In her TED@WellsFargo talk in February 2020, writer and a part-time cyborg Rebecca Knill discusses how assistive listening technology has changed over the years and how our culture needs to shift to create a more inclusive world.
Knill grew up profoundly deaf. She attended regular schools and learned to lip read.
Television didn’t have closed captions. She didn’t meet another deaf person until she was 20 years old.
In her talk, Knill discussed her cochlear implant and how it rebuilt her sense of hearing.
With her cochlear implant, Knill has electronics inside and outside of her head. Which includes a small processor, magnets inside her skull, and a rechargeable power source.
As Knill explained in her talk, her head doesn’t stick to the refrigerator.
I know this because I tried.
She has a positive upbeat way of talking about technology and hearing, interspersing jokes as she shares information about hearing and assistive technology.
Now, when it comes to ignoring voice mail, it no longer matters whether you’re deaf or just self-absorbed.
Reading her biography, I learned Knill’s first assistive listening device was an alarm clock which shook her bed frame.
Can you imagine what that was like?
Knill said it was like
waking up in the middle of a busy street before being run over by a Hummer.
A few takeaways from the video:
- Hearing occurs in the brain
- Hair cells in the cochlea send electronic signals to the brain and the brain interprets that as sound
- Hair cell damage is common, due to noise exposure, aging, illness
- About five percent of the world has hearing loss. By 2050, that’s expected to double to over 900 million people. Or one person in 10 people.
- With a cochlear implant, computer chips do the job for the damaged hair cells
- Cochlear implants were controversial at first. And surgeries weren’t completely successful.
- Biggest obstacle faced as a deaf person isn’t a physical barrier. It’s how people respond to deafness with pity, patronization, and anger.
- Smart designers include multiple ways to access technology
Watch the 13-minute video to learn how far technology has come. Knill encourages us to move beyond accessibility, we need to be connected.
Our mindset and culture needs to catch up.
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