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The Keyword


A CODA story: Why accessible technology matters

Tony as a young boy in a 1995 family home video signing to his parents.

I’ve been a Googler for over four years, but many of my coworkers only recently learned that I’m a CODA or “child of a deaf adult.” And in my case, I’m the child of two because both of my parents were born deaf. 

Growing up in the ‘90s, communicating with my parents was the one thing that made me realize my experiences were different from those of my friends. Long before texting (let alone video chatting) was a thing, my family had a TTY — a complex, and frankly cumbersome device that sent messages letter by letter. By today’s standards it would seem pretty archaic, but as a kid it was just an accepted part of my family’s everyday life.

While technology has come a long way since then, there are still moments that remind me how much harder it can be for people like my parents to stay in touch and connect with the outside world. This past year, when staying close has been more difficult, accessibility has become more important — especially for my family. With the birth of my son Owen, my parents became grandparents for the first time. Being apart has been extra hard since they don’t want to miss a single milestone (big or small).  

But technologies like Live Caption and captioning in Google Meet have helped us stay close in spite of the distance. Live Caption automatically adds captions to any audio on the videos we send to my parents, so they can follow all the chatter in the background. And as all of our family time happened on Google Meet last year, captioning helped us communicate more easily — especially when our hands were occupied with Owen. Distance is never easy, but we made it work. And this week, after 14 long months of quarantined virtual bonding, my parents finally got to see Owen in person.

Tony’s parents and Owen all holding hands walking down a sidewalk together with trees in the background.

My parents and Owen on their first morning walk together.

As someone who has always had one foot in the hearing world and one in the deaf world, I’m proud to work at a company that is helping to bridge that gap by building accessible products. And while there is still much work to be done, I’m excited and grateful to be part of it.

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