Hearing Accessibility Is A Human Right

January 27, 2019.  The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international human rights treaty of the United Nations and is meant to protect the rights of persons with disabilities around the world. Canada is a signatory to this Convention, which is monitored by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Canada ratified the Convention on March 11, 2010 and it entered into force on April 12, 2010.

Not many of us know much about this Convention, and those that do may not realize that persons with hearing loss are included in the definition.

Article 1 says the purpose of the CRPD is to “promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”.

Article 9 deals with accessibility and outlines the need for measures to ensure persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.” (See https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/article-9-accessibility.html)

Hearing accessibility is an important component. Hearing loss affects people of any age group, economic group, gender, and can affect anyone from any kind of background.  It’s important to realize the importance of all of us – whether we have hearing loss or not – to work together to ensure better hearing accessibility.

In 1950, the UN General Assembly proclaimed December 10 as Human Rights Day, to bring attention to “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.

The PEI Human Rights Commission invited us to attend the 2018 Human Rights Day event at Stratford Town Hall to commemorate the new $10 bill honouring civil activist Viola Desmond.  Desmond refused to give up her seat in the ‘whites only’ section at a Nova Scotia movie theatre in 1946, and was jailed for her act of defiance.  Thank goodness this type of discrimination no longer exists in Canada!

cimg2874 dec 10 2018 human rights day stratford town hall new $10 bill viola desmond

Envelope containing the new $10 Viola Desmond bill. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Last year, the PEI Human Rights Commission began using real time captioning, in recognition of the need to accommodate people with hearing loss. (See Tips For Using Real Time Captioning)  It was a gesture that was much appreciated, and we were delighted to see that our suggestions for improvement of this accessibility were adopted.  Annie Lee and I attended this year’s wonderful event, which was very accessible.  We were delighted to learn that the Law Foundation of PEI, which has supported our efforts to improve communications between those with hearing loss and the legal community, sponsored the cost of the real time captioning.

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Real Time Captioning Screen ensures all can follow what was said by the speakers. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

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Annie Lee and I with members of the PEI Human Rights Commission. Left to right: Joanne Ings, Commissioner; Annie Lee; Daria; John Rogers Chair; Deborah Gross, Commissioner; Brenda Picard, Executive Director; Jonathan Greenan, Human Rights Legal Officer; Lorraine Buell, Mediator and Intake Officer; Tom Hilton, Education Project Officer. (Photo credit: Tom Barnes)

With so many people attending from government and business, we hope that real time captioning will be used more in meetings and conventions.  This year, in addition to the real time captioning at the event, the room had a temporary hearing loop installed by Phil Pater and Tom Barnes.  Attendees were able to access the hearing loop with a loop receiver and this helped generate awareness of how clear and crisp the sound from a hearing loop is like.  Fingers crossed that it will encourage more public venues to provide this important component in hearing accessibility.

cimg2868 dec 10 2018 human rights day stratford town hall with lt gov antoinette perry

Daria Valkenburg, left, and Annie Lee MacDonald, right, with the Lt Governor of PEI, the Honourable Antoinette Perry. (Photo credit: Tom Barnes)

Thank you to the PEI Human Rights Commission for including us in their event, to the Law Foundation of PEI for sponsoring the real time captioning, and to Phil Pater and Tom Barnes for contributing the temporary hearing loop.

If you’d like to learn more about how the CRPD supports the rights of people with hearing loss, watch the 7 minute video put out by the International Federation of Hard of Hearing People (IFHOH), available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=G35rLmCobrY.  Don’t forget to turn on the closed captioning (CC) option!

Have you tried out a hearing loop or been at an event with real time captioning?  Share your experience by commenting on this blog, or sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

valentineJust in time for Valentine’s Day!….. an upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  Phase II & Friends Valentine’s Concert at West River United Church in Cornwall, February 10, 2019 at 3 pm. Songs of love will make you laugh, cry and feel like dancing. Doors open at 2:30. Tickets are $10 and are available in the church office or at the door.

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Speech reading classes begin Spring 2019.  To register, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.

 

 

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Do You Have A Bone Anchored Hearing System?

January 23, 2019.  One of the benefits of attending a Chapter meeting is the opportunity to not only meet other people with hearing loss, but to learn more about hearing loss and hearing health.  At our November Chapter meeting, we were delighted to welcome a guest speaker from Montreal: Jessyca Bedard, Clinical Support and Business Development Manager for Eastern Canada at Oticon Medical.

