Use Your Voice with Levi’s
On Thursday, October 29th, Leila and Kriston of SignVote were featured in Levi’s Your Voice series. See what they had to say about voting and voter suppression.
Hi, my name is Kriston Pumphrey and this is my name sign, and I also work with Leila and I lead with SignVote
That’s a good question. A really good question. So it’s a campaign that was made back in 2016 and it’s promoting, you know, voting in the community back in 2016. And now we’ve got 2016, 2018 and 2020. You know, we’ve made a lot of changes over time. You know, and we were trying to figure out, you know, make it more than just about rules and how to vote. But actually accessibility in the community and have accessible information.
Honestly yes you know, kind of how it started. You know, part of like what we were thinking and we just started inviting people over and just collaborating and just growing. So thank you so much for this opportunity. And, you know, hopefully we can see more of you and collaborate some more, so. Thank you so much.
Right. And that’s kind of what we wanted to, you know, accessibility is worth it You know, we need to explain why that is.
Exactly. And I agree. And to add on to that, you know, we really need to think of what the big picture with the concept is and what this all means to make something accessible, And often there is kind of like a conflict with like how we see ourselves and thinking, OK, I’m functioning just like that person is instead of, you know, what is it that you need, you know, and why and how can I support you and how can I uplift you, you know? And those are actually two different mindsets and two different perspectives. that you’re coming at you know, one is, yeah, I can do everything, you know, But then at the same time thinking, OK, how can I support you to be more involved? And that’s kind of what our goal is .And what we’re trying to advocate is to have kind of this give and take, you know, and have the benefit and just store it together.
19 30 something? It’s much later right?
Right and just didn’t have that same accessibility right? So it’s this concept centered on, you know, elevating people and bringing them in.
Right? I mean, that’s what we have to take advantage of Everyone needs to. You know, the country and its civilians really need to understand that meaning of inclusivity and accessibility and really approach these problems, you know, and advocate for that change because that benefit will spread to everyone. You know, they’re all groups of people. And it’s interesting because you were talking about, you know, the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and then other things that, you know, voting rights that were passed specifically for people with disabilities, And then also, let’s not forget the ADA You know, all of that.
Oh, and then, by the way, you know, we’re going to be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the ADA.
So, I mean, 30 years seems like a long time, but in reality, it’s not. I mean, if we really think about that, it’s it’s not that long ago. So it’s a step. It’s a big step. And so hopefully. You know, now with this and now that we’re having these discussions about accesibility and rights and inclusivity, and then… hopefully we can accomplish a lot more together, you know, just everyone feeling involved and feeling like they have that accessibility as a priority and not have to as an afterthought because forever it’s just been as an afterthought.
Always it’s been that way. And we’re trying to change that, you know. And that’s why we’re having these discussions now. You know, talk about making this change. How can we make it? How can we be more inclusive? How can we uplift oppressed voices? Find what they are. Change them and make the accommodations. And notice how the benefit will spread. And you know what I mean? And that’s… that’s just awesome.
And we’re going to be seeing the benefits of all this later. You know, I mean I mean, there are plenty of other benefits, you know, not just the ones related to what we’re talking about right now, but thinking about everything else that will follow, you know, and that’s kind of what we here at SignVote what our goal is, advocating for accessibility and what it looks like and really educating what it means to be accessible and going reaching out to communities, organizations and companies. And you know, the ADA They require that all voting content be accessible, that there not be any group that is marginalized.
But is it true? Is all content accessible? No. Like, for example, presidential debates that we’re just having it fell upon us, the community, to have to setup our own accessibility. And that is what accessibility looks like for us, when it should be the government providing that. But it has to be us having to develop and be creative and use our energy and resources, you know, to have to work around not having the accessibility. And this is all what we have to do just to accommodate our own basic needs. And this is something that the government should be providing.
So… it’s just I mean, hopefully. Yeah, I just look forward to… I would just really like to challenge, you know, what’s going on right now and especially with what with the content creators are providing. And you know what’s going on in social media, we have lots of brilliant voices, brilliant thinkers, and I would love to hear with expectance are and know what they are, but I can’t.
You know, they’re talking about politics and stuff and I can’t any stories or experiences. I mean, I catch bits and pieces here and there. But, you know, a lot of them don’t even have captions.
So it just leaves you in a place where… I’m really hoping, you know, with technology. Things are moving so quickly, changing so fast. And I’m just feeling like this is something that we can do to uplift and benefit people, you know?
Back and forth. Yeah.
And then imagine on top of that, we have the captions, sometimes there’s errors in the captioning, you know, so then that throws us off.
