Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

A young woman is looking sideways to the camera

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

 

Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of these categories there’s actually a whole range of hearing impairments. This means that people don’t have the same needs in terms of accessibility.

What’s a hearing impairment exactly? Knowing what this type of disability englobes will help you address the needs of hearing impaired people to best meet them. Whether you manage a shopping mall and welcome customers from the deaf community or you have a new colleague who’s hard of hearing, you’ll see that you can implement or do simple actions to communicate effectively with them. 

What does it mean to be hearing impaired exactly?

“Hearing impaired” is often used to describe people with hearing loss, from mild to profound, that is to say deaf and hard of hearing people.

It may surprise you to know that a deaf person can actually discern certain sounds. But they may not exploit them. It turns out that completely deaf people only represent a minority. Most hearing impaired people can perceive sounds or can experience difficulties in following a conversation like those who are hard of hearing.

Another noteworthy fact: a deaf person isn’t necessarily non-speaking just as a non-speaking person isn’t necessarily deaf! 

Seeing that some hearing impaired people cannot properly hear their own voice, their speech may be difficult to understand for others. In fact, all deaf people have the physiological ability to speak but some never use their voice. They may prefer to use sign language, a way of communication entirely based on manual articulations, to express themselves. Some may remain silent while using sign language while others may articulate sounds.

Other deaf people can use their voice to communicate with a hearing person but it doesn’t mean they can hear. 

As you can see, there’s a whole range of abilities and/or preferences related to hearing impaired people. By remaining open-minded, you’ll make the hearing impaired person you’re interacting with more comfortable and at ease. That’s the first step in establishing trusting communication.

If you want to break down clichés on people with a hearing impairment, read our article:

8 Clichés About Deaf People

What solutions enhance accessibility for the hearing impaired?

Whether you’re dealing with deaf or hard of hearing people, you can make sure your venue or your transit network is accessible to them so that they can have access to information, find their bearings and communicate with your staff:

Message boards, captioned videos if there are any, pictograms at points of interest to provide visual and textual information.

Audio induction loops or amplification systems at your information desk so that people wearing hearing aids can properly hear your staff.

An instant transcription app such as Ava to transcribe conversations between hearing people and the hearing impaired.

American Sign Language interpret: for example if you run a museum, an ASL interpreter is perfect to make culture accessible to the deaf community.

Transparent face masks for all your staff members: they protect them and your customers from COVID-19 and enable your deaf customers to lip-read. That way, they can understand your personnel. 

Indoor wayfinding apps such as Evelity so that deaf and hard of hearing users can get their bearings in any complex venues. Evelity, developed by Okeenea, is the perfect solution for maze-like venues such as shopping malls, hospitals or transit networks. The app provides textual information and is currently installed at the JaySt-MetroTech subway station in New York City!

Always keep in mind that a well-trained staff is extremely valuable to your venue. We’ve come up with 12 tips to welcome a deaf or hard of hearing person!

Your staff needs to know about people with disabilities, their profiles, their capabilities and difficulties in order to best assist them. And for each type of disability, there’s a multitude of different profiles! By being aware of their profiles and by acknowledging their differences, more or less subtle, we’ll favor inclusion.

Very various profiles of hearing impairment

For the deaf and hearing impaired community, you’ll see that according to their profile, they don’t all have the same needs. Let’s dive into their specificities! 

People who were born deaf or hard of hearing

Due to genetic factors or complications during pregnancy, a baby can be born with a partial or complete hearing loss. Usually, people who were born completely deaf learned to communicate with sign language. It’s what they have always known.

People who became deaf on a later age

The terms “deafened” and “late-deafened” can be used to describe people who became deaf as adults. Their hearing loss may have been caused by a chronic illness or an ear infection. Seeing that their hearing impairment occurred later in life, they had to adapt. As you can imagine, this could prove to be more or less difficult. 

Although around 48 million people have a hearing impairment in the United States, less than 500,000 of them know and use sign language. This means that most of the deaf and hearing impaired community relies on another way to communicate with others.

Hard of hearing people

They have a mild or moderate hearing loss. But this term can also be employed as a way for hard of hearing people to dissociate themselves from the deaf community. Some of them don’t want to and/or don’t belong to the deaf community’s culture.

People with cochlear implants

Cochlear implants are surgically implanted to people with severe or profound hearing loss. These devices give the receiver a modified perception of sound which means that people with cochlear implants need to have an auditory training to feel comfortable with them.

