Pocket Talker Pilot Project With PEI’s Legal Community

July 22, 2017.  A few days ago, CHHA PEI Chapter President Annie Lee MacDonald and I were interviewed for CBC’s Island Morning radio broadcast on the pocket talker project for lawyers to improve communication with the hard of hearing, a project funded by the Law Foundation of PEI.  Lawyer Robin Aitken, one of the project participants, was also interviewed.  To access the radio interview, the link is below, as is an accompanying article on the CBC website that follows our blog entry explaining the project.

Radio interview:


annie-lee-macdonald-with-pocketalker sarah macmillan cbc

Photo: Annie Lee MacDonald with pocket talker.  (Photo credit: Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

When you are hard of hearing and have to deal with professional services, such as a lawyer, it can be difficult. The voices are unfamiliar to your ear, terminology may be a barrier, and no one goes to a lawyer just to socialize. Do you admit you can’t really hear what is being said? Should you take along a friend or family member to act as your pair of ears?

With financial support from the Law Foundation of PEI, CHHA PEI is helping to remove some of the stress and barriers to communication when dealing with the legal community, through a pilot project of using assistive listening devices, commonly known as pocket talkers. This device makes it easier for the hard of hearing to communicate.

Lawyers across the island are volunteering to participate in the pilot project, and actively encourage hard of hearing clients to help test this technology. “Confidentiality is very important,” noted several lawyers. Other positive (there have not been any negative ones) comments include: “A technological tool that helps us to communicate better is important.” “It’s a great idea. I can see the need.”

One lawyer noted that he uses the pocket talker himself, as well as for his hard of hearing clients. “I never realized that I myself had a hearing loss!” Another lawyer commented, “I had stopped going to hospitals and nursing homes to see clients, because of the lack of privacy and me having to shout to be heard. Now that my clients in hospitals and nursing homes can put on the pocket talker and we can have a quiet conversation, I am holding meetings there again.”

So far, this has been a win-win project for Island lawyers and for the hard of hearing. As the Chief Justice of PEI notes, “Effective sharing of legal information and opportunity for participation in legal proceedings are integral components to access to justice. This initiative to facilitate a better understanding of the law and improved communication for people who are hard of hearing is to be commended.”

TIP!  Bill Droogendyk of Better Hearing Solutions gave us this tip for using a pocket talker: “If you use the Pocketalker with a Neckloop (https://www.williamssound.com/catalog/nkl-001, instead of headphones), then you can hear the Pocket Talker through the hearing aid telecoils – for better sound!”  Thanks Bill!

Do you use a pocket talker?  Have you taken it to a meeting with your lawyer or doctor? Are you a lawyer who has participated in the project?  Let us know!  We need your feedback.  You can comment through this blog, or send us an email to hearpei@gmail.com .

See below for the text of a CBC article that accompanied the radio broadcast:

CBC website article:


Hard of hearing clients get help talking with lawyers

Pilot project offers lawyers trial with assistive device

By Kevin Yarr, CBC News

Some Island lawyers now have a tool to help them better communicate with people who have hearing loss.

As part of a pilot project, the P.E.I. Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association has distributed 10 assistive listening devices to interested lawyers.

‘This is a very important time in a person’s life.’ – Annie Lee MacDonald

The Pocketalkers allow a person to wear a headset, and amplify a person’s voice.

“If you’re hard of hearing, which I am, you have to depend on assistive devices to ensure that you have the best communication possible when you are chatting with different people,” said P.E.I. Chapter president Annie Lee MacDonald.

“We saw a need there, because this is a very important time in a person’s life, when they’re making some personal decisions regarding the future of their estates, or future of their lives.”

The lawyers will get to use the devices for about three months, and then decide if they would like to buy one.

MacDonald said she has received a lot of positive feedback, and several lawyers have already decided to buy a device. She hopes eventually all Island lawyers will have a Pocketalker.

© Daria Valkenburg

Calling Cochlear Implant Users

July 22, 2017.  Do you have a cochlear implant?  If so, we want to hear from you! One of the projects we are looking at for next year is to develop an information booklet for Islanders who have cochlear implants and for those in the process of deciding whether they should have, or would qualify for, cochlear implant surgery.

The first phase of the project is to identify the questions you may have regarding cochlear implants, any concerns you may have regarding surgery, and any experiences you wish to share.

Are you willing to help get this project started?  You can send your comments through this blog, by email to hearpei@gmail.com or by snail mail to CHHA PEI, 881Route 10 Augustine Cove, Borden-Carleton PE C0B 1X0.

© Daria Valkenburg

911 for hard of hearing working well

July 6, 2017.  Last week Annie Lee MacDonald, CHHA PEI’s President, and I were photographed using text and phone to illustrate an article written by Beth Johnston of the province of PEI’s Public Safety Department.  Our thanks to Beth for the excellent article and to the province who has been so helpful in ensuring that the 911 system works.The link to the article is here, and the text follows below:  https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/news/911-hard-hearing-working-well .

An emergency is not a good time to test whether a system is working properly.

The PEI Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) wanted to make sure the province’s Text with 911 program, which began last fall, was working like a well-oiled machine. Turns out it is.

Members of CHHA contacted the province’s acting 911 Coordinator Pat Kelly, who went to their monthly meeting to explain the process. Then they went a step further and tested it in a boardroom exercise, and again using testing protocols during Emergency Preparedness week with two more people who are hard of hearing.

“Living on a small island is a blessing. Public Safety and Island EMS listened to our concerns, and offered a live exercise,” said CHHA PEI’s Advocacy and Public Relations Officer Daria Valkenburg.

“Now we are convinced it works, and it’s eased everyone’s mind.”

If you’ve ever had to call 911 in an emergency, you know how stressful that is.

“You try to stay calm so the 911 operator will be able to understand you and send help. You have to concentrate on the questions being asked so that you get the right sort of help – whether you need an ambulance, fire response, or the police,” Valkenburg explained.

“In an emergency, you need to focus on giving the right information, sometimes in a panic situation, or in the midst of a lot of noise and commotion. When you have a problem hearing what is being said, your anxiety levels go up even more. Having protocols in place that offer two additional methods of accessibility is important.”

Kelly went above and beyond the call of duty, Valkenburg said, explaining that he helped Chapter members who had trouble registering their cell phones for the Text with 911 service. In one case, the phone was outdated and couldn’t access the service. In the other situations, he called the phone companies that the cell phones were with, and made sure registration worked for them, she said.

“We’ve been told that we’re the only hard of hearing group in Canada to have been allowed to test the protocols — it’s a testament to the cooperation that we have received on this project,” she said.

The group gave Island EMS a “pocket talker” a portable device that amplifies sound.

“We are grateful to the province for providing the 911 protocols pamphlets for us. As a small organization, this was a project we would have had to raise funds for otherwise,” she said. “Everyone we have dealt with has been receptive and accommodating in listening to our concerns and suggestions.”

Learn more about the Text to 911 service available only to those with hearing or speech impairments.

© Daria Valkenburg