And, you know, it’s a little bit interesting. When we were just discussing Tom and think about how his perspective pushed or his perspective impacted all of this change and how there were these divided
communities and it’s really unfortunate. That all this information that the media out there is spreading all this misinformation and there’s really not a way for us to be able to differentiate. And it’s really hard. To have that human connection with people. And I think that’s something that definitely we can start to change.And invite more people. I mean, thinking about 2020. If it’s definitely taught us anything, it’s it’s that, you know, we need to break this divide. We need to find a way to get people to be to come together, to be more supportive of each other. And I think this is a great opportunity, you know, with Levi’s working with all these different organizations collaborating. Hopefully they can continue to make this change and hopefully people can join. And then we can move forward for this and create this change to have things accessible, not just accessible but, you know, have it set up already as a human right.
I mean accessability. A world where people don’t hesitate to You know. To do something to challenge their world view or approach something. Approach conversations more with an open mind, and that’s something that I love about Levi’s, you know, is that they offered us this opportunity and we took advantage of it. And this is positive influence where we’re constantly having to fight for a platform.
And here it is. So hopefully things can change and… People can become more welcoming and have a more inclusive world. Honestly, that is what accessibility can look like and it’s hard to have these kind of conversations. But I think our priority right now is to solve it and figure out and not have these accessibility as an afterthought.
Mouths are covered. It’s hard to see. I agree. And that’s so much more beneficial for people to learn sign, I mean, one of the requirements of signing language is to have that eye contact. Right?
I have a hearing friend, one of my great friends who always says I love ASL, I love deaf culture, because it really forces you to look at each other, you know, because here people can have their conversations and look around and you kind of lose that art of just being able to sit and look at each other and say, like, hey, I’m here. I’m with you. I noticed you and have that connection. And ASL is cool in that way because it forces you to have that eye contact. And I think we really need that back.
You know, we just get so busy. we forget things and we forget to actually just take the time to center ourselves and have that human connection.
I have not. I’m planning tomorrow morning, that’s my plan for tomorrow morning. Cross my heart.
I did just get my absentee ballot.
We have an opportunity now to bemore inclusive. Please take advantage of that. You know, any content that you put out there, I mean, there are so many brilliant, beautiful people out there that are sharing their stories and experiences. And we, the deaf community, would love to be included and access that.
This is 2020. Obviously, we should be more inclusive. Then we should be more inclusive than ever, especially with all this content. You know, deaf people want to follow, deaf people want to be involved. Deaf people want to be involved in the discussions. You know, there are apps now that you can connect to Instagram and they’ll auto caption anything that you, you know, film or speak
Use these tools. We also have deaf services out there that will provide, you know, caption or stuff like that for your messages. And I’m hoping that this will become something that we see a lot more, you know, a lot more of that advocacy. And just have more accessible content.
Love much love.
Why are you guys gonna vote?
Yes. OK. So now this is fully accessible. We’re ready to go ahead and get started.
Hello, everyone, My name is Leila Hanaumi and I work for SignVote. SignVote is a campaign by CSD, Communications Services for the Deaf.
So, what is SignVote exactly? Yeah, you’re right.
Our tagline is the vote in ASL So really, ASL American Sign Language is the core to accessibility for the deaf community.
Keeping in mind that before we go ahead and proceed, we do want to give you a little bit of a background story about how SignVote actually got here on Levi’s Instagram platform today.
You really need to back up and maybe perhaps you’ve seen the PSA public service announcement by Levi’s to encourage people to get out and vote.
There’s Jaden Smith in it. Lots of famous people. Hailey Bieber. Justin Bieber’s wife is in there, and to be honest, you know, this was a really groundbreaking PSA.
And why is that? Because there was an ASL provided throughout the entire PSA for the entire advertisement. And that is probably one of the first times that we’ve ever seen a big name, a big brand, provide accessibility as part of the entire process and not just as an afterthought.
The actual interpreter involved in the PSA. Her name is Rorri Burton. She is also took a step forward to let Levi’s know in advance as far as promoting sig language and promoting voting in the deaf community. There is a campaign that is already doing part of the work for the deaf community. And she wanted to be connected. She wanted to provide the connection between Levi’s and SignVote.
And so that’s when we got the email out of the blue saying that we would have an opportunity at SignVote to work with Levi’s. We were thrilled at the opportunity and jumped at the chance. And so it’s actually funny that Rorri is working as an interpreter here with us today.
So we wanted to call Rorri in join us, just for a couple of minutes.
Leila is saying, Hi Rorri
Yes, so it’s been really exciting. I’m a little bit nervous today, but I wanted to thank you for helping us, leading the way, making this opportunity for us to be here. So if you wanted to share a little bit about your experience with the PSA or anything, really, you wanted to share with the community. Go ahead, Rorri.
