Friday, 18 September 2015

Do you use a cell phone?

A shot from one of SFU's lecture halls (Photo from Flickr) - this is scary for a hard of hearing student!

For those of you who answered the title question with a resounding 'YES!', then this might be an interesting article in relation to the use of technology in contemporary Canada.

Ah yes. In the last 48 hours or so, the hard of hearing community has felt a wave of shock and outrage. From Newfoundland and Labrador, to beautiful Vancouver Island (where I live), the impact of ONE teacher not willing to use an FM system. (and I bet you this teacher uses a cell phone, but more on that later)

The FM system, according to the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) is a personal frequency modulation (FM) system. They can be likened to miniature radio stations operating on a special frequency. A transmitter microphone is used by the speaker, whereas a receiver is used by the listener (the hard of hearing person). Think of it as a cell phone conversation, but just one-way. I used it for several years, and it was a lifesaving device that allowed me to fully participate in the classroom, even though it made me look like a child suicide bomber. (I stole that line from one of Stephen O'Keefe's comedy routines)

Unfortunately, in the case of Mr. William Sears, a student at Memorial University in St. John's Newfoundland, Dr. Ranee Panjabi has refused to wear the FM system on religious grounds.

Seriously, c'mon give me a break. 

Religious freedom and beliefs aside, this is ridiculous. I will admit that I don't fully comprehend her reasoning - although a past news article claims that the frequencies transmitted would disrupt Dr. Panjabi's karma.

Boy oh boy. Someone posted on my facebook feed saying that if she doesn't get her act together, she'll "experience a different kind of karma"! Dr. Panjabi claims that she can't use the FM system based on her Hindu belief. Even though I'm Catholic, I thought it would be interesting to see what the atheists think of this case given the religious nature, and found a relatively interesting article from the Friendly Atheist, which states:

"...I can’t recall any holy book saying adherents should always screw over people with disabilities. Since when is wearing a microphone getting in the way of God? (If anything, He’ll just hear your prayers that much more.)

...Reasonable religious accommodations ought to be made for teachers as well as students, but there’s nothing reasonable about what this professor is doing. She’s just using religion as an excuse to get out of doing what everyone else just does."

On a more personal note, one of my former teachers, Annabelle wrote on my wall saying that:

Monique, strangely I was going to email you today about this absurd behavior from a Professional. This is ridiculous and should never, ever happen. It is nothing to do with her religious beliefs. I wonder if she has a computer, a lap top and iPad a cell phone, a microwave, a washing machine or dryer, a car. I could continue to list forever. People like her should not be in the teaching profession anywhere in this country! I am sick to death of people claiming they cannot do so and so because of religious or cultural beliefs and then having their superiors accept their so called reasons! I am about to explode with my anger!

The basic human fact remains, if you have an opportunity to help someone else without inherent harm to you, wouldn't you want to help make that person's life a bit easier? If Dr. Panjabi can give an explanation beyond reasonable doubt, I'd be willing to hear it. Otherwise, it is not looking so awesome for her right now.

Lastly, I'm curious as to how Dr. Panjabi gets through life given that our world is becoming more wireless, and more frequency based. I'll assume that Dr. Panjabi even uses a smartphone like 90% of the Westernized world does. According to The Guardian, WiFi frequencies from a radio if used accordingly, aren't as dangerous to the human physiology as a typical cell phone conversation. Even though the information might be construed as anecdotal, I think they make a good point when they write:

"Twenty laptops and two routers is roughly equivalent to one mobile phone."

Perhaps the first thing that needs to go for Dr. Panjabi is her cell phone. Then maybe she'll realize how awful it is to be isolated from the rest of the world, because hey, I can't really hear on the phone like most people do.

Now we'll just have to wait and see what Memorial University says in response to all this bru ha-ha. The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association Newfoundland-Labrador has provided their letter of complaint, as have the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (at least to my knowledge to date). In the meantime, do sign the petition here to show your support.

William Sears, you rock. All the advocates in Newfoundland and Labrador (and the rest of Canada) have your back.

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