Inclusion Experts Exclusive: Deaf Vlogger Rikki Poynter On YouTube, Feminism, and Activism

Rikki Poynter, 25, has been advocating for closed captioning on YouTube since 2014, deterring from her makeup channel path that she pursued for four years prior.

Diagnosed with hearing loss at age 11, she uses her channel to shed light on many topics including identify, deaf awareness, child abuse, and mental health — as she has battled them all.

MAKERS caught up with the proactive advocate in an exclusive interview about how she's taking charge of her own life in pursuit of inclusion and change.

Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: I'm 25, turning 26 on July 16. I've been on YouTube since 2010 and since then, I've changed genre paths (from makeup tutorials to more activism and lifestyle topics); gotten a job at DTV News as a writer; given two workshops; and was on a panel at VidCon. I'm now working my way through public speaking on top of everything else. I like a venti double shot on ice with coconut milk from Starbucks, Pokémon, Sailor Moon, kittens, and Pomeranians.

Q: What drives you?
A: Not being able to do much when I was younger, seeing my friends kick ass (can I say ass on here?) in their lives, and most importantly, knowing that I don't want to be where I am right now. In order to move from where I am now, I have to work hard. Moving away and moving forward costs money, and to get money, you have to work hard.

Q: When did you first feel left out and what was the first thing you did to change it?
A: If we go back to the very, very first thing, I would've been around five or so years old and starting kindergarten. I don't think I can remember what I did to change it. Maybe tell my teacher and be sad about it. That sounds like little kid me.

Q: What do you claim as your biggest successes?
A: Quite a few things. Inspiring a lot of fellow d/Deaf (d/Deaf includes both the little "d" medical version of "deaf" and the big "D" cultural version of Deaf) and hard of hearing people who grew up like me, especially the kids. Being able to host workshops and be on a panel at VidCon of all places. Standing on the same stage as Google at a conference. These were all things I never would've thought I was going to do, ever. So, it's definitely a huge thing for me.

Q: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
A: Absolutely. I've been a feminist for a very long time. Since I was a teenager, I've been very adamant on fighting for women's rights regarding sexuality, reproduction rights, etc.

Q: Define what being patient means to you.
A: Honestly, I don't think I can give you a real answer. Being patient has never been something I was good at, but it's something I'm attempting to work on.

Q: How do you hope television and video incorporates captioning in the next five years?
A: In my perfect world, I'd like to see a checklist kind of deal when people are uploading videos. For example, while I'm uploading a video, I would like to see a checklist to the right of the current uploading section. Did you upload? Check. Write in a description and tags? Check. Add captions? Check. I feel like if there was a visual reminder that captions existed, then people would be more up for adding them.

Q: How do you believe captioning can be more accessible?
A: It needs to be an option (I'd even go as far as to call it a necessity but the FCC guidelines don't include YouTube as much as I'd like them to) across video platforms. They need to be done correctly when they are being done.

Q: Define #BEBOLD.
A: Taking chances, taking the big opportunities, standing up for what you believe in and speaking up.

Q: How are you bold in your everyday life?
A: I am regularly covered in Pikachu attire from head to toe. You cannot get bolder than being a walking Pikachu. Except maybe if you were wearing an actual Pikachu costume which I do not own… yet. Okay, in all seriousness, I'm very loud when it comes to deaf rights, captioning stuff, etc. I’m always on social media talking about something, standing up for stuff. Even stuff that isn't deaf related, but regarding feminism, racism, etc.

Get to know Rikki Poynter in her MAKERS Story here.

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Photo Credit: Bobby Sullivan