And Rorri says Yeah, sure, I can do that. It’s been really thrilling to have this opportunity to be up on camera and especially with the PSA. That was a thrilling experience. I don’t know in depth what happened and what was going to happen next in regards to the PSA. I didn’t know where that was going to lead me. But Levi’s had sent me an email after the fact and they said, oh, these are the different organizations we wanted to support, especially voting and voter registration
So when I pulled up the list of names of the different organizations. The list, I looked through it, but really there was none. No deaf names present there. There was no deaf organizations in regards to the vote and Levi’s didn’t know this, of course, they’re a hearing organization. But I knew.
So when I saw that, I felt a little bit uneasy. So I thought I would take the opportunity to connect you guys with Levi’s. And Levi’s, of course, is very open minded at that. And so they got in contact with SignVote and they were more than willing to get in contact with you.
And I didn’t know what’s gonna happen next after that. But you guys are here today, and I feel like, wow. It was a wonderful opportunity for the deaf community and the hearing community to work hand-in-hand with each other.
We have to know that hearing people aren’t the only voters out there that deaf people are voting too, and that needs to be accessible. So I’m just happy to be here with you guys. Of course. Thank you.
And now Rorri’s going to go back to voice interpreting with her team of interpreters. So for those of you watching just now that she’s gonna bescreen and she’s the whole reason that we’re here today, she’s been behind the scenes.
She’s working with the Levi’s team right now and her interpreting team. And so we’re just trying to make sure that this content is accessible and we’re emphasizing that.
So most of the time, Instagram is not an accessible platform for the deaf community. There’s only small features that there are interpreters or captions, but really that is not deaf friendly. So we just wanted to emphasize the fact that Instagram is not accessible and we wanted this video on Instagram to be accessible for everybody.
And so, you know that, you know, people automatically think accessibility and they imagine different things when they think of that word. Perhaps people think of a building as a building accessible to someone who uses a wheelchair.
In the past… There there was no accessibility provided in architectural design. That entire process did not include anything. So things would have to be retrofitted later.
So once we have really decided to embrace universal design and universal design includes accessibility for people who use wheelchairs. That design has become different. Architecture has become different in the most beautiful way, and it completely benefits so many people, not just people who happen to use wheelchairs.
It benefits me as a mom, for example. Once I bring my baby in a stroller somewhere, I’m able to use the universal design ramps to provide access so people who have created architecture with universal design have figured out that it benefits people at large.
And for us, access is related to more than just architecture and a building. It’s related to language, ASL interpreters, captions, perhaps some type of audio for some people. But captions are not good enough by themselves. It’s not suited for everyone in every discussion. There are people who have experienced language deprivation and so just the use of captions. Does not provide important information, especially as it relates to Covid 19, to voting, to politics So it’s quite important that we provide that information in more than just captions. and ASL is part of that process.
You’re exactly right. And that makes me think about how we as a nation. The hierarchy of power that we have here established, and that starts with, you know, a limited group of people who have the power here in the USA. And that’s typically been white men that we, you know, call our founding fathers. They left Britain because they wanted to have their own way of life. So they came to America.
They set up the colonies and they established what that means to have rights. And they designed the system for what our country would be built upon. And that country that was designed for white men that was not designed for the rest of us. They thought about where did they want to live? What would success look like for them? And they built a system that would help them achieve that.
And there’s been a lot of changes since then, you know, as far as voting rights go voting started with a group of white men after slavery was abolished. There was civil war, there came civil rights protests. And those were all included with, you know, challenging, of course, the system, as it were.
So when black men said, we want to vote as well, we want those rights also. That process expanded the group of people who had power.
Like, OK, you guys are going to have rights, too. Then women spoke up. We want to have voting rights as well. So that pool of voters expanded as well one more time.
What is interesting, though, it wasn’t until recently when people were able to say when did women get the right to vote? And do you know what year that was, Kriston?
Not bad. Not bad.
Forgive me for putting you on the spot We have to wake up the audience a little bit and get their brains running as well. So on paper, the response is 1920. That’s when women suffrage, that movement happened in 1920. And the amendment was passed for women to also have the right to vote.
However, we just have finally realized that not all women received the right to vote because black women still did not have voting rights after that, 1920 did not mark their suffrage. Yeah, they had to fight. They had to, you know, go along with what was what was given to them. And we tend to…
You know, say hey, well you have to wait your turn. It’s not your turn yet. Now hold on. We’re giving the rights to someone else, not you yet. And it continues like that.
