Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

Communication Devices: An Communication Equivalent, But An Equal?

Filed under: Living with a disability — by at 6:33 pm on Friday, November 16, 2012

Digital Outcasdts book coverEarlier this week I had the privilege of previewing one chapter from Kel Smith’s upcoming book Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward Without Leaving People Behind, which addresses key trends in technology and their relevance to forgotten populations.

The entire chapter is refreshingly insightful, but one sentence in particular jumped out at me:

Achieving equivalency with technology is not necessarily the same as achieving equality, when interacting with others in social situations.

Thank you, Kel! You obviously get it.

Many people don’t. They seem to think: here’s the device, you can communicate and everything is all fixed now.

It’s not that simple; using a communication device during face-to-face communication, especially in a group situation, adds another layer of complexity. When an individual needs to tap out a response on a device while the conversation continues around her means the time-delayed response appears disjointed, even inappropriate, in the flow of the conversation. Her contribution might not have the same impact, value or meaning as it would have had she been able to interject verbally.

One-on-one can be a little more equal because, with the back and forth nature of the conversation, it is easier for one person to wait for response than for a group to pause the conversation while a response is prepared.

But, there are times when even one-on-one interactions are difficult. Take this one example: while attending SOBCon in Portland a couple of months ago, one fellow kindly came over to introduce himself. We knew each other from online and I had seen him at other events, but we hadn’t yet introduced ourselves, until now. As he stood there in front of me, my iPad at the ready, I knew I should say something intelligent, to ask him something, to hold up my side of the conversation. I mentally ran through a list of possible questions I could ask him: No, he is probably tired of talking about that. No, that is lame. No, that probably isn’t any of my business. Nope, I’ve got nothing. After a few awkward moments, he made his leave. I felt like a total dolt.

My iPad was on and ready, like it had been all morning. I had the ability to communicate. I had enough communication skills to know I had to take a role, a responsibility, in keeping the  conversation going. I even had a few possible questions in mind. But I lacked the confidence to ask one of them. I lacked the confidence because, really, I haven’t had that much experience carrying on a two-way conversation with someone not well-versed in Glenda-ish. I have had my iPad for only 2.5 years now; having the ability to converse with those beyond who understand my unique dialect is still new to me and I am still learning. And, that is hard to admit at the age of 46; an age when carrying on an intelligent conversation shouldn’t require so much conscious effort.

The iPad affords me a communication equivalent, but, because of the nuances of verbal communication (and the temporary lack of experience), I don’t feel my tapped responses are as equal as verbal ones – in some situations.

I look forward to reading Kel’s entire book. Digital Outcasts can be pre-ordered from the Elsevier Store.

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

Related Posts


  1. Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt » Communication Equality in Social Interactions: What Does that Really Look Like?
  2. Digital Outcasts > Equality vs. Equivalency


Comment by Kel Smith

November 16, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

You were a large part of the inspiration for this book, Glenda. I’m humbled by your kind words. Thank you so much!

Comment by SCG

November 17, 2012 @ 11:31 am

Disability or not, the concept of equivalency vs. equality impacts everyone at some point for a variety of different reasons and situations. I look forward to learning more on this topic. Thank you.

Comment by Barry Moltz

November 18, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

My apologies when I came to introduce myself. I panicked and bailed. Hope I getanother chance IRL.

Comment by Glenda

November 18, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

Barry, no need to apologize! I do sincerely appreciate you coming over to introduce yourself. I flubbed my side of the conversation. Yes, let’s make sure we get a “re-do”!

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>