Travelling With An Invisible Disability

April 25, 2019.  A while ago, a woman with a cochlear implant who was travelling alone booked a flight and informed the airline that she had hearing loss.  When she arrived at the airport, she was placed in a wheelchair.  She protested, saying “I’m able bodied and can walk perfectly.  Why do I have to be in a wheelchair?”  The reply?  “Madam, you informed us you have a disability.  We realize you can walk, but the wheelchair is the only way the airline staff will know this. Please sit in the chair.”  She did, an attendant wheeled her to the gate and then onto the plane, and she arrived safely at her destination.

The problem, as you may imagine, is that she had an invisible disability.  The wheelchair didn’t help her to hear and anyone seeing her would assume she had a physical disability.  Heathrow Airport in England has taken steps to recognize the importance of recognizing invisible or hidden disabilities while travelling in the airport.  The solution?  A sunflower lanyard.  A spokesperson explained that “The sunflower lanyard is a way for customers to indicate to staff across the airport that they may need additional care and support.  The optional service is intended for customers with hidden disabilities such as hearing loss, autism or dementia.”  (See https://www.hearinglink.org/news/201808/heathrow-introduces-hidden-disability-lanyards/#lightbox/0/)

sunflower-lanyard

The sunflower lanyard is already available at several airports throughout the United Kingdom, making for a consistent approach.  So, what do you have to do?  It couldn’t be simpler.  Contact the airport if you will be travelling through Heathrow and they will mail you a lanyard ….. anywhere in the world.  So, Islanders, if you are planning a trip and will be going through Heathrow, and you have hearing loss, contact the airport by email at special_assistance@heathrow.com and provide the following information:

  • Full name (including surnames)
  • Departing / Connecting or Arriving terminal
  • Flight number(s)
  • Postal address where your lanyard should be sent to
  • Number of lanyards required

The lanyard is free of charge and you can keep it to use at any participating airport.  (See https://www.heathrow.com/airport-guide/assistance-at-heathrow/hidden-disabilities)  As the airport authority explains, “Wearing a sunflower lanyard at Heathrow enables our colleagues to recognise that you have a hidden disability without you needing to declare it. This allows you to travel independently through the airport whilst knowing that if you need any additional support during your journey, any of our colleagues will be able to support.” Now, wouldn’t such a lanyard be a great idea for our Charlottetown Airport Authority to adopt?  If you like this idea, let us know.  You can comment on the blog, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com or a tweet to @HearPEI.

Petition Update

In the last blog posting the petition launched to request equal treatment for all adult Islanders with regard to hearing aid subsidies was discussed.  (See Petition Launched To Request Equal Treatment For Adult Islanders Re Access To Hearing Aid Subsidies) Briefly, our petition requests the following: Supplement the cost of hearing aids for seniors by extending the AccessAbility Supports Program to include all adults, not just those up to age 65, or devise a similar programResults for the first week of the petition are encouraging, and will be discussed in a separate posting. The results are updated on Twitter as they come in, and you can follow us @HearPEI.  As of April 25, 2019, here is the progress.

Petition Apr 25 2019 pm

our-goal-blogWe all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

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 Concert – Here Comes Summer at West River United Church in Cornwall, May 5, 2019 at 7 pm  Fundraiser for the church.  Advance tickets may be obtained after church on April 21st and 28th, or by contacting the Church office at 902-566-4052. Tickets are $10.

Upcoming fundraising ceilidh offered by Bonshaw Hall on Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 2 to 4 pm.  The organizers are generously sharing their proceeds with us, to help in our non-project related activities. We hope you come out and enjoy the show, while helping us at the same time.  Can’t attend?  You can donate directly to us or through our Canada Helps page at:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708.

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Misconceptions About Telecoils

April 15, 2019.  After reading a recent blog posting about questions to ask during a needs assessment for a hearing loop (See 8 Questions To Ask When Doing A Needs Assessment For A Hearing Loop Installation), one church followed the steps and a representative was kind enough to give us a follow-up on the results…..  “We actually used many of your questions in a bulletin insert to gather information about issues related to sound. Thank you for sharing. We asked – in our survey – if you wear a hearing aid, does it have a t-coil? and none had heard that term. Also, it’s possible people under-reported problems as they would know correcting them would be costly and finances are at a low level.

It’s a sad question, in a way, as t-coils (also called telecoils) are not new.  Basically, a telecoil is a receiver that picks up signals from a hearing loop, which is an electromagnetic field.  Hearing aids or cochlear implants with an activated telecoil can convert this electromagnetic field into a sound signal.  If you want to hear the difference in sound quality, see The Sound Through A Hearing Loop.