So it wasn’t until 1964 when the Voting Rights Act was passed that removed a lot of unnecessary obstacles to voting because, for example in the past. Some of the requirements to be able to vote included things like you had to be able to pay a property tax You had to pass certain reading and writing exams. And so those were barriers for black people because they couldn’t own property while they were slaves.
So the system was already set up to be a barrier to black people to make it harder for by BIPOC people black, indigenous people of color to vote. And so when the Voting Act was passed, it removed those blockages. And deaf people benefited from that as well, from the Voting Rights Act being passed because there are people who are deaf, who experience language deprivation, who deaf people tend to have higher unemployment rates. So when those barriers for the black community were removed, there were barriers also removed for the deaf community. And so we have to recognize that we have also a huge blackhole in our deaf community.
So that’s an example of how we think about accessibility, but that really benefits not just us as a community, but other people as well. Yay!
Yeah. We have to center the most marginalized people and figure out why they are, where they are and apply whatever they need. For example, as we’re making content to post on social media, always try to think of a real person that might be looking at your content, try to think of, you know, they might be black. They might be someone who’s deaf. They might be someone who’s blind or someone with a disability. They might be someone queer or trans, someone female. I try to think of actual people that I know in real life. And so that definitely changes my mindset. As I go to post, for example, I have to say you know, if I’m adding a picture, do I need to add a picture description? I’m thinking of a person who perhaps would not be invited or welcomed or included in my content if I did not do that. So it makes me feel different. It makes me feel like, oh, this isn’t quite right and I want to make sure I include that person. So it forces me to take the time to add the extra image description or as I’m filming something.
Sometimes I want to post something that you know, I’ll see maybe my white friends for example, would look at a picture of a black person and maybe not respect it or, you know, something just does not sit right with me. I have to think. And, you know, in my brain, I’m kind of having a conversation that person as I go along. That’s my approach. So it’s a really powerful way. A concept for me to do that. So I have to be… Mindful that technology is completely different today and hopefully companies will join along and recognize that there are people who are using their technology who need accessibility, that’s different than what they are.
I bet that 99% of these companies have not considered accessibility for someone who perhaps is blind or has different needs. So it does wor when you do that. And that’s something that we need to improve right now. There is a movement to better our lives, to have a society that’s way more inclusive.
Yeah, that’s a good example.
It’s frustrating huh?
So you mentioned the presidential debates. That is actually a great example of why we need ASL interpreters, because we all saw what happened during the first debate. There was so many interruptions back and forth. And so the captions really were worthless at that point because we couldn’t even tell who was speaking. The captions were just running and we didn’t know what was going on.
So DPAN.TV, one of our SignVote partners, we do partner with DPAN. They were able to provide ASL interpreters on their platform. And what it looked like was one interpreter per speaker, plus one interpreter for Trump, one interpreter for Biden, as well as one interpreter for the moderator.
So there were times when all three signers on the screen at the same time, all three interpreters, because that was what was happening in real life. There were all three people speaking at the same time. So we were able to follow. Who is saying what and when. And it’s true accessibility for our community. You know, as far as that, deaf people were able to finally plug in and see what was going on, I had a friend’s parents say that was the first time that they actually watched a debate and understood what was happening. So that’s quite inspiring to see.
And I do want to talk about, Kriston, you mentioned something that was very important. The milestone ADA 30th anniversary this year that happened There is a story that I want to share with you, a real example about how important voting is and how much the law is impacted. So during the spring, and the summer, when Covid 19 really was burgeoning here, the White House had press briefings where there was no ASL interpreters provided ever.
So we as the deaf community, we try to reach out to the government and say, hey, we need to make sure ASL interpreters are provided. We need this lifesaving emergency information provided to us. We need to know what’s going on. Yeah, go ahead.
So, again, DPAN.TV came in SignVote supports DPAN.TV also. And every morning they would have to get up, watch the news, confirm the press briefing was happening, call a team of interpreters, make sure everyone was at the ready. Have the cameras, all the equipment ready. Pay their team, pay their staff, pay for the equipment, which is not cheap. By the way. And so they tried to depend on deaf businesses, including CSD, because they do sponsor with finances as well. Just to be able to provide access for the president’s press briefings. So think about the energy and all the money, you know, that was meant for other things that we have to use to provide this for our community.
So what ended up happening is NAD Which is National Association for the Deaf. They decided to go ahead and sue the White House. Because the White House did not provide ASL interpreters for the Covid 19 press briefings. And so they were not accessible. So in NAD decided to sue. The White House response was… No… It’s not the White House’s responsibility. It’s the news channel’s responsibility. They film us. They broadcast it on their channel. Therefore, they have to add the interpreters. So that case has gone to federal court. And the judge reviewed, looked at all the precedents and did rule that the NAD was correct. And based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, it said that the responsibility would fall on the White House, so that was a huge win for the deaf community.
