TEDxBend Responds to Lack of Accessibility on Accessibility Lecture

TEDxBend's Accessibility Lecture was an oxymoron in itself when people tuned in to watch. During this TEDx talk, there was no live captioning and people were outraged. Thorne Waya Davis shared via Andrew Tolman that on March 30, 2019 the TEDxBend event would be livestreamed with an interpreter in the frame. Hours later, there had been a public apology for lack of accessibility.

The video above was provided by Ashley Mitcheltree who realized that the TEDxBend video was not captioned and did not even have an interpreter in the frame so she went ahead and took it upon herself to caption the video. Andrew Tolman, who was one of the presenters in the video, shared his apology for the video not being accessible for the audience that the talk was all about.

Andrew Tolman said, “My greatest apology to the Deaf community that was left out of our message even though you are the reason we have a message at all.”  They had been informed inaccurately that the talk would be more accessible than it was and he also expressed the belief that this message was not shared the way it should’ve been presented. Lauren Elizabeth, who is the other presenter, shared the same message and credited Andrew for her message.


Nate Hergert, an Oregon resident, called TEDxBend out for lack of accessibility. He said that they failed to livestream the video with captioning as it originally was promised. He also mentioned that presenters shared their frustration about the lack of captioning or even the interpreter in the frame. 

The greatest irony of inaccessibility is that this TEDxBend talk was all about interpreters, their history and their implementation the community. “They are not performers. They are an important part of accessibility and inclusion.” Andrew Tolman stated at the beginning of the presentation.

Because of Ashley Mitcheltree, the community is able to watch the TEDxBend video now, however TEDxBend’s Event Manager, Carrie wanted to make sure people know that they too are aware of the issue and are working on making their livestream accessible in the future.

“Big TED won’t allow us to have the interpreter in the screen on the video, and our production team wasn’t able to execute on close captioning in real time this year but we are working on it for next year. The videos will have close captioning once they are finalized for distribution.” Carrie

TEDxBend is an independently organized TED event run by a woman named Moe Carrick who has taken the time to correct Carrie’s “misinterpretation of the situation”

I have apologized publicly (on STAGE) for our miss on having interpreters on the livestream. Carrie's statement is not entirely accurate that "TED rules do not allow" the shot with interpreters. We did not have the technical ability to dedicate a camera to that shot full time yesterday. We thought we would be able to. I own the misstatement. We comped (gave them free tickets) all Deaf and hard of hearing to the show yesterday (at least 10 attendees,) toured them in the backstage production at the break, and made changes this year based on the feedback from the speakers, community and interpreters. Most notably: we moved ASL interpreters to onstage, lit, and placed Deaf audience members in direct line of sight. We also committed to having closed captions on the produced and edited videos that are submitted to TED, which are the official videos. We made these changes in partnership with our Deaf community and look forward to continued improvements, including our hope to have deaf speakers or performers on stage next year and possibly deaf interpreters. Also closed caption or interpreters (preferable) for the livestream. The antagonism of Andrew and some social posts ins disappointing but I understand the historic marginalization. We hope to continue to improve and do better. - Moe