Once again, we see that adaptation is key for those who choose to have cochlear implants. However, we need to be aware that most of the deaf community is against them. They consider they shouldn’t have to adapt to fit with society’s standards and norms. For them, cochlear implants stand against their language and culture. 

People with hearing aids

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma attached to hearing aids. A lot of people feel ashamed to have some. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), among the adults aged 70 and older who could benefit from using hearing aids, fewer than one in three has ever used them. And it’s even less for adults aged 20 to 69.

Even though hearing aids make environmental sound audible for its users, people with hearing loss are afraid of what others might think of them.

Hearing impaired people with additional disabilities

Tackling accessibility, we often discuss disabilities per family type meaning that we divide them in categories to focus on one disability type at a time. But people may also have multiple disabilities. Indeed, they may combine two disability types.

A deaf or hard of hearing person can also have a motor, a visual or a cognitive impairment.

Let’s focus here on deaf-blind people that is to say people with a combination of hearing and visual losses. Contrary to what the name could suggest, deaf-blindness isn’t a total inability to see or hear.

Even for this rare case, there are different profiles:

People who are profoundly deaf and totally blind and who can only experience the world through touch,

People who are totally blind but have some usable hearing,

People who are profoundly deaf but have some usable vision,

People with both usable vision and hearing.

Depending on their capabilities, accessibility and communication can be more or less challenging. But the thing with visually and/or hearing impaired people is that their disability may not be obvious for others. 

From an exterior point of view, they may first appear as “valid” people. It’s only when they’re in a difficult situation that their impairment can be visible. For example, you may be standing in a queue at a café and once it’s up to the person in front of you to order then they may have difficulties to read the menu or to communicate with the staff. Actually, 80% of people with disabilities have invisible disabilities!

Knowing and understanding disabilities, whatever their types are, actually represents the first step towards inclusion! We’re all different but our differences mustn’t stand in the way of accessing and enjoying everything the world has to offer. We all need to keep an open mind to make sure inclusion for all is everywhere. For the hearing impaired, that means being aware of their difficulties in order to break them down.

Plus, as we saw, how deaf and hard of hearing people identify themselves is important. The best way is to let them tell you what best describes them and what they identify with.

Sources:

Deafness and Hearing Loss (WHO)

National Association of the Deaf

Would you like to know more about the hearing impaired and their everyday challenges? Check out these articles:

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Deaf People at Public Venues

Public Transport Information: 5 Solutions for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users 

Published on 12th November, 2021

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A hearing impaired man uses sign language to communicate

Knowing and understanding disabilities, whatever their types are, actually represents the first step towards inclusion! (..) For the hearing impaired, that means being aware of their difficulties in order to break them down.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Deaf People at Public Venues

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Deaf People at Public Venues

People having lunch in a restaurant

What You Need to Do to Ensure Accessibility for Deaf People at Public Venues

If your venue welcomes and receives people then accessibility for deaf people isn’t something to take lightly! How can your venue be accessible to the hearing impaired? What do you need to implement to be ADA-compliant?

Deaf people face three types of challenges when they go to a venue, whether it’s a restaurant, a shop or a museum: accessing information through the appropriate mediums, navigating within the venue and communicating with the staff. Accessibility barriers need to be removed for them to be able to fully enjoy your venue. See it as an opportunity to reach other customers. Don’t forget that satisfied customers are more likely to come back and to spread the word about a venue that fits their needs!

Let’s see what it entails for you and your venue to meet the needs of your deaf and hard of hearing customers! We’ve listed all the necessary requirements and equipment to properly welcome them!

Accessibility for deaf people: what does the law say?

You may already be familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act, also called ADA. Established in 1990, this law prevents discrimination based on abilities or disabilities. Its goal is to ensure that disabled people can have access to the same rights and services as anybody else.

Specifically applied to public venues, the ADA requires buildings and services to be accessible to people with disabilities. If your venue is listed below, then you’re concerned:

Shops and shopping malls,

Hotels,

Bars and restaurants,

Hospitals,

Banks

Colleges and universities,

Public services such as city halls,

Amusement parks,

Places of worship,

Sporting facilities like stadiums

Cultural places such as museums, movie theaters…

Whether it’s an existing building or a new one, there are some easy solutions for your venue to be ADA-compliant.

How to make your venue accessible to the deaf community?

To better understand accessibility, picture yourself driving on a highway: you’re enjoying a smooth and perfect ride with no obstacles nor potholes. Every exit is marked and can easily be accessed for you to carry on on your journey. Or if you’d prefer a less imagery scenario, you can call this concept by its regular name: a seamless mobility chain. This actually applies to all your categories of customers, whether they have disabilities or not. They need to easily go from point A to point C. This implies for point B to properly link points A and C. If you keep in mind this, it’ll be easy for you to picture where accessibility barriers need to be removed within your venue. 

