Each Voice Enriches Us
Each voice enriches us. – G’Kar, Babylon 5
On today’s Diversity Day (German) I want to share a story with you.
One of our software engineers is hearing-impaired and needs to read people’s lips in order to fully understand what they are saying. The Daily Scrum in front of the taskboard can sometimes be challenging. People point at tasks and at the same time talk about what has changed, then they wave about in the general direction of “done” and mention something that got done, and then ask whether that thing with the build pipeline has occurred again, while pointing towards the seven tasks in “to do” from five feet’s distance away. It can be quite hard at times to match the conversation to an actual card on the board.
So our colleague asked whether we could introduce a pointer device to the Daily Scrum and hand it about. Now, each speaker in the Daily Scrum takes the laser pointer, highlights the task they are talking about, and then passes the laser pointer on to the next guy.
Then the person who initially felt the need for a laser pointer due to impaired hearing went on vacation — and the team kept using the pointer. They admitted that highlighting the tasks helped them all to structure the discussion and to not get lost.
There are a few more very similar examples. Behavior modifications were triggered on behalf of only one person with a disability and then turned out to improve communication for everybody.
The point to drive home is this: What seems like an extra effort and cost factor, serving only people with uncommon needs, can actually be beneficial to everybody. The position of a minority can be the crucial difference that makes a difference.
(PS: The title of this article is a quote from the Declaration of Principles.)