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Lip Reading is Hard

A large group of women standing or on their knees smiling at the camera.
Photographed by Ashley Taylor Media

Look at this amazing group. Our first mix and mingle event of the We Can Community of Women Entrepreneurs at Seaway Coworking. This happened on Tuesday May 17. It was a nice change of scenery. I had the pleasure to meet new people, and we network about our businesses. It’s inspiring; learning of their progress, their success and how far they have come. Most of us started with We Can to thrive when the pandemic hit. We all adore Kerry who coordinated everything for We Can! She also owns Power Your Platform business.

To be honest, I was a nervous wreck. It has been two years of us meeting virtually. I would easily hide behind the camera, I am an introvert! YUP! I teach and present online or in-person but still an introvert. I look outgoing, but hide my anxiety maybe too well. I used the chat feature to communicate one to one via Zoom with the entrepreneurs. We had interpreters and captioning for the webinars and workshops. Networking online helped me pivot my business.

This time around was different, an English/ASL interpreter is by my side to make communication fluent meeting the wonderful entrepreneurs. I use my language, American Sign Language, to communicate without a thought process of what word needs to be spoken in English. I didn’t have to code shift to mixing English and ASL. It was going well getting to know some of the entrepreneurs. 

Then later I was out of my comfort zone, when the interpreter had to leave for other work. I don’t blame her. I made every effort to communicate on my own, but people… lipreading is HARD.

It’s a technique I was trained as a child to understand speech by interpreting the movements of the lips, face and tongue with assistance from hearing aids. I am tone deaf now. No pity party, I’m used to it and consider it a deaf gain. We can talk about that another time. Lipreading is not 100% precise. It’s like a puzzle, I don’t catch everything spoken. I see something familiar, different words can be similar though and I would be guessing with 25% accuracy. I have misunderstood a time or two. I may have embarrassed myself but people kindly don’t tell me I misunderstood and carry on to avoid discomfort. Or they are thinking to themselves, hmm she’s not smart. I am! I’m bilingual!

The entrepreneurs I met took the time to slow down, rephrasing differently when I couldn’t catch an unfamiliar word they spoke. Sorry to those with masks, I didn’t mean to avoid you. When I meet a new face, it takes 3 or more meetups to get to know their face to be able to adapt to lipreading. I cannot lipread a man with a beard with a long over hanged mustache, a person smiling the whole time while talking or when they mumble. Fingerspelling or signing here and there helps me get the gist of what was said quickly.

Sending thanks to Brooke from CCS Inc, she fingerspelled some of what the other was saying – I didn’t ask but it helped me greatly. Her company is currently taking private sign language classes customized to their business.

My eyes and brain was tired, fatigue got the best of me after two hours and I knew I would not be able to lipread the next person. I wanted to stay and chat with more but the event was soon ending anyways. I did get a Skor cookie on my way out, omg it was so good. Go shop at Cook. E’s! I look forward to my headshots taken by Ashley. Also I was notified I won the draw to host a one hour meeting room at Seaway Coworking. I actually had something in mind prior down the road. Lucky me! I literally crashed when I came home. Out like a light to recuperate from peopling and lipreading. It might get better over time since the pandemic isolated us for so long. Maybe.

It should be mentioned that, consider trying to be mindful when meeting a Deaf or disabled person, every one of us do not have the same experience. Always ask their preferred communication. Don’t take it personally if they don’t communicate back, there’s always a reason that has nothing to do with you.

Are you a woman and interested in entrepreneurship… do check out We Can! If you’re a business owner and want your business to be more inclusive, let’s boost your accessibility skills today!

1 thought on “Lip Reading is Hard

  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Leah! I was nervous too — I’m also an introvert, but also, I really wanted to create an event when everyone felt welcome and a part of the group. We are always striving to do better, but this feedback helps so much. Accessibility benefits everyone, as you have said so many times! And I believe it.

    We’re so glad you’re a part of the WE-CAN community!

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