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Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 1 –23 Unheard Complaints: Integrating Captioning Into Business and Professional Communication Presentations

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This article explores pedagogical frameworks closely associated with d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons from the perspective of a disabled instructor to increase student awareness of the needs of diverse audiences they will encounter in the
Transcript   Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 1  –23© 2018 by the Association forBusiness CommunicationReprints and DOI: 10.1177/2329490617748710  Article Unheard Complaints: Integrating Captioning Into Business and Professional Communication Presentations Geoffrey M. Clegg 1 Abstract This article explores pedagogical frameworks closely associated with d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons from the perspective of a disabled instructor to increase student awareness of the needs of diverse audiences they will encounter in the workforce. The author argues that students and instructors can use captioning theory to strategize one of the harder business communication genres, the presentation, for d/Deaf audiences to make communication more accessible. By raising critical awareness of the limits of technology, current trends in pedagogy, and disability, this article seeks to further the conversation about providing accessibility for disabled users in the classroom. Keywords deafness, presentation, captioning, deaf and hard-of-hearing pedagogy In late 2015, I was diagnosed with severe hearing loss tied to Alport syndrome, a medi-cal condition that combines chronic kidney disease and the decline of hearing and vision. I have gone from being able to hear my students’ questions in 2008 to having to ask students to repeat themselves in a louder, clearer voice. I am finding that my international students are harder to decipher, probably because their differing speech  patterns challenge my lip-reading skills. No doubt, my hearing loss is also limiting my effectiveness in assisting them until I have developed new coping mechanisms to 1 Midwestern State University, USA Corresponding Author: Geoffrey M. Clegg, English Department, Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, TX 76308, USA. Email: BCQ   XX   X   10.1177/2329490617748710Businessand Professional Communication Quarterly Clegg research-article   2018  2  Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 00(0) respond to this situation. My students may be experiencing slight frustration because they do not understand why someone in their mid-30s has hearing issues. I am also frustrated because my ability to effectively communicate has been drastically reduced. In fact, as a part of my compensatory measures, I already find myself resorting more to using email instead of interpersonal rapport, using Word documents in class, and creating even more detailed documents for our course management system to account for potential questions I may not be able to hear. I no longer offer my cell phone num- ber to students to call but instead ask them to text or email if they have issues with an assignment. Obviously, this reduces my ability to troubleshoot with them in a real-time environment.My story is echoed by Kerschbaum (2015), who has found that many disabled scholars at conferences often recount the same problem over and over with the narra-tive pointing toward disability seeming “to prevent such relationship-building between teachers and students” (Identifying and Analyzing Anecdotal Relations section, para. 1). While my feelings, as mentioned above, are grounded in professional fears and reinforced by the lore of the profession, there has been no significant divide or loss of relationship between myself and my students. Instead, there has been an understanding early on that I have issues with hearing and that we will find a way to engage with each other in order to learn from one another. Like Kerschbaum, I find that openly inviting conversations about access can be difficult because students may have a nonexistent, awkward, or secretive relationship with disability; nevertheless, building a relation-ship with students semester after semester and helping them understand the locus of where their assignment prompts come from has eased both their and my own relation-ship to disability. Talking through the legal language of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990), explaining the impact it has on others’ lives, and working through assignments to show the social responsibility involved negate some of my own weari-ness about disability. By employing examples of my own experiences, working with students closely on their assignments, and showing how thinking about disability affects their own communicative efforts with others, both myself and my students open the doors to difficult conversations about how others access their work inside the classroom and within the workplace. Further, we engage in conversations about how students might like to approach business and professional communication with far more diverse audiences in mind than we may have otherwise.To that end, this article discusses helping undergraduate students in U.S. universi-ties understand that their assignments are more than just a simple exercise in work- place writing. Instead, the focus shifts to providing them with a