On Saturday, November 18, Perkins School for the Blind Diversity and Inclusion Speaker Jaimi Lard took the stage at TEDxBeaconStreet for the first time, delivering a 10-minute talk on the importance of inclusion. Lard, who is deafblind, was accompanied by her interpreter, Christine Dwyer.
Although she couldn’t see the audience or hear their applause, Lard said she could feel the energy in the room as she told her story and the story of Helen Keller, who was also deafblind and attended Perkins.
“It was invigorating,” she said afterwards. “My message was: don’t exclude, don’t ignore, don’t shy away.”
Here are six of Lard’s tips on how to be inclusive:
1. Share what you love. Whether you’re deafblind or fully sighted, chances are you have something in common – so share it. “Something I love is coffee,” said Lard. “I love having my friends come over to my house for a cup. I always enjoy that.”
2. Learn different ways of communicating. Most people who are deafblind use sign language to communicate. It takes less than five minutes to learn how to sign simple phrases like, “Hello, nice to meet you.” Since people who are deafblind can’t see or hear applause, Lard taught the TEDxBeaconStreet crowd to stamp their feet instead. “That’s how deafblind people applaud,” she said. “I can’t hear your applause, or see it, but what I can do is feel it.”
3. See the world differently. Take a moment to consider how people with visual impairment see the world. Lard showed the audience a fuzzy black and white photograph of a cow. “This is how I see the world,” she said. “Take the time to look at things the way others do.”
4. Lend a hand. If you see someone who looks like they might be in danger, offer to help. Lard and Dwyer demonstrated sighted guide technique. “It’s a simple way that you can help someone be safe,” said Dwyer. “Tap the shoulder and offer an elbow.” If the person declines, chances are they still appreciate the gesture.
5. Make your workplace inclusive. “Disabled people go to work too,” said Lard. “I do presentations, my friend John works at Perkins in a factory and my other friend Linda works in a hospital.” Don’t assume that people can’t do a job just because they don’t have vision or hearing. Instead, ask them what they can do.
6. Keep your sense of humor. “Mistakes are going to happen,” said Lard. “That’s OK because that’s what happens in life. We’ll just laugh through it.”