Rising To The Challenge To Hear – Don’t Underestimate The Power Of A Pin!

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Hard of hearing pin worn while running errands. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

June 26, 2020.  “I’m hard of hearing.”  How many times have you said that, or heard someone tell you that?  Over the past months, many people with hearing loss have had difficulty hearing in a world of face masks and plexiglass barriers.  While businesses and service providers have a duty to provide a hearing accessible environment, the person with hearing loss has a role as well.  Wearing a hard of hearing button when running errands goes a long way to bring awareness and understanding.

The power of a simple pin saying ‘hard of hearing’ shouldn’t be underestimated!

Your hearing impaired badges are terrific… I too am severely impaired,” wrote Susan MacDonald.  She wore her hard of hearing pin while shopping and wrote again to say “I had it on today and went into SoftMoc shoe store.  The customer service rep said she loved the pin and thought it was a terrific idea. She spoke at a great decibel to me. Thank you…

Some people think that hearing loss should be a private matter.  “It’s no one’s business whether I have hearing loss or not” is an often heard comment.  More and more, though, many wonder if that’s the right attitude to have.

Here’s an example…. You’re at the cashier to pay for your groceries, and can’t hear properly because people are behind a plexiglass barrier.  Maybe the cashier is also wearing a face mask.  Even if you have hearing aids, it’s a challenge to hear.  The cashier is harried, and there are people in line behind you.

Take a look at the photos below.  Which one is likely to get you a response to ensure you can hear?

On the left, no pin saying “hard of hearing”.  On the right, wearing a pin that says “hard of hearing”.   (Photo credits: Pieter Valkenburg)

It never fails.  Wear a pin, and you get a smile of understanding.  The person speaking tends to look at you more often, and takes the time to speak in a clear voice.  You’re happy you can hear.  The person speaking to you is pleased to have been able to help.

Don’t underestimate the power behind a simple pin. It’s low tech and inexpensive.  Hear PEI now also has a bilingual pin.

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Hard of hearing pins.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Recently, Susan Choi commented on a previous blog posting: “I enjoyed your article on living with and coping with hearing loss during these days of masks and social distancing.  Even though, at the tender age of 72, my hearing is not what it used to be, I am reminded through your article how little I know or understand about living with a true hearing loss!  Sadly, I had not even thought about how masks and social distancing would be affecting those with hearing loss!!!!

Thank you to Susan MacDonald and Susan Choi for their comments. Would you wear a hard of hearing pin?  If you have, what has been your experience?  To share your story, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

Last few days in the Great Canadian Giving Challenge!

Only a few days are left in the Great Canadian Giving Challenge.  This Canada Helps initiative offers a prize of $20,000 to one lucky charity. Every SINGLE dollar donated represents an entry into the contest. As an example, $100 means 100 chances to win.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Hear PEI was the lucky charity to win $20,000?

Thank you to those who have donated.  Not made a donation? Please consider helping the volunteers at Hear PEI have funds available for more outreach activities.  Remember, 100% of your donation stays on PEI to help Islanders.

Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!Donations can be made at this Canada Helps page:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708

© Daria Valkenburg

Rising To The Challenge To Hear – The Importance Of Captioning

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June 20, 2020.  Hearing accessibility issues are becoming widely known, as more and more people realize that hearing is difficult in these days due to the challenges faced by social distancing and preventative measures in place for reducing the risk of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases and keeping everyone safe.  Past blog postings have covered some of these issues and suggested solutions:

Wearing a hard of hearing button when running errands is another suggestion.

Captioning is an important hearing assistive tool!

Today, though, I’d like to reinforce the importance of captioning.  With so many meetings and events moving online onto videoconferencing platforms, such as those provided by Zoom, Google, and Microsoft, the lack of real-time captioning makes participation difficult for many people.  It’s not just people with hearing loss that benefit from captioning.  People whose first language is not the language being spoken during the event may not follow every word said. Some people speak quickly, others perhaps with an accent that may be challenging to discern.   Real-time captioning is so beneficial that it’s difficult to understand why it isn’t mandatory for every videoconference.

Real-time captioning became an issue for many on the Island over the past months, as people wanted to follow the live updates by the premier and chief medical officer regarding Covid-19.  Some platforms used had real-time captioning, others didn’t, and which platform had captioning changed from day to day.  In addition, there were many errors and typos in the captioning, and occasionally the text contradicted what had been said.

It’s not just real-time captioning that is crucial, but captioning for any programming, whether on TV or through the internet.  Interestingly enough, recently I looked at the requirements for posting videos on Amazon Prime.  Did you know it’s a MANDATORY requirement that closed captioning be available for any video posted?  What a great idea!

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Captioning is not just a challenge for Islanders, but a worldwide one.  Jane Scott sent a link to a petition asking for free captioning to be provided for people with hearing loss on video conferencing platforms.  If you believe that captioning is an essential hearing assistive tool, please consider signing the petition.  Here is the link:  http://chng.it/QGSRQdGnnW.  Thank you Jane!

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Only a few days are left in the Great Canadian Giving Challenge.  This initiative of Canada Helps offers a prize of $20,000 to one lucky charity. Every SINGLE dollar donated represents an entry into the contest. As an example, $100 means 100 chances to win.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Hear PEI was the lucky charity to win $20,000?

Thank you to those who have donated.  For those who have not yet made a donation, please consider helping the volunteers at Hear PEI have funds available for more outreach activities.  Remember, 100% of your donation stays on PEI to help Islanders.

Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org! Donations can be made at this Canada Helps page:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708

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Anecdotes are being compiled for how you have been coping with hearing challenges during this time of social distancing measures.  To share your story, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

Rising To The Challenge To Hear – Adventures With Face Shields and Clear-Window Masks

June 16, 2020.  It’s been a busy time here on Prince Edward Island as we have been working with face shields and clear-window masks (See Rising To The Challenge To Hear – 3 Initiatives To Help – Face Shields, Hard of Hearing Buttons, and Clear-Window Masks), and encouraging businesses and venues to apply for the Federal Accessibility Grant for speech transfer systems and hearing loops (See Federal Enabling Accessibility Fund For Hearing Loops Available)

The face shields have proven very popular. They are simple to use, and provide a clear view of a person’s face.  They were donated by Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, and were in turn donated to the hospital by Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited.  We learned that it was Fair Isle Ford in Charlottetown that made that particular donation and reached out to thank them for making life easier for people with hearing loss.  Shawn McLernan, Chief Operating Officer, wrote to say “We were happy to help.

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Marjorie Inman and Beryl Fyfe with their face shields.  (Photo credit: Annie Lee MacDonald)

In turn, when a request from the PEI Council of People With Disabilities was received, Hear PEI donated face shields for their staff.

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Bethany Maynard on the right with a face shield. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The PEI Council of People With Disabilities also purchased clear-window masks (see photo above) and hard of hearing buttons. (See link to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PEICOD/?epa=SEARCH_BOX)  Annie Lee MacDonald and I made a delivery last week and had a chance to visit them… while respecting social distancing measures.

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Marcia Carroll, left, and Annie Lee MacDonald, right, representing two great non-profit organizations!  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

One of the volunteers making clear-window masks here on PEI is Kay Wall, an avid quilter.  She made sure that the plastic used for the clear-window in the mask was washable.  Her masks have been received with oohs and aahs as they are not only practical, but beautifully sewn.  We owe her a debt of thanks for making these non-medical masks.

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Kay Wall at her sewing machine.  (Photo credit: Annie Lee MacDonald)

Dr. Janine Verge, a Nova Scotia audiologist,  who coordinates the ‘Issues In Accessibility’ column of ‘Canadian Audiologist’ journal, notes that “I’m hoping this raises awareness about the trouble with masks from here on out…..all hospitals and clinics should have the window masks ready to use all the time – or better yet only use ones with windows!!

Brenda Porter was recently featured on CBC PEI and their news program Compass regarding the challenges faced by regular masks. You can read the article here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-covid-19-masks-hard-of-hearing-1.5599775

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The Great Canadian Giving Challenge is taking place in June, an initiative of Canada Helps, and offers a prize of $20,000 to one lucky charity. Every SINGLE dollar donated represents an entry into the contest. As an example, $100 gives 100 chances to win.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Hear PEI was the lucky charity to win $20,000?

Please consider a donation to help the volunteers at Hear PEI do more.  100% of your donation stays on PEI to help Islanders.

Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!You can donate at the Canada Helps page:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708

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Anecdotes are being gathered for how you have been coping with hearing challenges during this time of social distancing measures.  To share your story, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

Federal Enabling Accessibility Fund For Hearing Loops Available

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June 3, 2020.  A ‘newly modernized Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) – small projects component’ has been announced by Employment and Social Development Canada.  The news release correctly noted the need for meeting the needs of persons with disabilities by “…. building more accessible communities and workplaces. The call for proposals for the EAF small projects component provides funding to organizations for small-scale construction, renovation or retrofit projects that enable persons with disabilities to live and work in more inclusive and accessible communities...” (See https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2020/06/newly-modernized-enabling-accessibility-fund-issues-a-call-for-proposals.html)

In previous years, places that wanted to take advantage of this fund had to provide half the money themselves.  This year, “projects approved for funding will now be 100% funded to a maximum of $100,000.

40% of Islanders have some degree of hearing loss!

The social distancing measures in place on PEI have resulted in plexiglass barriers in many businesses and offices, resulting in an additional barrier to hearing accessibility by people with hearing loss.  40% of Islanders have some degree of hearing loss.  This is an opportunity to make a change for the better, with the simple addition of a Speech Transfer System so people can hear people behind plexiglass barriers, using hearing loop technology. (See The Challenge To Hear During The Pandemic) It’s also an opportunity to install hearing loop technology in a church or theatre.

If you have hearing loss please encourage the places where you worship, shop, go for appointments – your church, workplace, place of business, doctor’s office, hospital, municipal office, etc – to have a hearing loop installed for better accessibility for those with hearing loss.  Deadline for applications is July 13, 2020. Here is the link: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/enabling-accessibility-fund.html

Currently on PEI, three churches and Charlottetown’s City Hall have installed hearing loops and these alone are making a difference to Islanders with hearing loss.  Now, there is an additional opportunity to move the Let’s Loop PEI project forward with the opportunity to apply for federal funding.  Certified hearing loop technicians on the Island can install these hearing accessibility products.

Many places are already on the wish list for a hearing loop….

  • Grocery stores, gas stations, and other places that have installed plexiglass barriers
  • Theatres around the island that offer live performances
  • Churches and church halls
  • Registration desks at the hospitals in Charlottetown and Summerside
  • Charlottetown Airport
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Pharmacy counters
  • Hotel registration desks

Please encourage the venues we all use to get in the loop! 

More looping suggestions?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI

Please consider a donation to help the volunteers at Hear PEI do more.  100% of your donation stays on PEI to help Islanders. During the month of June, each donation made through Canada Helps gives the charity donated to an entry to win $20,000.
Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!
Canada Helps page:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708

 

© Daria Valkenburg