Conference Calls

From job one, I’ve had to deal with meetings by conference calls… long before travel became restricted due to tightening budgets and more technology. I recall attending a regularly-scheduled conference call meeting while working in the FAA.
I used the relay service to call in. It wasn’t easy. I felt sorry for the operator who got stuck with my call. The process didn’t last long. The people on the call knew each other, so there was little need to say your name before you spoke. The operator didn’t know, so I had to figure out for myself based on what the person said. Of course, the operator couldn’t type everything word for word as human conversation went too fast for their hands.


In my current position, I attend meetings involving people on the phone about an average of one or two every two weeks. One meeting as most of us in the room, so I just get the context from those in the room. If someone on the phone says something of interest, a coworker would let me know. I appreciate it, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling helpless though I know it can’t be helped… “disabled.” The fact, I have to be helped with a simple skill (listening).
We have a monthly meeting where a majority of the people are not in the room with me. In such cases, I sit next to someone kind enough to let me read her notes.
But the truth is… (don’t you love that phrase?) I miss out a lot, no matter what. It can be big things, little things… but when you put them all together, it tells a story, the true nature of what’s going on. That’s why I am always the last to know things. I think people see me as weak… maybe that’s not the right word. Like I don’t know what’s going on and that I’m not as smart as I really am.
It’s a struggle these days as I have a college education and over a decade of work experience behind me along with being involved with a few leadership programs. Some people that know me might laugh reading this, but whatever… if I could hear, I would’ve become a team leader a few years ago. Why aren’t I? Because I realize that team leaders and managers spend most of their days in meetings and on the phone (with one person AND conferences), the two areas that quickly drain my energy.
I like going to meetings (pick up your jaw off the floor) and I’m lucky if I attend two in a week. It’s a needed break from the computer and the chance to connect with others.
I don’t think many people realize this about me. That I may be smarter than they think. That I am aware of the politics and unspoken rules. That I am driven, an over-achiever, competitive. I can imagine the reactions of coworkers (past and present). I don’t like writing about work, but it can’t be avoided because it’s a big part of my life as a person, and this blog is about my life as a person who is deaf.

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    • Chris on June 30, 2005 at 1:38 am
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    Wouldn’t it be interesting to have an entire team of deaf/hard of hearing/hearing impaired folks?
    I nominate Meryl as the Team Lead πŸ™‚
    (I ain’t Team Lead material…I tried it in my last profession…not the best thank you…
    — had to wander in taking a break from job huntin’ and web site designin’

  1. wow. we have so many common experiences, according to your blog. i’m deaf as well and have a cochlear implant … i was implanted seven months ago in hopes it would improve my “listening” skills in a way that would allow me a wider range of career opportunities … i am still learning how to cope with the art of listening to spoken conversation, which proves to be as difficult, maddening and frustrating as it is exhiliarating. i still cannot communicate verbally as eloquently as i can online, in writing or in mind. i, too, feel like i’m seen by co-workers as someone not as smart, driven, knowlegeable or aware of social dynamics as they are, although i have two degrees and am working on a third — people are surprised to hear i have a degree in English! anyways … thought i’d let you know i enjoy your blog. i used to work in a similiar environment (with cisco systems inc) until we were laid off, so i know all too well the frustrations of having to “settle” with certain types of jobs when we know that if only communication methods were more “deaf” friendly, we’d be running the damn place … i hate the feeling that all my talents are being wasted because of this damn “disability” — yet, i go on and i keep trying because i’m that driven to succeed … just like you. after all. what else can we do?
    keep writing! and know you are not alone …
    — tanners

    • Prof. Bisson on July 5, 2005 at 7:11 pm
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    Have you any experience with web conferencing? I’m hard of hearing as well and I am wondering if they are worth it at all in setting up meetings with other co-workers.

  2. Prof. Bisson,
    Webconference is no different from teleconferencing. Voice without lipreading is the same. Quality of sound might be different between the two, but it doesn’t make a difference in my case.
    In your case… it depends. If you can follow voice spoken over the Web, then maybe. There are a lot of free Web conferences, so you could try one out and judge for yourself.

    • Alicia on July 8, 2005 at 10:54 pm
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    Have you given video relay services a try? I know you don’t use ASL but I have read that some people who rely on lipreading ask the interpreters to follow English syntax more closely and mouth more words. Like text relay, VRS also allows VCO (voice carryover) so even without knowledge of ASL, VRS could be useful if everybody in the conference is able to understand your speech.
    I myself use VRS regularly for business conference calls in which I’m the only deaf person, and it works wonderfully – much faster and more real-time than regular text relay. In fact, I have a deaf friend who has his own business and calls up prospects using video relay with VCO, and they don’t even realize he’s deaf until he shows up in person. By then it’s too late for them to back out. LOL
    Both the service and videophone are free. I encourage you to give it a try if you haven’t yet – nothing to lose! πŸ™‚

  3. I did once try VRS — but they don’t use their mouths very much… it was a struggle to understand them. But I will give it a try in calling someone in my family and ask them to mouth more words.
    I used VCO — but it was following meeting that was difficult… so it was pointless to speak when I didn’t know what we were talking about.
    I am surprised your friend’s clients didn’t figure out something was asmiss because there is a delay between the last word the client says and the first word your friend says as the operator has to type everything…

    • Alicia on July 9, 2005 at 8:51 am
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    Definitely do ask the interp to switch to more English with more mouthing. If you contact the service before the meeting is ready to start, that’ll give you time to get set up with the interp. And if the interp doesn’t seem to be able to accommodate your needs, just hang up and call again for an different interp – there’s a huge network all over the country. Four different video relay services as well – Hands On, IP-Relay, CSD, and Sorenson.
    About my friend, he was using VRS, not text relay. So there was nothing to type and virtually no delay. πŸ™‚

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