What do I mean by an activated telecoil?  Think of your TV and pretend it is your hearing aid.  If you want to watch a specific program on TV what do you do?  You change the channel to the one broadcasting your program, ie. you have activated that particular channel.   A hearing aid can come with a number of ‘channels’, called programs, and one of these is the telecoil.  A telecoil is about the size of a grain of rice, so it is not large.

The second question the church representative said was asked by parishioners was:  “Can a Bluetooth hearing aid be used with a hearing loop? Two, who identified themselves as hearing aid users, wanted to be sure a system was not put in place that would interfere with their new Bluetooth aids.

Bluetooth is another program that is available in a hearing aid, as is a tinnitus masking program, among others.  Just as you can get more than one channel on your TV, you can get more than one program in your hearing aids.  So the answer is no, a telecoil program will not interfere with a Bluetooth program.  They are complementary programs with very different functions.  For more information, here is a link to an article written by American audiologist Juliette Sterkens: https://loopwisconsin.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/ready-to-buy-a-new-hearing-aid-be-sure-it-includes-bluetooth-and-telecoil-technology/.

Sometimes, rather than including a telecoil in a hearing aid itself, it’s included in the ‘streamers’ that come with a hearing aid.  A streamer is designed to pick up audio signals, turning a hearing aid into a wireless headset.  It’s worn around the neck and has buttons for phone, TV, and microphone applications.

A recent article by Steve Frazier outlined his frustration with audiologists who don’t give information useful to people with hearing aids…. “When I needed assistance hearing in large venues where my hearing aid microphones were simply not able to do the job, my hearing care provider at the time offered no options other than, ‘Sit close to the loudspeakers’. I wasn’t told that there were little copper coils in my hearing aids that, when activated, turn my hearing aids into a substitute headset. He didn’t say, ‘Ask if the hall is looped’, which would mean all I had to do was take a seat, touch the ‘t-switch’ on my hearing aids, and connect wirelessly to the microphone being used by the speaker. Such a ‘loop’ broadcasts a silent electromagnetic signal that the telecoils in my hearing aids pick up much like a radio picks up the signal broadcast by a radio station.  Why wasn’t I told about telecoils? That’s a question asked by too many hearing aid wearers upon first learning about the technology.

He goes on to explain that in the USA, six states have passed laws “requiring that clients be counseled on the technology prior to being fitted with hearing aids” and more states are in various stages of passing similar laws.  Some audiologists and dispensers are opposing these changes because “They want to be able to make decisions for the client rather than give the client options and let him or her make an informed decision.”  Scary, isn’t it?  To read the whole article, see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/expanded-communication-access-why-wasnt-i-told-steve-frazier

If you have hearing loss, it’s up to YOU to educate yourself on the accessibility tools available to you, so that you can ask the right questions when you go to your audiologist or specialist.  Hearing loops are available on the island and there is no reason why more places can’t have this hearing accessibility support if users of the various venues lobby for them.

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed for the provincial election and the upcoming federal election.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

 UPCOMING EVENT

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).

Those Annoying Tinny Computerized Voices!

March 18, 2019.  A few weeks ago, one of our friends got on the elevator in our hotel and said “Don’t you find the voice of the elevator annoying?”  I was a bit surprised.  “The elevator talks?”  There were a few other people in the elevator, and several piped in, with the general consensus that the elevator does indeed talk, supposedly telling you what floor it’s stopped on, but no one, even the ones with good hearing, gave it a positive review.  “It’s supposed to tell you that we’re on the 4th floor, but it sounds like it says 1st floor” I was told.

I was amazed.  I’ve spent part of every winter for the past seven years in this hotel and never knew that the elevator spoke!  Next time I was on the elevator by myself I listened carefully.  Our friend was correct.  It does talk, but what comes out is indeed gibberish.  Luckily, each floor is identified with a number as soon as the elevator door opens.  A digital screen appears inside the elevator, and just outside the elevator the floor you are on is marked with a number and in Braille. You wouldn’t have a clue which floor you were on if you depended on the elevator voice itself.  Unfortunately, I have a habit of tuning out gibberish.  I’m quite sure that the very first time I used that elevator, so many years ago, I couldn’t understand it, and tuned it out.  Over the years, I forgot that it had an annoyingly tinny voice that made no sense whatsoever.  I thought it was just me.  It wasn’t.

 

Digital readout on left, giving an indication of the floor the elevator is on.  On the right, as you come out of the elevator, the floor number is marked, including in Braille.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

I was reminded of that elevator when I read about upset customers who were forced to use a store’s self-checkout, against their will.  One of the customers, who the reporter described as ‘hard of hearing’ said that “I hate these new blasted self-checkouts, because they talk to you and I can’t figure out what they’re saying.” (See https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/shoppers-drug-mart-superstore-self-checkout-loblaw-1.5056800)  It was déjà vu for me as I had no idea that the self-checkouts spoke. Mind you, I’ve only tried it out twice.