Let’s see more precisely the three breaking points you need to pay attention to! 

Providing accessible information to deaf and hard of hearing customers

In a world where audio is the most common way to provide information, then the deaf community is excluded. Luckily, there are other ways for you to enhance accessibility for deaf people!

Web accessibility

Maybe your deaf visitors haven’t been to your venue yet and need to be more familiar with it beforehand. They may do some research directly on your website. You can help them apprehend your venue by focusing on your web accessibility. In fact, it’s part of the ADA requirements. For the deaf community, it means providing videos with subtitles or enclosed captions or a transcript and multiple contact methods in case deaf users need to speak to someone. Phoning is the usual method but you can also include other options such as email, live chat or text SMS. That way if a deaf person needs more information, they can easily contact and communicate with you.

Visual and textual information 

Since you can’t use audio to provide deaf or hard of hearing people information, you need to focus on visual and textual information. Make sure any necessary information such as opening hours, points of interest within your venue (reception desk, restrooms…) can easily be read and identified with the proper signage. You can combine text information with pictograms. It’s the best way for your deaf customers to reach the adequate service.

Any video you may have on display needs to be subtitled or have enclosed captions.

Enhancing navigation within your venue

Obviously, with a clear signage system and pictograms, your deaf customers can find their way within your venue in complete autonomy. Being autonomous and independent enables your customers to freely apprehend your venue at their own pace and without having to constantly ask a staff member. 

If you manage a shopping mall or any maze-like and large venue of that sort, keep in mind that it can be difficult for your customers with hearing impairment to find their way. They could feel overwhelmed and frustrated. But you can help them by choosing an indoor navigation app such as Evelity. It was especially designed to meet the needs of people with disabilities, regardless of their profile. Meaning that for those with a hearing impairment, the app only focuses on text instructions and icons to guide them. 

Evelity can suit public transit systems: it’s already fully implemented at the Marseilles subway network in France and even equips the Jay St-MetroTech Station in New York City. But the wayfinding app can also apply to museums where in addition to navigation instructions, it provides cultural content on the exposed artworks. The Luma Foundation in Arles, France chose Evelity to guide its visitors with disabilities, proving that culture can be accessible to all. 

Communicating efficiently with hearing impaired people

It’s probably the most challenging issue regarding accessibility for deaf people. Let’s take a look at all the solutions you can implement!

Trained staff

Your personnel have a key role to play to welcome the hearing impaired and offer them the best possible experience. That’s why your staff needs to be trained to deal with people with disabilities. Check out our article with 12 Tips to Welcome a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Person! Even a simple thing like making your staff members wear a name tag with their job title can be helpful!

But a good tip to keep in mind is to speak clearly and distinctly for deaf people who can lip read. And also to use a common vocabulary without word plays so that the American Sign Language interpreter (ASL) can easily translate what your staff is saying to the deaf person they’re with.

Equipment for hard of hearing people

Audio induction loops or amplification systems improve hearing quality of those wearing hearing aids. They’re easy to set up and to use. Always make sure your reception desk or information point is equipped with one of these devices. 

Technology to enhance accessibility

For sure, technology can be a powerful tool regarding accessibility for deaf people especially with smartphones. Indeed, a lot of apps help the deaf community understand and be understood by hearing people thanks to artificial intelligence. AI has truly become an asset to enhance accessibility and inclusion! You can make communication between your personnel and deaf customers easier by supplying your staff with work smartphones that have instant transcription apps such as Ava. This app can transcribe conversations between hearing people and the hearing impaired. Thanks to Ava, your staff doesn’t need to learn American Sign Language to understand deaf customers and deaf customers don’t have to lip-read what your staff is saying.

Both parties can follow a conversation without feeling frustrated. 

You’re probably wondering what you need to do to communicate with them by phone. No need to worry, your deaf or hearing impaired customers have probably installed RogerVoice on their smartphones. This app directly subtitles any conversation they have.

You now know everything you need to do to improve accessibility for deaf people at your venue! As you can see, solutions exist to remove accessibility barriers. Make a difference and make sure your deaf customers have the best possible experience!

Would you like to know more about hearing impairment? Dive in with:

8 Clichés About Deaf People

Public Transport Information Accessibility: 5 Solutions for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Users

media

Staff members from a coffee shop

In a world where audio is the most common way to provide information, then the deaf community is excluded. Luckily, there are other ways for you to enhance accessibility for deaf people!

