Susan Elliot, an award winning teacher who teaches history and social studies to both mainstream and hearing impaired students was initially invited to speak at an education conference in Singapore later in the year. However, according to Edweek, once Elliot was discovered to be hearing impaired herself, her invitation was retracted, based on what the conference committee deemed as a “miscommunication”. (Thursday, 16 Apr’09)
When Singaporeans heard of the story, word spread on the Internet, and people wrote in to the conference officials to reinstate Elliot’s invitation, many voicing that it was insensitive to withdraw an invitation just because Elliot was hearing impaired.
According to Edweek, as of Saturday, 22 Apr’09, the conference chairman personally clarified matters with Elliot, sincerely apologising for the withdrawal of their invitation and reinstated her invitation. Elliot has accepted their apology and will also be attending and speaking at the conference in September this year.
This was the statement issued to anybody who wrote in to the conference officials:
The withdrawal of our invitation to Ms Susan Elliot was a mistake on our part. It arose from our misunderstanding about the need for interpreters and her professional experience. The chairman of the Organising Committee has since contacted Ms Elliot and spoken to her personally to convey our sincere apologies. We should have clarified these matters before making the decision. Ms Elliot has accepted our apology and the Organising Committee is delighted that she will participate at the Teachers’ Conference in September. We look forward to her contributions in making the Conference a success.
Ms Sucillia Sukiman
Teachers’ Conference 2010 Organising Committee
While I’m glad this matter was handled swiftly and with class on both sides (Anthony Mullen who first blogged about this was firm yet poised, the conference officials who after clarifying the matter on their turf, made an apology), I cannot help but feel disappointed that the ‘miscommunication’ happened in the first place.
Simple fact checking before inviting your guests would have easily prevented this from happening in the first place. Alas, it did happen and the initial letter sent to Ms Elliot was anything but tactful, so of course it’s going to sound discriminatory. Again, if lack of support on the organiser’s side was of concern, I’m sure that could have been addressed in the initial correspondence instead of just retracting the invitation. But all’s well ends well, and let’s hope something like this doesn’t happen again.