Esteemed colleague Michael Erard wrote way too many words about the tremendous obstacles he faced fact-checking an article with deaf and hearing informants:
Reading back the piece to Kate and Hilaria would be easy enough. But what was it going to mean to “read it back” to Lynn? The obvious option: Send her the text of the story.
The actual obvious option: Use the relay service.
The only way this could work is because Lynn had arranged for a real-time captioner named Rabin´ Monroe, who is contracted through the university
There is no way in the world Rabin’s name ends with an acute accent. Even if it allegedly ends with an apostrophe, we don’t have to abide by that orthography. (Quick: Make it possessive.)
I’m not going to say that our execution was perfectly frictionless, but it’s worth noting that 20 years ago this conversation would have been cumbersome to the point of impossibility. Even if the telecommunications had been cheap, we didn’t have accessible, quality keyboard and screen technologies. The real-time text channel wouldn’t have been so easily available, either. Before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, people didn’t have the leverage to get institutions to pay for accommodations like real-time captioning. Without captioning, the article would have been translated into ASL by an interpreter.
As Erard knows, this is complete bullshit. I was using the relay service in 1987. The ADA required relay services everywhere in the United States, and they were available before that anyway. “20 years ago” Erard could straightforwardly have used the relay service. Today he still could: In Maine, dial 711 or (800) 457‑1220 (better for voice-to-TTY – I called and asked).
Going to all that trouble and being hyper-aware of how much trouble you’re going through makes, I guess, a good story. It does not prove you ever had to go to all that trouble. (I wrote to Erard twice pointing out his error about the relay service and did not hear back.)
Further, his method of fact-checking the article is improper, even ethically. You can’t read back quotes to sources, and you can’t show sources your actual copy. Sources then attempt to rewrite their own words and rewrite your copy. Where did I learn that? Well, in part by getting fact-checked by the Atlantic for the article Erard wrote about me.