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

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Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible...

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on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

People with invisible disabilities partying

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! 

Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible disabilities” is an unnoticed disability at first glance, that is to say when the person in question hasn’t made their difficulties known. What are the types of invisible disabilities? How can you identify them? What are the best practices to best welcome people with invisible disabilities at public venues? Follow the guide, we’ll explain everything!

Several types of invisible disabilities

Although we usually arrange them in main categories, there are as many disabilities as people with disabilities. The same holds true for invisible disabilities! They include most sensory disabilities (visual and hearing impairments), most of the mental and psychological impairments, cognitive disabilities and a lot of chronic diseases generating incapabilities.

In concrete terms, the following situations are part of invisible disabilities:

Hearing impairment,

Visual impairment,

Certain forms of autism,

Bipolar disorders,

Alzheimer’s disease,

People with a heart condition,

Dyslexia,

People with post-traumatic-disorders (war veterans or terrorist attack survivors), etc.

A lot of elderly people have an invisible disability, some may even have several.

Illiteracy is also a cause of invisible disability, even though it’s rarely acknowledged as such by the administration. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 54% of adults between 16 and 74 years old lack proficiency in literacy. That represents around 130 million people who can read below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level. Illiteracy has direct consequences on people’s quality of life and their integration into society.

Invisible disabilities creates multiple difficulties

The consequences of having an invisible disability vary according to the type of disability and its severity. Having disabilities can lead to being easily tired, having attention deficit disorders, difficulties to take initiatives or to put up a strategy, memory disorders.

Many people with invisible disabilities prefer not to disclose their disabilities. Some even feel ashamed because of them. This is due to the fact that being different is often regarded as a problem by relatives or work relations. Sometimes invisible disabilities can have an impact on our intimacy. For example, those with Crohn’s disease have to use the bathroom very often. Endometriosis also has a strong impact on the everyday lives of women with it. More than 6 million women have endometriosis in the U.S.

Contrary to people whose disabilities are obvious, people with invisible disabilities are often suspected to lie or to be lazy. They’re more likely to be misunderstood, laughed at or insulted. Their specific needs are rarely taken into account. However, many of them are legitimately entitled to use a parking space for people with reduced mobility (PRM), to ask for a seat at public transportation or to have priority in a line.

A lot of invisible disabilities have variable manifestations according to the situation, the events, the fatigue people feel or their mood. These fluctuations increase how misunderstood people with invisible disabilities may be by their relatives. Consequently, they have to make more of an effort to adapt which makes them much more tired. 

How can you best welcome people with invisible disabilities?

The tricky part is that by definition invisible disabilities aren’t obvious. In order to provide people with invisible disabilities with the best possible welcome, it’s important you build a climate of trust so that your visitors can freely express their specific needs. To do that, you can directly ask them: “Do you need anything in particular?”. This can be a seat to wait, some help to fill up a document, a handwritten note with the main directions to follow to get to a place or any other action that will enable them to better have access to your services.

A good thing to set up: make sure to systematically provide a field in all your subscription forms for people to express their specific needs.

And also make sure not to judge particular demands and to leave behind any negative prejudices you may have. As we said earlier, people with invisible disabilities mostly suffer from being accused of lying or taking advantage. Keep a positive and respectful attitude in all circumstances! For any situation, you can use our 7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities.

To conclude, invisible disabilities are far from being uncommon. Always keep in mind that the person you’re talking to may have specific needs you may not have thought of at first. By remaining open-minded and by listening to them without judging, you give them the opportunity to express themselves. Thus you’re more likely to meet their needs and to make them have access to the services your venue provides more easily!

Published on August 6th, 2021

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People with invisible disabilities sitting on a bench at the beach

Having disabilities can lead to being easily tired, having attention deficit disorders, difficulties to take initiatives or to put up a strategy, memory disorders.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

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powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

People celebrating with confettis

Disability Pride Month: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

July celebrates Disability Pride Month! A month to support and raise awareness on disability. It gives people with disabilities an opportunity to be seen and heard. Obviously, everybody has their own experiences but this type of celebration enables them to have a sense of community and to assert their rightful place in society.

Inclusion isn’t something trendy to please millennials but is meant to stay! Thanks to initiatives like Disability Pride Month, people with disabilities can gain more visibility and be more included in society. 

Let’s see what it entails exactly and why it’s so important!

What is Disability Pride Month?