And so that takes us back to 30 years ago when the ADA was initially passed. Without that ADA without that law, what will we have done? What grounds will we have at to stand on to sue the White House? What law would they have broken? There would have been none. It would just kind of been, you know, nebulous. Out there in the air based on someone’s opinion.
So this is not based on opinion. It’s based on law. And how that law came to happen was back at that time. People were voting for state senators and there was a senator named Tom Harkin who happened to have a brother who was deaf. Tom, who I actually met, he’s a super great guy. He does sign. He was one of the few leaders of the bill 30 years ago before ADA became law. So I think he’s from Iowa, I believe. But the people of Iowa voted Tom to take leadership to become a senator. And so he was the one who introduced that huge life changing bill that would provide accessibility for deaf Americans. So as we vote locally, that affects state officials and those people do impact laws on a national level.And so that’s the world we live in today.
That’s a perfect segue to my next question. What does the future look like to you? I don’t know if this wish is a little bit radical or not, but for me, the future looks like everyone’s signing.
Yeah. I don’t expect everyone to be fluent in ASL, you know, level 4, or level 5, ASL signer. No, but I mean, it’s not impossible for everyone to have just even a basic understanding of sign language. to know their alphabet. to be comfortable with gesturing, to be comfortable with using their facial expressions, to use body language as part of their communication package. And not just be so limited and reliant on audio and their voices. I mean, because there’s so many people who speak languages and speak languages beautifully and there’s so many spoken languages. but sometimes it’s like a linear process where you speak one word at a time that, you know, versus a signed system, a signed language. where it’s, visual and spatial. And, you know, you use your space and you use your facial expressions to express and convey emotions. And so…That is a very human aspect as well. So I wanted to see in the future where everyone becomes more at ease with expressing themselves via sign language. And so that whole thing would support just an open mindedness where you’re not assuming that everyone that you meet. Can speak to you or can hear you. And so that would be beautiful to have that around us all the time. If you’re in a public space, Right now, everyone’s wearing masks.
Yeah, or we, you know, maybe won’t even realize that someone is actually trying to speak to us. And so they’ll get upset with us because we’re not responding to them. So I would love for people to just be… More kind and to not assume, you know, maybe the person doesn’t communicate in the same way as you do and to realize that maybe their needs are different than what your needs are and that it’s OK to have that happen. And so that we can shift our energy in that directionto figure out what that person’s needs are and then we can come up with a resolution.
One thing I have to add is that the deaf blind community operates differently. They don’t depend on eye contact. They depend on such. Yes, they use the tactile sign language. And so it’s become its own language, really, it has own rules. It has its own everything.
So…That is also a different way of connect via touch. So I think maybe that this would be a good segue into something we want to teach our audience a little bit of sign language, right?
Some of our audience members perhaps are familiar with the name Christine Sun Kim. She is a deaf sound artist and her work is fascinating. It’s brilliant. You’ve never seen anything like it before. So she’s just designed a logo for The New York Times. I believe. And we in the United States We voted there’s like a little logo with a check symbol. So Christine Sun Kim has designed one that says “vote finish” which is kind of the ASL ized version of that, which means I voted.
Are you guys ready to learn wha that would look like? Vote Finish That’s how you sign that. We’ll do it again. I’ll sign it for you guys again. vote finish So, Kriston, did you vote already? I did do early voting in person. I went to the polls one tip, for you people who want to vote in person, go ahead Google “local polling wait time” And there’s a map that comes up with that.
And so some websites will actually provide you the actual waiting time. and so you can pick a poplace that has something, youknow, perhaps under 20 minutes. You can go you know, it’s a smooth process. It’s very safe. So you can vote in person that way like I did.
So I think this is time for any last thoughts that you might want to leave our audience with. If you are deaf and hard of hearing or you just want to see ASL content related to voting, go ahead and subscribe to SignVote’s weekly newsletter or you can just check out our website, which is signvote.org
We do have these cool t shirts for sale on the website. And we have signable merch We’ve got cute little like a future sign voters that you can get for your babies, perhaps a little onesie? Things like that. Whether you’re a sign voter or a future sign voter, merch for them. Also on the website… What else do we have? Go ahead and follow SignVote on social media and stay included. Keep us in mind for future actions, and our future will look bright if we include everyone.
Thank you, guys. Thank you so much. We love you guys, Why are you guys gonna vote?