Where is seamless communication?

Street level view of Millenium Park, Chicago

Flipping through newspapers with my thumb, I sat at a cafe on the Chicago River in downtown Chicago in the early evening. Two boats cruised slowly and passed each other creating more rippling and dissolving white and blue grids on the river mirrored by a tall skyscraper. I looked up at the tall blue skyscraper. The blue color on its windows was about to get dark as the sun was ready to roll behind the skyline. I scanned right to left on other buildings with my curious eyes. Many new beautiful skyscrapers were constructed in the last 10 years, not the same as I remember, and they were blended with old well-known buildings.

I studied my surroundings until I spotted swiftly moving hands. A man and a woman in their 20’s signed to each other. They chattered naturally in American Sign Language (ASL). They were deaf and native ASL signers as I could easily identify. I enjoyed watching their beautiful ASL conversations filled with the meaningful movements and facial expressions that’s rich in context and personality. They made me feel like I was in their world, as I watched, and they pulled me in. I didn’t interrupt them to introduce myself to tell them I’m Deaf. I continued watching them.

A minute later. A woman in her 50’s stopped by their table and tried to speak with them. She was hearing, I noted, and the Deaf people looked up at her. The young woman made a gesture to her indicating that they are deaf. She offered paper and pen. The hearing woman responded back with a gesture and put her index finger up, swifting left to right a few times. She also made a big moving lip, “NO”. It was like a big scream to them, but no audio was made for hearing.

What I saw — the two deaf people were willing to accommodate the hearing woman in any communication method. The young woman asked if the hearing woman wanted a smartphone for texting as she gestured and handed her smartphone to her. Well, it is better than paper and pen. The hearing woman still refused and walked away. Huh?

The Deaf couple looked at each other showing that they couldn’t understand the hearing woman. This was the same thought I had. The hearing woman didn’t feel comfortable with using either the text messaging via smartphone or paper and pen. She wanted to keep her preferred communication method. This is not new to us and this is consistent. This has really annoyed me for years.

Picture of Adam Munder, Co-Founder of OmniBridge at Intel
Adam Munder, Co-Founder of OmniBridge at Intel

Adam Munder is Deaf and has worked at Intel in many engineering roles since 2011. Prior to incubating a new venture backed by Intel Corporation, he started simply, with a big stack of borrowed textbooks and internet information. Coming from an all-engineering background, he is sure to bring a new technology focus to innovation at a time when it is needed most.

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