It all started when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990 under George H.W Bush’s presidency. Its goal is to prevent discrimination based on disability. Thanks to this law, accessibility barriers are being removed at public venues such as museums or shopping malls and also public transportation like subways or airports. The law even requires web accessibility. Plus it also advocates employment for people with disabilities. 

Riding the wave of enhancing visibility for people with disabilities, the city of Boston held the first Disability Pride Day in 1990. A lot of cities followed their lead like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Antonio and New York City but the event wasn’t nationally recognized.

We had to wait for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to establish July as Disability Pride Month in 2015. The year marked the ADA’s 25th anniversary so it was the perfect way to honor it! “By designating July as Disability Pride Month, we are celebrating and commending the fierce advocacy of those who have fought for equal rights for decades and reaffirming our strong commitment to making New York City the most accessible city in the world”, said Mayor de Blasio.

Advocating for disability rights is an everyday battle but having a whole month dedicated to them is in itself a victory. The event fosters accessibility and inclusion! After all, there are 1 billion people with disabilities in the world. But everybody’s concerned: we are all getting older and may face reduced mobility or disease generating incapacities  in the future. And most of all, as human beings living in this world and cohabitating, shouldn’t we be more comprehensive and empathetic towards the issues some (a lot) of us may face?  

Disability Pride Month consists in various activities: parades in a few cities, educational and artistic events and smaller community celebrations. But it takes on its full meaning when it starts a conversation through countless articles on the events, testimonies of disability rights activists and people with disabilities on social media with #DisabilityPrideMonth. That’s what truly matters!

Why is it important to talk about disability?

The Disability Pride Month is spreading on all social media platforms. Meaning that people with disabilities take charge and start a conversation on their disabilities and their everyday lives issues. And what’s better than a person having a disability to explain what it entails, how they’ve accepted it and own it? People with disabilities may feel rejected or ashamed not to be able as others. By making their voices heard, they embrace their disabilities as a positive force. The National Council on Independent Living even designed a Disability Pride Toolkit and Resource Guide.

Such visibility during a whole month creates bridges among all communities: people from all walks of life and different profiles can share their own experiences. This enables to raise disability awareness: people who aren’t directly concerned by disability but who would like to know more. Plus at some point, we all can encounter a person with disabilities at work or in the streets. It can be very helpful to know the issues they face! 

Shedding some light on disability with such an initiative enables to enforce positive takes on people with disabilities: they adapt, they persevere, they show optimism, they’re resourceful, resilient…

How can you be involved?

Maybe at some point, you’ve said “there are no people with disabilities living in my city” to which we’d tell you: “look again”. Did you know that 80% of disabilities are invisible? This concerns hearing impaired people, people on the autism spectrum, people with chronic diseases generating incapacities like Crohn’s disease, people with PTSD… This means you’ve probably already encountered a person with a disability without necessarily being aware of it. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable and awkward as you may not know how to behave around them. But the most important thing to know is that you just have to treat people with disabilities as equals. We’ve come up with 7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities that work every time! 

Next time you meet someone with a disability, just say hi and talk to them. Just be yourself and take the time to know them as individuals. You’ll see that you’ll gradually remove stigmas you may have first had on people with disabilities. Starting a conversation is simple but this can make a difference.

And if you want to do more, you can always look up and get more information on disability whether by reading on the subject or by checking out disabled activists and community leaders. It takes all of us to create an accessible and inclusive world!

We hope that this article on Disability Pride Month will help you start a conversation! Whether with your friends and relatives, your employees or your neighbors! And not only in July. Removing accessibility barriers is an everyday mission!

Published on July 30th, 2021

media

A wheelchair user is pushed by a friend at the beach

Such visibility during a whole month creates bridges among all communities […] This enables to raise disability awareness.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?

How to Foster Inclusive Mobility at Public Transit?You probably have heard of inclusive mobility but do you know what it actually means? For public transit all over the world, this notion gets more and more important. And more realistic to implement as many...

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs  Did you know that hearing impaired people have several profiles and that the way they identify themselves is important? You may be familiar with deaf and hard of hearing people but for each of...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Should We Say “Hybridization” or “Inclusion” Regarding People with Disabilities? | Interview of Gabrielle Halpern, Doctor of Philosophy

Should We Say “Hybridization” or “Inclusion” Regarding People with Disabilities? | Interview of Gabrielle Halpern, Doctor of Philosophy

Differents groups of people walking on the streets

Should We Say “Hybridization” or “Inclusion” Regarding People with Disabilities? | Interview of Gabrielle Halpern, Doctor of Philosophy

As accessibility experts, we often talk about inclusion to explain that our society should be built to suit the needs of everybody, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. We came across an article* by French Doctor of Philosophy, Gabrielle Halpern, in which she entirely rejects the term “inclusion” to favor “hybridization”. Indeed, we were appalled at discovering that the etymology of the word “inclusion” didn’t exactly match our values… 

But should we use the term “hybridization” instead? Gabrielle Halpern has been doing some research about this particular notion that comes from the figure of the centaur: the mythological creature from Ancient Greece, half-human and half-horse. When Dr Halpern states that we are all centaurs, she means that we are all hybrids: we all are several different things. This implies that we are not made to fit in society’s norms but that society should embrace our diversity, our hybridization. This can make it stronger and definitely better.

