripheral help on the document as people jump in, of course - but those 4 people will do the majority of the work.
  • A way to thank transcribers afterwards.

This has been done at prior events in different ways, including Wikimania, FUDCon, and the Community Leadership Summit (in Mel's direct experience).

Asking attendees

Some options are to make a big noise in advance of the event, saying, "We want to make OLF accessible. Please let us know your accessibility requests in advance so we can arrange them!" Then you'd only have to get signers or captioners for specific events and you'd be able to tailor the requests to the specifications of whoever requested them, but even so that might mean more money than you're able to spend.


Finding sponsors can be a really good option. A lot of people don't know that for-profit businesses can take both a tax credit and a tax deduction for providing communication access:

The credit is particularly tasty: "The tax credit is available to businesses that have total revenues of $1,000,000 or less in the previous tax year or 30 or fewer full-time employees. This credit can cover 50% of the eligible access expenditures in a year up to $10,250 (maximum credit of $5000)."

So that might be a nice carrot to waggle in front of the noses of any corporations who'd like to sponsor part of your event. With CART, you can also offer simultaneous streaming to the internet, and either charge for ad space on the streaming text space or ask for a "remote registration fee", or something of the sort.

ASL/CART volunteers

And getting volunteers to provide either ASL interpretation or CART is also an option, though it might be tricky to do. We providers can sometimes be kind of wary to offer pro bono services, because we're worried that once word gets around that we do it for some clients, we'll be expected to do it for all conferences and public events, and then we're kind of sunk.

If you can find ASL interpreters or other captioners (or, I guess, C-Print/Typewell notetakers, though I think they're a less than ideal accommodation, because they're nonverbatim, so they generally only get down about as much information as the bullets in a Powerpoint slide) who'd be willing to volunteer, that would be cool.

In terms of the whole certification/non-certification thing, I'm not a lawyer, so I don't really know about the legal intricacies of any of this stuff. I know there are plenty of non-certified ASL interpreters and CART providers out there, and some are perfectly fine and some are lousy, but I don't know what the potential consequences of hiring uncertified people would be, if any. I'd be inclined to say it's not a problem, with the caveat that incompetent captioning and interpretation can sometimes be almost worse than none, and especially if it's someone writing words to a giant screen in front of the room, it can look pretty terrible if they don't know what they're doing.

A budget vision

$0 budget: Finding providers (certified or not, but with some word of mouth indication that they're at least competent) willing to donate their services on specific request from Deaf/HoH attendees, in exchange for promotional consideration at the conference.

Unlimited budget: Projected CART for the whole room plus internet streaming, as well as ASL interpreters on the platform, with cameras tracking them and video screens amplifying them for the whole room, kind of like you can see on my demo page with the New York Public Library's Pursuit of Silence event:


1 out of 10 people in this country have at least some hearing loss, and even well-amplified lectures can be hard to understand, because people can't get any speechreading information from any distance of more than 5 feet or so. If there are 500 people in the audience, 50 of them will be helped by CART. If there's a significant Deaf contingent, all of them will be helped by ASL interpreters, and many of them by CART as well. And people with Auditory Processing Disorder (, which is quite common among people on the Autistic Spectrum (who are themselves quite common among hackers) are helped enormously by CART as well.