Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Conference Adventure

My day started yesterday at 8.00am. I was standing on the train platform writing emails on my phone, waiting for the train, and noticed a man standing in front of me. I suspected he was talking to me so I looked up. Sure enough, he was asking directions so I just told him which train was which and he seemed satisfied with that.

The train ride was fine, I couldn't hear the stations announced but I knew where I was so no problems. I then had a 20 walk up the street to find the hotel where my conference was being held. When I arrived my gorgeous work girls had saved me a seat right up the front.
I looked around; about 350 people sitting in a large ball room type space. Hmmmmmm. Looked up the front, microphones, that means I am not going to hear this $300 per head conference. Time to take deaf action.

I grabbed my trusty FM and headed out to the registration area and asked who was in charge. I was taken to see a busy woman and explained to her that I was deaf, using a cochlear implant and I needed to leave my FM as close to the speaker as possible. So she put it on the lectern and told the first speaker that it was there. No probs!

My FM sat perched on the lectuern for the first two speakers and I got terrible interference, like a badly tuned radio. Towards the end of the second speaker I went to the toilet and one of the ladies sitting at the desk outside asked me how it was going with my hearing. I told her about the interference and thought it would be better to have the speaker wear the FM so she jumped up and said "let's talk to the next speaker and ask her to wear it". So we did, and she did, and it was perfect. I could hear everything as if she was sitting in front of me in a quiet room. This speaker then asked the next speaker to wear it and so on.

At the end of the conference there was a question and answer session with a panel of six experts. With 350 people in the room there was no way I could hear the questions being asked. The leader of the panel, a young guy, saw me sitting there with a blank look on my face so he grabbed my FM and repeated every question into it, using it like a microphone, priceless. He then passed the FM to the panel and instructed them to speak into the FM and then he would collect it and either repeat the next question or sometimes he would run out into the audience and ask them to speak into the FM. One of the girls sitting next to me wrote me a note "You are special!".

Of the 350 people who turned up to attend the conference I ended up feeling like I was the only one there. They all made the effort to make me feel included without making a big deal about it. I was so delighted I went up afterward and thanked the young guy for his actions. He replied with a big smile "no problems"!

That's another one ticked off the deaf to do list.