Annie Lee and I met with Jessyca the evening before at Merchantman Pub in Charlottetown and had a chance to discuss her presentation on Bone Anchored Hearing Systems (BAHS).  Cochlear Canada Inc. has a similar product, called Bone Anchored Hearing Aids. Both products are a type of hearing aid, surgically implanted behind the ear, and based on bone conduction.  Unlike traditional hearing aids, which amplify sound through the ear canal, bone anchored devices transmit sound through the bone.

cimg2839 nov 26 2018 daria annie lee jessyca bedard at merchantman pub

Left to right: Daria, Annie Lee, Jessyca. Did you notice that we picked a spot with a back ‘wall’ for noise reduction, perfect for being able to hear in a busy restaurant?

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In the presentation, we learned that a bone anchored hearing device is useful for people who have certain types of hearing loss related to:

  1. Conductive or mixed hearing loss
  2. Skin allergies which make a hearing aid in the ear impractical
  3. Single sided deafness

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How does it work?  Sounds are converted into vibrations, which the skull transmits to the inner ear (cochlea).

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A bone anchored hearing system has a sound processor which sits on the outside of the skull, with a titanium implant that won’t rust.

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During a lively question and answer period, we learned that the sound processor needs to be removed to go swimming, or when you wash your hair.  A question about MRIs was answered that it was OK to be left on for that procedure.

Unfortunately, the Oticon BAHS does NOT have a telecoil, which was surprising given that Oticon is a European company.  Telecoils are standard in hearing aid systems in Europe.

Another question concerned the availability of colours for the sound processor.  Jessyca had come prepared for that with a case of various colour options!

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Colour choices for the BAHS sound processor. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Nancy Reddin has had a BAHS for 4 years and shared her experience.  “I am almost completely deaf in my right ear because of an auditory-vestibular neuroma diagnosed in 2009, and was fitted with an Oticon Ponto bone-anchored sound processor in 2014. Because the hearing in my left ear is almost 100%, I don’t use the Ponto at home (although I probably should!). I do find it useful in situations with a lot of background noise or where I can’t always be in a good position, such as a noisy restaurant or family party; it helps to balance out the background. It is very easy to use and I am glad that this technology exists for me.

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Nancy Reddin with her BAHS. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Jessyca explained that “Hearing loss puts an extra strain on the brain, which has to work harder.”  This is so true, and why it’s wonderful that technology is helping in reducing the effects of hearing loss.

Do you have a bone anchored hearing system or a bone anchored hearing aid?  Share your experience by commenting on this blog, or sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

We’re still on winter break but here is a reminder of upcoming events this spring:

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Speech reading classes begin Spring 2019.  To register, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

Grant Awarded From Seniors Secretariat of PEI

January 14, 2019.  As a non-profit organization run by volunteers, we depend on grants and donations to help provide outreach and educational activities that build awareness of issues related to hearing health and hearing loss.  Last year, the Seniors Secretariat of PEI awarded us a grant we’d requested for seminars.  We had a session with Dr. David Morris on cochlear implants (See Successful ‘Demystifying Cochlear Implants’ Seminar In Charlottetown), a session with Dr Heidi Eaton on Tinnitus, and were able to provide brochures on how to access a hearing loop (See The Let’s Loop PEI Project – How You Can Access An Area With A Hearing Loop ).

With the increased number of events we’ve been invited to attend or speak at, this year we requested, and were awarded, funding for the printing of informational brochures on various topics around hearing loss. In addition to the list of topics we are already working on, suggestions for additional topics to consider are welcome.

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Daria Valkenburg and Annie Lee MacDonald with members of the Seniors Secretariat of PEI. Seated, left to right: Alma MacDougall, Farida Chishti, Audrey Morris, Sister Norma Gallant. Standing, left to right: Paul H Schurman, Lorna Jenkins, Isabelle Christian, Elaine Campbell, Shirley Pierce, Daria, Annie Lee. (Photo credit: Shelly Cole)

The Seniors Secretariat of PEI was formed in 1998 as an entry point for seniors to collaborate with government on matters relating to seniors, their issues and concerns; to act as a resource and information centre and to advise government on the development of public policy. Members come from the general public as well as various non-profit organizations that represent seniors.

At the end of November we were able to thank the members of the Seniors Secretariat of PEI in person for the grant as they invited us to give a presentation on the project with the Law Foundation of PEI, which is now finished.  This allowed us to speak not only about the ways in which the legal community on PEI is now better prepared to communicate with clients who have hearing loss, but to give an overview on hearing loss, and give the members of the Secretariat a chance to try out a pocket talker.

law foundation presentation to sr sec nov 30 2018

Presentation made to the Seniors Secretariat of PEI on the project with the Law Foundation of PEI was very well received.

We’re still on our winter break, but spring is hopefully around the corner.  Here is a reminder of upcoming events:

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, who will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Speech reading classes begin Spring 2019.  To register, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.

