Presentation for Say What Club

“From Silence to Understanding: Telling Our Story”

This year’s Academy Award for best movie went to “The Artist,” a silent movie that tells the story of an actor who was left behind when movies went from silence to sound. What the movie doesn’t tell is the story of the millions of us with hearing loss who are also left behind when vision is no longer enough, and sound is added to a visual presentation. That’s a story we need to tell.

Four years ago, a number of people with hearing loss in the state of Washington organized for the purpose of telling our story in a strategic and systematic fashion, and shortly thereafter, a sister organization developed in Oregon. The story we tell is that because of our hearing loss, we need to have aural information put into written form so that we can “hear” with our eyes, which lets us participate fully in public life. Where possible, we work through education and friendly persuasion, but when those efforts fail, we will go to court to implement the benefits and protections afforded to us by state and federal disability laws.

Our approach has made a significant difference. Many of the live theaters in Washington and Oregon now offer captioned performances. Professional and college sports stadiums caption their public-address announcements. In Seattle, closed captions are now available for virtually every first-run movie, and the theaters have extended that commitment nationwide.

We want to tell our stories to you, so that you can tell your stories – our stories – to others in your community.

John Waldo is an attorney based in Portland, Oregon, but working throughout the Western United States on issues affecting people with hearing loss. John was raised in Salt Lake City, and received his law degree from the University of Utah. He has a progressive sensorineural hearing loss, and uses one cochlear implant and one hearing aid. He is founder, advocacy director and counsel of and to the Washington State Communication Access Project (Wash-CAP), and counsel to the Oregon Communication Access Project (OR-CAP).

In 2011, he was pleasantly surprised to receive the year's Distinguished Service award from the civil rights section of the Washington State Bar, and also the I. King Jordan Award from ALDA, both for work on the movie-captioning cases.