The Law of Unintended Benefits, Part II

Some years ago I attended a day-long seminar with a friend.  My friend is visually impaired and brought with her a portable closed circuit TV that sat on the table in front of her.  With it she was able to focus the camera on the screen at the front of the room and see a magnified version of the presentation right in front of her eyes.  It allowed her to participate more fully in the event.

I had arranged for real time captioning so the presenters’ words would be transcribed and projected onto another screen at the front of the room.  As a person with hearing loss, this accommodation works best for me.

Due to technical problems the captioning never happened.  I was quite lost when some of the speakers spoke too fast or moved just far enough away from the microphone that amplification decreased.  I rapidly became fidgety, bored and frustrated.

Then I had an epiphany: what if my friend focused the CCTV’s camera on the face of the speaker?  There was no on-screen presentation, so I felt comfortable asking her to do this.  It was wonderful!  Thanks to a device designed to help people with low vision I was able to see the speakers’ faces close-up and use my speech reading skills to understand what they said.

I have attended presentations where captioning was provided and found other people taking advantage of the words in big print on a large screen.  People who have learning disabilities may love captioning.  Also, people who have Attention Deficit Disorder might find it easier to focus when the words are projected for them to see.  This is also true of people who have cognitive disabilities, people who have had strokes and people who have trouble understanding a speaker’s accent.

Appealing to a completely new audience is an example of the Law of Unintended Benefits.

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