As always, you can email us at hearpei@gmail.com, comment on our blog, and follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

Accessible Hotel Rooms For Those With Hearing Loss

January 10, 2019.  When you travel and you have hearing loss, you need to have a lot of patience and a good sense of humour, as all kinds of adventures await you.  Staying in a hotel has its own challenges.  Will you hear someone knocking on the door?  What happens if you want a wake-up call so you can catch an early flight?  What if there is a fire and you don’t hear the alarm?

Everyone with hearing loss has a story to tell! One time, at an airport hotel in Winnipeg, I requested a wake-up call so I could catch an early morning flight.  Unfortunately I slept in and didn’t hear the phone ringing.  When I didn’t answer after several tries, the hotel staff came banging on the door.  I didn’t hear that either.  Finally, they opened the door with a master key and that finally woke me up.  If I hadn’t let them know the evening before that I was hard of hearing when I checked in, I don’t know what they would have done!  Luckily, I made my plane connection on time!

Recently I’ve been travelling in the USA and noticed that each hotel I stayed at had hearing accessibility rooms.  Sometimes there were just a few rooms, and these tended to also be the rooms with handicapped access for those with physical disabilities.   So I was surprised to see a large number of rooms only for hearing accessibility in a recently renovated Fairfield Inn in Christiansburg, Virginia.

intl sign explanation hoh

The international sign of a broken ear is on the door of the accessible rooms, with a button to push instead of knocking.  This sets off flashing lights in the room.  When I went down to the front desk to commend the staff, the hotel desk proudly told me that “We also keep a list at the hotel desk, in case of an emergency.

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Sign on hotel room door in Christiansburg, Virginia, indicating the room is accessible for those with hearing loss. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

In West Knoxville, Tennessee, at another Fairfield Inn, we noticed several hearing accessible rooms here too, and when I went to the front desk to commend them on having these rooms available, the hotel’s General Manager, Trent Walker, came out to speak with me.

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Trent Walker, General Manager of the Fairfield Inn in West Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Mr. Walker explained that alterations to the Americans With Disability Act meant that 10% of the ‘inventory’ (ie rooms) of a new hotel or a renovated hotel had to be accessible for those with disabilities. In accordance with these regulations, most hotels now have each hotel room identified in Braille for those with vision loss. There are rooms accessible for those with physical disabilities, identified with a wheelchair sign on the door.  And there are now rooms with accessibility for those with hearing loss, identified by the international broken ear sign.  Some rooms do double duty as being accessible for those with physical limitations, as well as with hearing loss.  As with the hotel in Christiansburg, there is a button on the door, which sets off flashing lights in the room to alert the person that someone is at the door.

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A room that is accessible both to those with physical disabilities and those with hearing loss. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

As well, he explained that the hotel has two kits available to those with hearing loss.  Each kit has a bed shaker alarm, a visual smoke alarm, and a phone that connects to the regular room phone and allows you to receive messages by text.  “Did I want to see a kit?”  I was asked.  Of course I did!

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Accessibility kit for those with hearing loss, available to guests at Fairfield Inn in West Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Mr. Walker explained each item in the kit and invited me to ask for one next time I’m in the hotel.  Now that I know about it, you can bet that I will.

And finally, we noticed hearing accessible rooms at a Residence Inn in Miramar Beach, Florida.  Each room in the hotel also has the number listed in Braille.  Note the button for the audiovisual door alert to trigger flashing lights in the room to let the occupant know someone is at the door.

A hearing accessible room at a Residence Inn in Miramar Beach, Florida. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Kudos to these hotels for making accessibility easier for people with hearing loss.  If you travel and are in a hotel with this accommodation, please make sure you let the hotel staff know how much it is appreciated …. even if you don’t stay in one of these rooms yourself.

This experience has made me wonder if any hotels on Prince Edward Island have made accommodation for those with hearing loss! Does anyone know? If you’ve tried out one of the kits on your travels, please share your experience. Email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on our blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

2018 Advocacy and Public Relations Report

year in review blog

January 3, 2019.  With a busy year in 2018 ended and a new year beginning in 2019, this is a good time to summarize the activities and accomplishments for 2018 for our small group of volunteers who have hearing loss.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND PUBLIC RELATIONS

  1. The Aural Report blog, which you are currently reading, began in 2017 and has continued. Reports are not only made on various activities in PEI, but also information on new research and new products is provided. There are also separate pages for Upcoming Events, Places on PEI with a Hearing Loop, and Lawyers Who Have Pocket Talkers. In August, a Speakers Bureau page began, with information for people wanting to invite one of us to give a presentation.
  2. In April 2018 a Twitter account: @HearPEI opened. Summaries of upcoming events or items of interest posted on the blog are tweeted.
  3. We were interviewed on CBC Radio’s Mainstreet PEI several times, reaching a wider audience, including outside the province:
  • March 29, 2018 – Annie Lee MacDonald and Nancy MacPhee on the speech reading program.
  • April 25, 2018 – Annie Lee and Daria Valkenburg on the Tinnitus Seminar in May with Dr Heidi Eaton of Argus Audiology.
  • May 2018 – Several members were interviewed when West River United Church hosted the launch of the church being looped.
  • July 12, 2018 – Daria interviewed on the Law Foundation of PEI project to improve communications with the legal community.
  • November 30, 2018: Annie Lee and Daria interviewed on holiday gifts for the hard of hearing.

