Lindork’s Lists – Q&A #24: Crystal Jones
Note: this is the public version of my email newsletter Q&A that gets sent to paid subscriber inboxes first every other Sunday. You can get these Q&As in your inbox first by becoming a paid subscriber.
Originally published to newsletter subscribers on Feb 27, 2022
The twenty-fourth person I’m profiling in my newsletter subscriber Q&A series is:
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advocate Crystal Jones
Getting to know Crystal Jones:
Crystal Jones, 43, is a Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Web Accessibility Advocate based in Edmonton. She also goes by artist and “Balcony Queen.” I first ‘met’ Crystal online after seeing her posts educating others on the importance of video captions. Working in social media, adding captions to videos makes a lot of sense because most people scrolling their phones don’t often have sound on (and pre-TikTok era, most people rarely turned their sound on when they came across videos), so ensuring people can read what was being said on the video made sense from that perspective—but really, really makes sense from the accessibility perspective, which Crystal has been pushing companies not only in Edmonton but all over, to do online.
I used to smile when I clicked into a tweet and saw Crystal’s reply underneath, requesting the poster to consider adding captions (smile and then think, ooh glad I’m not that company! lol)
Then Crystal co-presented on web accessibility with me a few years ago during social media training sessions I did for the City of Edmonton, and at that time, I learned more about what she calls “craptions”—auto captions that don’t get edited, which often results in some hilarious, sometimes horrible typos.
As Crystal advises below, use auto captions to take the brunt of the captioning work to start, but then always go in and edit to ensure the captions are correct. (I’ve had a lot of sad craption guesses for my last name lol).
Crystal raises a lot of awareness about how we can all check our privileges and be more inclusive from the perspective of accessibility, ableism, and a new-to-me term I learned from Crystal: Audism, which references discrimination or prejudice against individuals who are d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Let’s Dive Into the Q&A with Crystal Jones:
Can you talk about why it’s important for you to do this advocacy work? Articulate why you do what you do?
I think the advocacy work I do is important because I believe that the web and social media should be accessible to everyone especially disabled people. I want to ensure that everyone has equal access and equal opportunity to information and communication technologies.
When I got into social media, it opened up my world and created more opportunities for me but I also found myself getting frustrated with how social media was also inaccessible to me—for example videos with no captioning, auto-captioning aka “craptions” being used and lack of transcripts being provided. So I started to talk about my experiences and asking businesses, organizers, influencers and in general everyone to please caption their content.
Can you describe your web accessibility advocacy, the work you do as a member of the City of Edmonton Accessibility Advisory Committee, and the work you related to advocacy on social media?
I am in my last year with the Accessibility Advisory Committee. I was appointed to the committee with the notion I would be changing Deaf/HoH people’s lives but that was not always the case. I got involved in other projects concerning other disabilities and began looking after AAC’s social media as it was pretty quiet and not very active. The web accessibility advocacy work I do is just a side project to try better myself as an advocate and to keep on top of social media and web accessibility.
Can you share about being Deaf? Were you born deaf, did that come later, and can you describe the challenges of being deaf growing up and now as an adult?
I became Deaf when I was two years old from meningitis. My mom learned sign language so we could communicate. The challenges I had as a child growing up ranged from trying to fit in with other students who often misunderstood me (why I was the way I was or why I had a different perspective of things).
My mom has shared with me that she had difficulties trying to get the school board and teachers to understand that I was normal and intelligent, and just needed sign language interpreters to ensure that I would have access to the same information and opportunities as everyone else.
As an adult, I find it challenging getting equal access and opportunities as everyone else. As a Deaf person who speaks and lipreads, hearing people assume they have already done their part, that they have reasonably accommodated me when I still need ASL interpreters, professional captioning or material presented to me with captioning or transcripts, is challenging.
You often correcting reporters, news orgs, etc. on how they describe people who are Deaf, or are hearing-impaired. Do you find that when you share that type of education online, it’s well-received? Do you care if it’s well-received, or just happy that you’re getting it out there?
When trying to identify a person with a hearing loss, the general consensus with identity is Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
I think the information I share online is well received as I use humour and I try to be kind. I do get angry, frustrated and exhausted at times. Sometimes I feel like I am screaming into the void then someone comes along and tells me they have learned a lot. I have noticed over the years, more people are advocating and speaking up asking people to caption their content, avoid using craptions and use alt texts when describing images. I always try step back and look for small accessibility wins like Ryan Reynolds which I will talk about further in this Q&A.
I think something that’s interesting that you share on social media as well is what it’s like dating as a person who is deaf—are you open to sharing about that experience—positives, negatives, what you’ve learned putting yourself out there (online dating?)
