Twitter as a tool for the hard of hearing

I’ve been wearing hearing aids since I was 2 years old.  I don’t normally have problems talking face to face, but group settings are difficult – particularly large groups in large rooms.  Like conferences.

On Wednesday I attended Open Government West, which was a group of 200 government enthusiasts working to foster progress on open government issues throughout the US and Canada.  200 of those enthusiasts, all in one room.

Add to this mix, some of the presenters contributed virtually from Edmonton, Poland and Argentina.  We watched them on a screen,  and their voices were transmitted through the mics on their computers, through the internet to be broadcast in our room through large speakers.

Lipreading?  Nope.

Accents?  Yep.

A challenge to figure out what’s going on?  Absolutely.

There are a number of assistive technologies out there to help people with hearing loss in these situations, but most of them require a very specialized skill set and are usually very expensive.  It is very hard to pay these costs in order to support one person – simply put, it doesn’t usually happen.

So, enter my big suprise on Wednesday.

Using my iPhone, I followed the hashtag for the conference on twitter.  Within an hour I realised that I was surrounded by people taking notes for me.  People were posting the key points of the talks on twitter.  And I could read them in real time.  Heck, I could even ask them questions.

Wow.

Big thanks to everyone who contributed to #ogwbc this week, and keep it up.

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