January 29, 2023. On December 9, 2022, Annie Lee MacDonald and I were invited to participate in a workshop hosted by the PEI Human Rights Commission on the annual Human Rights Day. The slogan for the 2022 event was ‘Dignity, Freedom, and Justice For All’.
Objectives for the ½ day workshop included:
1) Identifying the types of accessibility barriers and microaggressions faced by people with hearing loss
2) Discussing the Commission’s present and potential future involvement with Hear PEI
3) Obtaining feedback on content/usefulness of a Duty to Accommodate fact sheet for distribution to employers/employees, service providers/recipients and landlords/tenants
4) Sharing whatever else we thought the Commission should know
…Hearing Accessibility Is A Human Right video….
We’ve been involved with the Commission for a number of years, including in the production of a video a few years ago, ‘Hearing Accessibility Is A Human Right’…. See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/11/27/hearing-accessibility-is-a-human-right-now-on-youtube/ and watch the video:
The video increased awareness of the accessibility barriers faced by people with hearing loss, which in turn helped the PEI Human Rights Commission to better understand some of the issues and needs. However, during the workshop session we soon learned that most of the staff and Commissioners were unaware of the video. After the workshop we asked Tom Hilton, the Commission’s Education Officer, to share the link with them.
…Issues around hearing accessibility were discussed….
The three main issues discussed during the workshop related to:
- the increased difficulties in hearing comprehension that people have had since Covid
- misconceptions about hearing loss and what measures are needed for better hearing accessibility
- building code guidelines for new construction not being met for ‘barrier-free’ hearing accessibility
Masks and Plexiglass barriers. During Covid, masks and Plexiglass barriers were mandatory. We had no issue with these safety measures, but we felt that clear-window masks, in place of masks that covered one’s mouth, should have been encouraged by Health PEI.
While masks are now optional in most places, they aren’t in medical offices or hospitals, and we have been told that Health PEI discourages the use of clear-window masks, preferring the blue procedural masks which make it difficult for many to comprehend what is being said. If you’ve gone to a vaccination clinic and worn an N-95 mask, you were likely astounded to be told that you needed to put on a blue procedural mask in place of it! Most of us simply added it on top of the mask we were already wearing.
We also felt that window intercom systems should have been included along with the mandatory Plexiglass barriers. Many places received funding for the barriers, but not for for the hearing accessibility system many needed in order to comprehend people wearing a mask and standing behind a barrier. A few places have since rectified this omission. (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2022/06/30/hearing-accessibility-improvement-at-prince-county-hospital/ as one example)
Were these health measures that EXCLUDED hearing accessibility concerns a human rights violation? We didn’t know.
Wrong Information. For some unexplained reason, there is a belief that if you have hearing loss you use sign language. What do people think hearing aids and other hearing accessibility tools are for?
We need microphones and captioning, which help in hearing comprehension, but invariably are told that sign language can be provided in meetings and briefings! That disconnect between what is perceived is needed and what is actually needed is difficult to overcome and keeps being reinforced by people with no actual knowledge of what is needed.
How many people do you know with vision loss, who wear corrective lenses such as glasses or contacts, that use Braille? (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2022/01/13/misconceptions-about-hearing-loss/)
Some organizations now ASK us what is needed for better hearing accessibility and we are happy to give practical, cost-effective suggestions – a win-win for everyone.
We suggested that the PEI Human Rights Commission include contact information for Hear PEI in their Duty To Accommodate fact sheet.
Building for barrier-free accommodation. According to Chapter P-24 Barrier-Free Design Regulations of the PEI Provincial Building Code Act, “barrier-free” means that a building and its facilities can be approached, entered, and used by persons with physical or sensory disabilities…
Adoption of barrier-free designs falls under Section 3.7 of the National Building Code of Canada 1990 and is applicable for the construction of new buildings, with exceptions made for residences and a few other types of buildings. (See https://www.canlii.org/en/pe/laws/regu/pei-reg-ec139-95/latest/pei-reg-ec139-95.html)
We have not heard of any new construction of public buildings, hotels, theatres, etc including hearing accessibility into their designs. These considerations include installing a hearing loop and choosing flooring, walls and ceiling materials to absorb sound for better acoustics. No building construction would leave out a wheelchair ramp, but hearing accessibility does not seem to be considered.
We requested that the PEI Human Rights Commission make note of this as there may come a time when someone will wish to file a complaint.
What else did we think the Commission should know? Since Covid, more people with hearing loss have spoken up about the hearing accessibility accommodations that are needed in their working environment. This is a positive step. No one should have to struggle to hear.
Thank you to the PEI Human Rights Commission for inviting us to participate in their very well organized workshop, and for listening to the concerns around the need for better hearing accessibility that we brought forward. We enjoyed having the chance to speak one on one with some of the staff and Commissioners and hope they found the discussion with us of interest and value as well.
Do you have a hearing accessibility concern or a story to share? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.
…Interested in The Aural Report?….
If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following The Aural Report blog, you are welcome to do so. See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/ or email email@example.com and ask for an invitation to the blog.
Why not subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube? Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ
Need a hard of hearing pin? Here is the link to Hear PEI’s order form: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252 © Daria Valkenburg