Dating as a Deaf person is interesting. Using being Deaf is a great way to filter out those who do not want to challenge their bias and assumptions about deaf people. For the most part, men are receptive and open to dating a deaf woman. They later find that they have to adapt the way they have to communicate with me and begin to understand the bias and discrimination I experience with hearing people.
For example, when my partner and I go out for dinner, the waitstaff will find out I am deaf and begin to ignore me. They will keep looking to my partner to interpret for me, not realizing I can speak for myself or, they will infantilize me by waiting for my partner to order for me.
There are many other examples where hearing people question my intelligence and independence or infantilize me and my partner will get upset with how I am being treated. If I have my dating profile activated, I sometimes deal with men who try to fetishize my disability. “Ohh, I’ve never been with a Deaf woman.” Hopefully after the pandemic is over, people will want to get out, socialize and be willing to meet people.
Can you share a memorable moment or ‘successes’ in your advocacy work? I am reminded of your Ryan Reynolds accessibility tweet that went viral, can you share about that—and any other memorable moments?
The most memorable moment for me was in 2019, Ryan rolled out a video ad for his Aviator’s Gin. His had gone viral and the Headliner Caption bot was not yet a thing, so I did not understand why this video was viral. I tweeted at Ryan asking him to caption his video. I didn’t think he would get back to me because I was small potatoes. I put down my phone to attend to other things that afternoon and three hours later, I checked my phone and saw that there was like a thousand notifications and I thought whats going on?
So I went to investigate and found out that Ryan Reynolds tweeted AT me and shared a captioned version of his Aviator Gin ad. I was absolutely shocked. That tweet garnished like 15K views. I had to mute his tweet to me and deal with some trolls.
Can you share a challenging moment, obstacles or failure in advocacy work?
A challenging moment for me is feeling like I’m screaming into the void or doing the labour work for other people. I try not to think too much about that because every now and then someone writes and let me know that I made them think about what they do with their work or how they interact with other deaf people. Sometimes I feel people ask me questions expecting me to do free labour for them. I just started working on a LinkTree to share documents and links directing people to resources as well as kindly ask people to pay for my time.
Can you share advice for how others—in whatever line of work they do—can incorporate more accessibility, or be more inclusive, in that work they do? Reminders? Easy ‘wins’?
Goals others can do to make their content or website more accessible—caption everything. This should be non-negotiable. There are many apps and professional services that will do the work.
A quick win is to let auto caption do the work, then go back and edit.
Another win is to allocate 10% of your yearly budget for accessibility or accommodations. You never know when you might need to tap into that reserve but its there and ready to cover any upcoming expenses.
Transcripts for podcasts or videos without captions is a great win too. Sometimes people are not able to listen to your live podcast or they prefer the visual form of your podcast so transcriptions are handy to have on hand. And a last reminder for everyone that audism and ableism exists and we all must work to dismantle them.
Can you tell me about your hobbies! What do you for fun? (I know you’re a talented painter!)
I do mixed media painting. As a Deaf person, texture and visual components of the painting are very important to me so I love creating these thick textured paintings of flowers.
In the spring and summer time, I love tending to my garden. I moved to a new place last summer but prior to that, my balcony at my old place was practically a jungle and you could only move sideways. My new place has a much bigger balcony which was really nice because I had more room to move. Lol. I enjoy reading and working out as well.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I love Linda’s dog Olive. Artie too but Olive’s is my favourite. Lol. Also, I have managed to maybe make 12 people buy fairy lights to go with their curtains. The decor light companies should be reaching out to me to promote their products because I absolutely love light gadgets, string lights or anything that makes my place brighter.
Wrapping up our Q&A:
What show would you recommend people watch on Netflix (or other streaming services) and why?
Hands down I would recommend Schitt’s Creek. The show had so many funny or light hearted moments. I cried A LOT watching this show. I recently started watching Zoo which is a show about animals all over the world who begin attacking humans and being strategic about their attacks. I’m not done watching so I don’t know how the end turns out.
Is there a book or podcast you recently read (or doesn’t have to be recent) that you would recommend to others and why?
What is one of your favourite local restaurants or stores you’d recommend?
What’s something about Alberta you love or recommend others check out?
I recommend going out to Ogre Canyon which is a hidden gem. You have to drive to through Hinton and take a side road to Brule and search for the hidden road. There used to be a cafe called Oma’s and you could have lunch and dinner but I moved away about 20 years ago, so I’m not sure if its still there. (Note from Linda: It is still there!)
Thank you Crystal for sharing your story!
You can connect with Crystal on:
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