In honour of Manitoba Access Awareness Week, May 29 to June 4, 2022, the following article highlights the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services team’s work and contributions to creating a more accessible learning and working environment at RRC Polytech.

RRC Polytech’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services team was recently recognized with a “Hidden Hero” BRAVO Award. This team is certainly full of heroes who support students and employees who are Deaf and hard of hearing, as well as non-deaf individuals. The team provides ASL-English interpreting and transcription services, going wherever they’re needed across campuses, from classrooms to labs to meetings, and you likely have seen them providing ASL-English interpretation during virtual events.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services team:
  • Jill Patterson
  • Katie Butz
  • Shannon Graham
  • Hannah Harrison
  • Alanna Iftody
  • Tara Jones
  • Mariette Koop
  • Chad Kroeker
  • Kim Laird
  • Sheryl Lavallee
  • Teresa Miller
  • Blake Morris
  • Lauri Van Heyst

“Our goal is to ensure people can effectively communicate with each other. We facilitate between two people, whether students, faculty and staff, and we actually work with non-deaf individuals as much as those who are Deaf and hard of hearing,” says Jill Patterson, Manager of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services team.

In March 2020, Jill and her team had to make a quick pivot along with the College community to online program delivery. This pivot included re-interpreting hundreds of lecture videos on LEARN. To ensure all students have equitable access to participate and excel in their courses, it’s not simply a matter of interpreting English to ASL, interpreters spend countless hours familiarizing themselves with course material, so they are able to effectively interpret concepts and any nuances.

While their team is used to expecting the unexpected, the pandemic brought the challenge of ever-evolving technology that had shortcomings in terms of accessibility features. Alongside interpreting and transcribing, the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Services team also took on the role of troubleshooting any tech issues for students and staff they were working with.

For example, not all video platforms were equipped with close captioning, which created barriers for Deaf and hard-of-hearing learners. The team had to think and act creatively to deliver solutions. Thankfully, technologies have evolved over the last two plus years, and the majority of platforms now come equipped with close captioning.

“ASL is a 3D language that uses a distinct syntax. The language becomes 2D when communicated through a screen, which is why it’s important to ensure there’s minimal delay in the video and the display is clear and not pixelated,” says Jill.

In the case of virtual classes and meetings, accessibility features can benefit a broader community than you might expect. For example, close captioning is beneficial to those who speak English as an Additional Language (EAL) and those who face audio-processing challenges.

As we strive to make our campuses more accessible and we embed equity, diversity in everything we do, it’s critical to look beyond Manitoba Access Awareness Week, at how we can make impactful everyday changes.

“Accessibility means leveling the playing field so everyone has the opportunity to participate and feel included. It’s about creating understanding, recognition and fairness,” says Jill, when asked about what accessibility means to her.

What does accessibility mean to you? You’re encouraged to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Learn more about Accessibility at RRC Polytech.