Discovering that “inclusion” may not be the best word to use when we talk about accessibility, we asked Dr Halpern to tell us more about hybridization. Let’s dive into this fascinating subject! You’ll probably find out you are a centaur too (and that’s great)! 

Hello Gabrielle Halpern, can you introduce yourself in a few words?

I’m a centaur! More precisely, I have a PhD in Philosophy. I graduated from Ecole Normale Supérieure (French research university) and I currently work as a research fellow there. Simultaneously, I worked for several years at different cabinet ministers where I was in charge of forward planning and speeches. Then I joined a startup incubator to work with young entrepreneurs and guide them to develop their activity. And now I advise companies and public institutions while actively pursuing my works in philosophy. I have a foot in each world to try and progressively build bridges between them, – hybridizations –, despite their obvious contradictions and their difficulties to connect together… I define myself as a centaur because this “half-human, half-horse” figure is the ultimate hybridization. This is the reason why I dedicated my philosophy thesis and my essay “Tous centaures ! Éloge de l’hybridation” (only available in French at Le Pommier, 2020) to centaurs. To me, hybridation isn’t just a research project, I intimately live it and I see it as a vision of the world, a society project I wish I could contribute to build. 

We questioned ourselves thanks to an article you wrote in HUFFPOST, “Don’t say ‘inclusion’ anymore when you talk about disabilities”. For us, inclusion means taking into account the specific needs of everybody, including those with disabilities. Why are you opposed to the term “inclusion” and why do you prefer talking about “hybridization”? 

The term “inclusion” is more and more employed but this common noun is derived from the Latin word inclusio which meant “imprisonment”. This referred to the seclusion of hermits and monks. We don’t realize it but this analogy is awful! When a child is born in a family, do we really talk about inclusion, insertion or integration? No we don’t! And there’s a reason for that! When a child is born, everything changes: the balance of power, everybody’s identities, the interactions between all those involved, the external relationships, the way we look and don’t look at each other or even the way we put ourselves in relation to others. There’s no integration, insertion nor inclusion… There’s hybridization! Meaning there’s an encounter that makes everybody step out of themselves. If we go back to the figure of the centaur, – the figure of the ultimate hybridization –, this is precisely what came into play: the human and the horse had to step aside to create this unifying third figure that the centaur is. Yes, the encounter can only take place when all interested parties metamorphose. Concerning people with disabilities, whether they have a physical or intellectual disability, it would be awful to include them, as if they had to be content to have the place we’d grant them,  – taking into account the whole effort they’d provide to adapt  –, as long as it doesn’t interfere with our practices. We need to understand that the real challenge is our ability to accept to step aside and to leave our comfort zone. The disability that the other has, because it’s outside the norm, because it “transgresses” the absurd box we’ve built and lived in, awakens our fear of the unknown. Let’s stop being afraid and let’s hybridize ourselves! By doing this, we’ll metamorphose our management skills, our organizations, our jobs, our recruitments, our professional relationships and our innovations!

Instead of talking of an inclusive society, we should rather talk of a society that’s turning into an hybridization seeing that it’s not just about including all of those who are different, physically or mentally, but to create the conditions of an encounter that enables a reciprocal metamorphosis. At companies, public institutions, schools, colleges and universities, research labs, restaurants, associations and clubs – everywhere! –, it’s urgent not only to give a place to those who don’t fit in our box but to accept to let ourselves be transformed by them. It’s not up to them to fit in our box; it’s us who need to leave our box seeing that after all, we are the ones imprisoned, included, isolated!

Isn’t it paradoxical: societies are actually hybrid (without knowing it) but want to remain homogeneous at all cost?

Your question is very interesting! I’d say that a major part of reality is hybrid. This part gets bigger and bigger and concerns a lot of fields in our lives. Of course, from a biological and cultural point of view, we all are hybrids, – without truly realizing it –, but societies work as silo structures, with independent identities, independent communities, because of this drive towards homogeneity that works both at an individual and collective level. 