framework to question their assumptions about ability and disability that will hopefully transfer into their future workplace practices. This pedagogy of access culminates in their final assign-ment, the formal presentation, where I shift them away from the able-bodied audience to a more realistic audience with diverse abilities to meet the requirements set forth in the ADA, with the hope that these experiences are relevant also to those outside the United States. My hope is for students to make further connections with different abili-ties and conceive of their potential and real audiences away from static representations of able-bodied users, much like themselves or bodies idealized in media and  Clegg 3 textbooks. My ultimate goal is to help students learn to make materials accessible for a range of bodies and not just the disabled users. I push for my students and myself to understand the need for flexibility in providing accessibility, problematize our rela-tionship to what Davis (1995) called “normalcy,” and recognize the complexity involved in creating deliverables useful for all bodies in the user-centered workplace. Much of this coursework is undertaken under the rubric of redesign, as it plays a large  part in my srcinal business communication course structure and allows me to address the disability gap in business and professional communication. As Oswal (2016)  pointed out in the initial call for articles for this special issue, “Hardly any research on disability and accessibility has been published in the fields of business and profes-sional communication” (p. 131). In fact, a cursory search of this journal provides only a smattering of references to disability since 1990, coincidentally the same year the ADA was passed. This situation is similar to what Knight (2017) reported on the jour-nal’s lack of attention to issues of social justice in general. Apparently, scholars in  business and professional communication have not yet paid attention to the issues relating to disability and access in the presentation genre since no disciplinary research exists on the topic.This article seeks to amend this oversight by focusing on the importance of prior research in disability, access, and captioning theory and how it can play a larger role in the business and professional communication classroom. In the following pages, I first offer a brief literature review of relevant scholarship on the topics of presentations and captioning while underlining the major research gaps regarding disability and accessibility in the former and highlighting the potential of the latter for business and  professional communication pedagogy; then, the bulk of my discussion in this article centers on how to make presentations accessible both to instructors and students with disabilities. In this discussion, I regularly engage the published literature in greater detail to show how we can extend what we know about presentations and introduce what captions studies has to offer the business and professional communication disci- pline. Considering the predominantly aural nature of the presentation genre, the pri-mary focus of this article is on hearing disabilities, though I include visual disabilities in my discussion when addressing presentational aids, particularly the subgenre of PowerPoint. Because the core purpose of this article is to strengthen our presentational  pedagogy for inclusivity and broader audience reach, I support my analysis with an in-depth discussion of my own experimentation with accessible approaches to presen-tations in the classroom. I conclude by making a call for extending this pedagogical discussion about accessible presentations to larger academic venues, such as confer-ences and symposia. Literature Review Presentations in Our Textbooks A central concern that needs addressing, the accessibility of presentations, comes from the textbooks used primarily in business communication courses: Textbooks in the  4  Business and Professional Communication Quarterly 00(0) field often forgo any discussion of disabled audiences in their rhetorical approaches to  presentations. For example, Bovée and Thill’s (2017)  Professional Communications  never acknowledges the need for any alteration to a professional presentation for any disabilities, much less the deaf, hard of hearing, or blind. The primary focus of their section on delivery highlights methods for relieving anxiety and handling questions instead of discussing how to meet the needs of diverse audiences. Likewise, Bovée and Thill suggested that handouts be used so readers can parse information on their own time, which is a valid recommendation but not one that is not inclusive of dis-abled audiences. Kolin’s (2017) Successful Writing at Work   does not include disabled audience members in its diverse audience section or in its presentation section on identifying the needs of the audience. Peter Cardon’s (2016)  Business Communication:  Developing Leaders for a Networked World   also lacks any mention of disability and the needs of the disabled. Oliu, Brusaw, and Alred’s (2013) Writing That Works: Communicating Effectively on the Job  also fails to mention adaptive presentations for disabled audiences, although the authors do spend some time on the design of acces-sible web pages for blind users. Bovée and Thill’s (2016a)  Business Communication  Essentials: A Skills-Based Approach  considers age, culture, language, and comprehen-sion of audiences; yet, like the other texts, it lacks any further discussion of presenta-tion needs beyond creating graphics for slides.  