OUTREACH

  1. As part of our outreach activities, members provided the following presentations:
  • February 27, 2018 –invited by Charlottetown Airport Authority to give seminar on best practices for transportation service providers who deal with customers who have a hearing loss of any kind. Annie Lee, Nancy, and Debra Leuty participated.
  • June 7, 2018 –invited by Andrews of Charlottetown to give a presentation on the ‘Pardon Me What Did You Say?’ booklet. Brenda Porter, Nancy, and Daria participated.
  • June 23, 2018 – invited by the Law Society of PEI to report on the project with the Law Foundation at the Law Society’s Annual General Meeting. Annie Lee and Daria participated.
  • October 2, 2018 – invited by Donagh Community School to be guest speakers at a Speaker-A-Night course. Annie Lee and Daria participated with a presentation on “Living and Thriving With Hearing Loss”.
  • November 30, 2018: Annie Lee and Daria invited by Senior Secretariat of PEI to give a presentation on the Law Foundation of PEI pocket talker project with lawyers.
  1. As another part of our outreach activities, we participate by hosting an information booth or table at various conferences:
  • April 20, 2018 – invited by Prince Edward Gerontological Nursing Association to have a table at their Annual Education Day in Charlottetown. Annie Lee, Daria, Brenda, and Nancy participated.
  • June 22-23, 2018 – invited by Law Society of PEI to have a table at their professional development day and annual general meeting. Annie Lee and Daria participated.
  • October 27, 2018 – invited by Senior Secretariat of PEI to have a table at their Learning and Caring For Ourselves conference in Montague. Annie Lee and Daria participated.
  1. Another of our outreach activities is to recognize community members who help in furthering hearing accessibility in one way or another.
  • March 21, 2018 – Annie Lee and Daria were judges for our specialty prize, the “Listen To This” Award, which comes with a $25 prize, at the PEI Science Fair. This year’s prize was awarded to Grade 10 Bluefield High School student Ahnais Young, of Bonshaw, for her project “Auditory and Cerebral Hemispheric Lateralization in Relation to Handedness”.

EDUCATION

  1. As part of our education activities, we try to host seminars or information evenings.
  • May 12, 2018 – THERE IS HOPE: Understanding & Managing Your Tinnitus”, presented by audiologist Dr. Heidi Eaton at the Seniors Active Living Centre in Charlottetown.
  • 3 MED-EL related seminars in May were advertised but had to be cancelled due to insufficient enrollment.
  • May 2018 – held an info session on hearing loops for audiologists, presented by Bill Droogendyk of Better Hearing Solutions.
  1. Additional educational/information materials were developed this year:
  • Info brochure on hearing loops and how to access a loop
  • Info sheet for audiologists on how to activate a T-coil
  • Info brochure for clients in law offices explaining a pocket talker is available
  • Info brochure for general public with tips for communicating with professionals and explaining about the pocket talker option
  • Tip sheet for presenters who speak to those with hearing loss – this was originated and developed by Brenda
  1. Articles by Daria were published in County Line Courier, with some also in Summerside Citizen:
  • April – “Listen To This” Prize Awarded At 2018 PEI Science Fair
  • April – Hope and Help for Those Afflicted With Tinnitus
  • May/June – The Let’s Loop PEI Project
  • July – The Let’s Loop PEI Project – How You Can Access An Area With A Hearing Loop
  • August – Kudos For Let’s Loop PEI Project
  • October – How I Wish I Had Listened To My Parents!
  • December – Thinking Of A Holiday Gift For Someone With Someone With Hearing Loss?
  • December – I Can’t Hear You If I Can’t See You

FUNDRAISING AND GRANTS

Fundraising is important as there are many outreach activities we are asked to participate in that are not covered by grants.

  • May 27, 2018 – Bonshaw Hall hosted a ceilidh fundraiser, at the request of Marion Toole.
  • In May, thanks to Jane Scott of Ottawa, we now have a Canada Helps donation page, which allows people to donate by credit card from the comfort of their home and from anywhere. This is in addition to accepting cash or cheques.

Grants applied for and awarded in 2018:

  • $5,000 from CHHA Foundation for the Let’s Loop PEI Project
  • $3,200 from Law Foundation of PEI for the pocket talker project with law community
  • $1,000 from Senior Secretariat of PEI for publications (not yet received)

Happy New Year!  Email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on our blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg