Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Svetlana Kouznetsova about her career, her advocacy for better communication accessibility for the deaf community, and the creative process that went into her new book, Sound Is Not Enough.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m an independent consultant and accessibility trailblazer who happens to be deaf. I have worked with businesses for over 10 years on improving accessibility of their mainstream web, media, and events for the world’s largest minority of 1.85 billion disabled people.
I’m also an international speaker and a book author. My TEDx talk uncovers the benefits of high quality captioning access that increase audience and ROI for businesses.
I was born and raised in Russia. Now I live in the United States. Being deaf since age 2, I have had to use various alternative solutions to effectively navigate communication and information barriers.
Captions on TV changed my life when I was 15 years old. They played a major role in helping me master English as my third language and access aural information in the same language as a deaf person. Since then I cannot imagine my life without captioning access.
I have over 20 years of experience in design, technology, and accessibility. My combination of personal experience with deafness and professional expertise in accessibility offers people a valuable insight into the importance of accessibility.
Many people think that deafness is a weakness, but I have proven them otherwise through my consulting and international speaking.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I don’t remember when exactly I wanted to write a book, but I have been dreaming about it since I was a little girl. Being deaf and dealing with a lot of communication and information access limitations to aural information in Russian and English, I was not sure if it would be possible. Also, self publishing was not a thing back then.
Fast forward, I was contemplating pursuing a PHD degree then changed my mind. I started telling myself why spend my time and money on a doctoral dissertation if I could publish a book. Self publishing became possible at that time.
When did you take a step to start writing?
As I started my consulting services and speaking engagements, I learned that my fellow consultants and speakers published their books as a supplement to their businesses. I thought to myself that if I kept telling myself that I would rather write a book than a doctoral dissertation, why not do it now, haha. So I started writing a book about 10 years ago.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
It took me about 2 years to work on the book. I already wrote many articles, did consulting sessions, and gave presentations and workshops, so I had all the materials ready to start writing the book. The only thing I needed was to organize content to make it into the book.
What made you want to write Sound Is Not Enough?
My clientele are corporations, media producers, event organizers, business owners, and educational institutions. So they are my target audience for the book.
There’s still a lack of awareness about high quality speech to text access. Many people do not realize how critical it is to 466 million deaf people inthe world or think that auto transcription solves all accessibility issues. It’s further from the truth. Captioning is more than just adding text. It’s an art and involves a lot of moving parts. Also, there are many different types of captioning access depending on a type of aural content – TV, movies, videos, podcasts, events, classes, work meetings, public announcements, and so on.
High quality captioning and transcription is as critical as high quality audio. Just like it’s frustrating for non-deaf people to listen to poor audio, poor text is draining on our deaf brains. Also, our experiences with reading captioning is not the same as those of people who have good hearing to fall back on if poor text doesn’t make sense to them. It’s not enough to just ensure accuracy but also proper formatting of text for improved readability.
My book helps businesses better understand why captioning access is important in all industries and all areas of life and why they need to use consulting services to improve experience for deaf people. Just using captioning vendors is not enough just like working with authors is not enough. Even the best authors work with editors and designers. It’s the same when it comes to using my services for improved experience with media and event accessibility.
I’m currently working on a revision of my book. Most of the information in the current edition is still relevant. There’s some pieces of information I plan to add, change, and remove for the new edition.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Sound Is Not Enough?
Finding an editor. I had to do 3 rounds of interviews with many editors before working with the right one.
What was your research process for Sound Is Not Enough?
I already had materials ready that I did research on for my articles, presentations, and workshops. I also accumulated my knowledge over the years. I have lived experience with deafness and professional expertise in accessibility that I share in my book.
How did you plan the structure of Sound Is Not Enough?
It came naturally to me. I already had the material and figured out the table of content based on it. I did some reshuffling and fine tuning when needed.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Sound Is Not Enough need?
Yes, I worked with a great editor. He helped me mostly with copy editing.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
I would say go for it! :0)
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I have some ideas but it’s too soon to share them now. :0)
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes, definitely! It was hard for me to master English as a native Russian speaker on top of my deafness. There were many times when I was about to give up but I had to bit the bullet. Little did I know that English would become part of my daily life. Literature was one of the most difficult subjects in school for me. I loved reading books, but always dreaded writing book reports, even in native Russian. I did not anticipate that I would publish my own book in a language other than my native Russian! I was beaming with pride when holding a hardcopy of my book for the first time. It was hard to believe that I actually wrote it!
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Landing Page: https://about.me/svetlanakouznetsova
Svetlana Kouznetsova Consulting Services: https://svknyc.com
Audio Accessibility: https://audio-accessibility.com
TEDx Talk: https://youtu.be/ngKp9MqUGj8
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