Business Communication Today , also written by Bovée and Thill (2016b), briefly mentions disability bias in the workplace, though it lacks further explanation of how this might affect areas beyond interviews and employees’ day-to-day interactions. While these textbooks represent a relatively small sampling of what is available in the market, each text lacks a significant dia-logue on the needs of the disabled, with the exception of web pages for the blind, which appears in the work of Oliu et al. (2013) and Bovée and Thill (2017).  Nevertheless, the needs of the disabled are generally invisible in these textbooks.  Missing Consideration of Disability in Presentations Scholarship Problems of access erupt when we center approaches that privilege simplistic design over information in presentations. The movement away from PowerPoint in recent years, as advocated by scholars and professional writers (Bumiller, 2010; Schmaltz & Enström, 2014), has resulted in less information-dense presentations—those that fre-quently overuse bullets, graphs, and tables—favoring design-heavy concepts, simple images, and narrative as guiding forces. The conceptual, narrative-driven style is best illustrated in works such as Duarte’s (2008) influential book Slide:ology , used as a model for presentation style in Penn State’s business communication course. Duarte’s (2008) approach encourages presenters to “allow the slides to enhance the story” (p. 244), which in turn privileges the spoken word and reduces the effectiveness of printed  presentations, as the slides are mostly visual data without connected narrative. Reynolds’s (2008)  Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation and Delivery  fol-lows a similar format by asking presenters to minimize the amount of text on the screen and instead use speech as the primary presentation tool. In similar vein to Duarte (2008) and Reynolds (2008), Kedrowicz and Taylor (2016) posited that TED  Clegg 5 Talks help to effectively juxtapose thematically associative imagery with verbal infor-mation in presentations and emphasize evolving rhetorical norms. Likewise, Sherrow, Lang, and Corbett (2015) advocated for the use of TED-Ed lessons in the flipped classroom as a method that monitors progress and provides an alternate form of assess-ment that can be used prior to class time. Narrative-driven, TED-Talks-inspired pedagogy is by no means an outlier among the communicative rhetorical strategies offered for presentations. McKee advocated for in-depth storytelling as a means to persuade audiences beyond just logic and ratio-nality (as cited in Fryer, 2003). Similarly, recent monographs highlighting the use of  big data and data analysis, which are likely to merge with business and professional communication in the future, argue for the more widespread use of storytelling in  presentations. Recent works (Knaflic, 2015; Lima, 2011; Wong, 2010; Yau, 2011) do little to highlight issues that affect d/Deaf viewers of data-analytic–based presenta-tions. Knaflic (2015) is the only text that deals with memory and comprehension, although it fails to explore the issue of orality and comprehension for diverse audi-ences beyond a simplistic overview of short- and long-term memory. The spoken nar-rative, while important, only complicates accessibility for some disabled people  because it privileges sound and memory first. At this moment, finding a balance that accounts for the needs of a multiplicity of disabilities is fraught with contradiction. When narrative replaces the visual, the d/Deaf are left out; however, when the visual takes primacy over the heard, the blind and low-vision suffer. Captioning presenta-tions and video offers a balance to these contradictory positions as it allows for a variety of disabled persons to benefit. Relevant Captioning Research As the literature review presented here shows, with a larger push toward data analytics and storytelling, the necessity for captioning of presentations, both in real time and after the fact, looms larger and larger over the horizon. The need for captioning  becomes even more vital as business programs continue to push for the introduction of analytics in lower division courses within the university.Since the introduction of captioning for television in the early 1970s, its role in social integration of deaf persons has provided advocates and scholars with a wealth of discussion on its style, usage, and merit. Chronicling the use of captioning at WGBH Caption Center in Boston, Earley (1978) traced the center’s early attempts at caption-ing to meet the needs of deaf audiences and contextualized several problems still occurring today: time-reading captions, length of time on screen, and the integration of captions with visuals on screen. Braverman (1981) proposed a more robust selec-tion process, screening for captioning involving rating scales, multilevel guidelines, and linguistic development. Blatt and Sulzer (1981) tracked the viewing habits of deaf survey participants and concluded that captioning had a significant impact on watch-ing The Captioned ABC News . Unfortunately, by the late 1990s through the early 2000s, congressional investigations into the types of programs being captioned, spe-cifically  Baywatch  and  Jerry Springer  , caused delays in increasing federal funding for
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