Pioneering presentation at TEDxWinnipeg

ASL inclusivity a first for local ideas conference


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This article was published 04/05/2018 (1784 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A woman from Elmwood will be breaking new ground at TEDxWinnipeg in June.

Jocelynn Johnson, who lives in Glenelm, is a geospatial technician with the provincial government. She will be presenting on the subject of service animals and how to behave around them.

“Many people have misconceptions about service animals, mainly from hearing news reports from the U.S. which don’t really apply to Canada and I am hoping to clarify things during my talk,” Johnson, who is deaf, wrote in an email to The Herald.

“One of the most common things about service animals is that people think they can treat them like pets rather than the disability aid that they are, and it’s up to the public to decide if they are pets or not,” Johnson continued. “Not allowing a service animal is not much different than not allowing a person because they have a disability.”

Johnson was born with perfect hearing, but at the age of seven she contracted meningitis and went deaf. In 1989, she became the first child in Manitoba to get a cochlear implant. However, after another medical incident in her 20s, Johnson had the implant removed.

“As someone with an invisible disability, it is shocking how many negative situations I experience with my dog,” Johnson wrote. “It’s even more shocking that when you talk to other people with disabilities and service animals, they have the exact same experiences. That needs to change, and can only change through education.”

While Johnson’s story is noteworthy in and of itself, she will also be giving her presentation in ASL (American Sign Language), with a sign language interpreter, a first for TEDxWinnipeg.

“It’s new ground for TEDxWinnipeg,” confirmed Brent Toderash, communications team lead for TEDxWinnipeg. “We’ll have an ASL interpreter for the entire event as well.”

“Often deaf people do not have the same representation in events like TEDxWinnipeg simply because the cost of hiring interpreters is so prohibitive,” Johnson explained. “We have many extremely intelligent and well-educated deaf people in our community that are often overlooked and left out due to the barriers of communication. I am extremely happy that we could arrange sponsorship this year to make TEDxWinnipeg more accessible.”

Both the content and format of Johnson’s  presentation are geared to getting people thinking about the experiences of those with disabilities.

“I am hoping that this TEDxWinnipeg Talk will give people more exposure to ASL than they may experience otherwise,” she said.

This year’s TEDxWinnipeg conference takes place on June 13 at the RBC Convention Centre (375 York Ave. ). Tickets are $65 and can be purchased from

Sheldon Birnie

Sheldon Birnie
Community Journalist

Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at Call him at 204-697-7112

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