A few words on this idea of a “drive towards homogeneity”  that I developed in my research work: in concrete terms, this drive leads us to only keep company with people who look like us, to only be interested in what we already know, to only follow social media accounts that match ours. Thus we build ourselves surrounded by a homogeneous bubble. This drive makes us seek this absurd notion of “purity”; it makes us homogenize everything and everybody we meet so that we don’t have to accept their otherness, their difference. This drive, that can reassure us and give us a feeling of protection, is within everyone of us and it’s difficult to resist it. Everyday we work to fight against it; the boulder of Sisyphus that we constantly have to haul at the mountaintop. Intrinsically, because of our fear of uncertainty, we have an inability to fully and naturally accept singularity, diversity, alterity. In his work, Crowds and Power, one of the greatest European thinkers of the XXth century, Elias Canetti tells us that above all the human being fears being in touch with the unknown, and that all distances, all the behaviors he adopts are dictated by this phobia. It’s only within this standardized mass that he thinks he can be liberated from this phobia. Thus this is what happens: the emergence of communities, groups, founded on an identity principle and whose members are identical to each other. Any element, any person, any odd or heterogeneous idea, is repelled and rejected, because it can be perceived as a threat against this reassuring homogeneity that the group has built and in which it took refuge and imprisoned itself. It’s in accordance with this drive towards homogeneity that the human being has always worshipped identity – from the Latin identitas, “quality of what is the same” – and has always been wary of everything hybrid around him.

How is hybridization a chance for our society? 

First of all, a definition: hybrid embraces what’s heterogeneous, contradictory, blended, imperceptible; it’s everything that doesn’t fit in our box. Hybridization represents the unlikely marriage, that is to say the encounter between things, people, jobs, ideas, worlds that all are radically different. But for this encounter to happen, for hybridization to truly take place, it’s not enough to put them next to each other, we need to work to make their metamorphosis reciprocal.

The world is indeed more and more hybrid and this major tendency concerns almost all the areas of our lives… Take cities for example: revegetation projects are multiplying, urban farms, vegetable gardens, livestock farming on building rooftops are developing to such an extent that the boundary between the city and the countryside tends to become more and more slight. The box “city” is exploding. This hybridization of nature and urbanism takes place in parallel with the one between the products and services provided by companies. If we used to be in an industrial city and now we live in a society of services, it’s becoming difficult today to tell the difference between both. They turn into a hybridization of what we could call a society of practices or a society of relationships. These innovations through hybridization are going to disrupt companies, jobs, fields, markets and the very notion of competition. Schools, colleges and universities, research labs, companies, public administrations are starting, everywhere and more and more, to enhance collaboration; which increases the number of double degrees, confuses job descriptions and jobs and upsets the organizational models and the professional identities. COVID-19 emphasized these hybridizations, metamorphosing our ways to work on-site and remotely. The box “work” needs to be completely rethought. The same applies for objects. They can also form hybridizations: the smartphone, to take the most trivial example, is also an alarm clock, a radio, a scanner and a camera. Paradoxically, it gives us a space/time for leisure and work and it’s all of that at the same time. Regarding territories, we see that “third places” are multiplying: quirky places that regroup economical and services activities, with research, startups, arts and crafts, social innovation or even cultural infrastructures. Besides, companies are more and more aware of their societal responsibility; and social and fair trade economy, the ultimate hybrid economy – since it’s about hybridizing economical logics and social and fair trade logics – could indeed become tomorrow’s economical model. Our ways of buying and doing business also follow this tendency towards hybridization and we see new types of shops emerge where it’s not just about selling and buying, but also playing, improving our knowledge, coming together…

To me, this hybridization we witness represents the positive sign that we’re starting to tame our fear of the unclassifiable and that we’re finally ready to give up our old reassuring categories. The health crisis speeded up even more this tendency. But this tendency was at play even before the virus came into our lives. This hybridization that’s speeding up can make us optimistic regarding the future!

Little by little, we’re starting to realize that hybridization can be a chance for individuals, companies and public institutions, as for society. It makes us better, smarter, less intolerant, less dogmatic, more humble and more agile. My book is an invitation for us to reconcile with reality, thanks to this hybrid way of thinking.

With the digital era, we see that the services provided, the products sold and information are all hyper-personalized. Despite everything, it seems like it all goes in the right direction, isn’t it? 

