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!

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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.

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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.