Indeed now is the time for a tailored-made approach and personalization; the trend becoming more and more about not following the trend. Companies, formed until now by the industrial society, were based on the norm: the herd instinct consumerist approach. Here again, the drive towards homogeneity was at play! It’s the famous quote by Henry Ford: “You can have it in any color you want, as long as it is black.” The whole industry was founded on the belief in homogeneity. But today, things are changing and the car of the future, the truly hybrid car, will be the one designed on singularity; which for me I see as excellent news! Some could think that hyper-personalization is going to reinforce individualism; I’m convinced of the opposite. Individualism often happens when individuals don’t feel respected in their singularity and feel the group is a threat; from the moment when they can finally express it, the group regains meaning. Thus we need to be glad about this weak signal that echoes hybridization: hybridization is the contrary of standardization… In other words, every centaur is unique and this uniqueness is sacred! 

Would you like to say more?

Deep down, we know that we all are centaurs. We’re impossible to grasp, contradictory, quirky, in perpetual metamorphosis… So it’s time to accept ourselves as the centaurs we are! So let’s not be afraid of unlikely marriages: let’s hybridize ourselves and everything! 

Who is Gabrielle Halpern?

She has a PhD in Philosophy. She graduated from École normale supérieure and is currently a research fellow there. Gabrielle Halpern worked at different cabinet ministers, before helping develop startups and advising companies and public institutions. She also has training in theology and exegesis of religious texts. Her research work focuses particularly on the hybrid notion. She is the author of “Tous centaures ! Éloge de l’hybridation” (only available in French at Le Pommier, 2020). (You can visit her website www.gabriellehalpern.com). 

*French article published in HuffPost 

Published on 9th July 2021

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Gabrielle Halpern

We need to understand that the real challenge is our ability to accept to step aside and to leave our comfort zone. The disability that the other has, because it’s outside the norm, because it “transgresses” the absurd box we’ve built and lived in, awakens our fear of the unknown.

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Christine Pestel

Communication Manager

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7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

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7 Tips to Welcome a Person with Disabilities

 

Who hasn’t been uncomfortable dealing with a person with disabilities? We’ve all been afraid to drop a clanger, to be clumsy and to behave badly. It’s normal to feel disconcerted in a new situation when we don’t understand the appropriate codes. But it’s actually not that difficult. Here are a few tips that will work every time, regardless of the disability type of the person you’re talking with!

1. Stay natural

Alright, it’s easier said than done… But you need to realize that the person in front of you is above all a human being with the same needs as anyone. Meaning that past the initial moment of surprise, even the moment of panic (because this can also happen…), you simply have to say hello and start talking to the person in front of you.

2. Ask questions

Yes, it’s a new situation and yes, it’s normal not to have all the keys in hand. Simply ask the person you’re talking with what you can do for them. They know best how to explain it to you.

3. Don’t think for them

Because we want to do things right, we often tend to anticipate what a person with disabilities will say or do. But it’s a trap! There’s a good chance you’ll be wide of the mark concerning their expectations and this may cause frustration that could make the person with disabilities aggressive towards you! Give them time to express themselves.

4. Offer your help, don’t impose it

Some people with disabilities don’t dare to ask for help. You’ll make it easier for them if the offer to help comes from you. But do it in an open way so that the person you’re talking to can feel free to tell you if they need it or not.

5. Make sure you’re talking to the person with disabilities before anything else

If a person with disabilities is with someone like a caregiver, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t communicate with you. It’s in fact rarely the case. But even if it was, it’s not a reason to ignore them in the conversation. Just speak directly to them. The caregiver they’re with will naturally take over if it’s necessary.

6. Don’t take offense if some behaviors seem strange to you

There’s nothing more normal than to feel disconcerted facing an attitude or a behavior that’s out of the ordinary. But you need to realize that some types of disabilities may be the cause and that it’s completely out of control. Try to disregard it and treat the person with disabilities as an adult no matter what.

7. Don’t pet a dog without first asking his owner

Obviously, this advice concerns every dog but it’s particularly the case with guide dogs or service dogs used for other types of disabilities. Petting them while working could distract them and thus put in danger the people they’re accompanying.

 

We hope these basic tips will enable you to feel more confident next time you’re dealing with a person with disabilities in your venue or somewhere else! You’ll find other tips adapted to specific types of disabilities such as 12 Tips to Welcome a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Person and 9 Tips to Welcome a Person with an Intellectual Disability.

Please keep in mind that there are trainings to help you and your personnel best assist customers with disabilities. Thanks to qualified organizations, you’ll be able to talk about dealing with people with disabilities without any taboos!

 

 

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Some people with disabilities don’t dare to ask for help. You’ll make it easier for them if the offer to help comes from you.

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.