One time I wanted to buy a birthday card for my husband before he found me and caught me buying his card.  The staffed checkout line was so long that I got lured to the self-checkout.  One item.  How difficult could it be?  It was a pain in the you know what, and if the machine spoke to me, I didn’t hear it. Meanwhile my husband had gone through a newly opened staffed checkout line and was waiting for me, perfectly aware of my surprise purchase.

The other experience was in a grocery store. There are two grocery stores near our hotel, both big chain stores.   One is a large store with a large number of cash registers, only one of which is ever in operation, and several self-checkouts.  The other store is smaller, has several staffed checkout registers, and no self-checkouts.  We were in the larger store, and the one staffed checkout line was very long.  My husband got impatient and went to the self-checkout.  We keep track of the prices, and it didn’t take him long to figure out that the self-checkout wasn’t registering the discounted prices.  There was a button to push for assistance, and by the time it was straightened out, it took us longer than if we had waited in the other line.

We now shop at the smaller store, with no self-checkouts. Hmmm…maybe if I get a robot to do my grocery shopping, it can go to the self-checkout and they can chirp away to each other.  It’s a shame that the tech geniuses can’t come up with a computerized voice that is actually understandable.

So now I’m curious. How many of you can hear and understand the computerized voices that are everywhere these days?   In your car?  The answering machine on your phone?  When you call a business and get put on hold?

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  With upcoming provincial and federal elections coming up in the near future, your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

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:  The Ross Family Concert at Shore Shore United Church in Tryon, April 7, at 2:30 pm. Sharing a blend of Acadian and Scottish, this high-energy trio offers an afternoon of entertainment sure to raise your spirits. Auction viewing and bidding begins at 1:45 pm. Advance Tickets $12, at the door $15. For tickets call Bev 439-2352 or Cindy 658-2863.

Spring session of Level 1 Speech reading classes begin Wednesday, April 10, 2019, and run for 10 weeks.  Two sessions are offered with speech reading instructor Nancy MacPhee: a day class 1-3 pm, and an evening class 7-9 pm. Level 1 covers information to help people better understand hearing loss. Focus is on the most visible consonant shapes of speech.  There are many exercises and class interaction to work on improving your awareness and ability to interpret.  Speech reading takes lots of patience and practice! But don’t worry.  As Nancy says, “We also try to have some fun!” Email hearpei@gmail.com for more information or to register.

Interested in Level 2 Speech reading?  The spring class is completely full.  If you want to add your name for the next session, and you’ve taken Level 1, please send us an email.

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).

 

March 3 Is World Hearing Day

March 2, 2019.  Did you know that March 3 is World Hearing Day, as set out by the World Health Organization (WHO)?  The purpose is to “raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world.”  (See https://www.who.int/deafness/world-hearing-day/en/)

This year’s focus is on “the importance of early identification and intervention for hearing loss. Many people live with unidentified hearing loss, often failing to realize that they are missing out on certain sounds and words. Checking one’s hearing would be the first step towards addressing the issue.

The WHO prepared a multi-country assessment of the national capacity to provide hearing care and I was curious to see how Canada stood in the rankings, so took a look at the document that summarized the results.  It was very interesting reading, even though it appeared that Canada was not one of the 76 countries (out of 154 member states) that filled out the survey.  According to the report, 360 million people around the world have disabling hearing loss, about 5.3% of the world population.   This figure includes 32 million children!

What does the WHO consider disabling hearing loss?  It “refers to hearing loss greater than 40dB in the better hearing ear in adults, and greater than 30dB in the better hearing ear in children (0–14 years).”  So this means that there are a lot more people with a lesser degree of hearing loss than are included in the figure of 360 million.

A 1995 resolution expressed “concern at the growing problem of largely preventable hearing loss in the world.”  Countries were urged “to prepare national plans for the prevention and control of major causes of avoidable hearing loss, and for early detection in babies, toddlers and children, as well as in the elderly, within the framework of primary health care.”  That was 24 years ago!

The results from those countries who responded to a survey indicated that some progress had been made:

  • 26% established a national committee for ear and hearing care in the country.
  • 40 countries reported having a plan, program, or policy to address hearing loss at the national or sub-national level.
  • 5% provide funding for a program, partly from the national government and partly from nongovernmental agencies.

While none of the countries indicated a lack of need for a hearing health program, the WHO survey suggests that hearing health hasn’t been a top priority in most countries. 78 countries didn’t respond to the survey at all! What are some of the reasons?  One reason may be due to money being allocated to health programs where those affected are more vocal about their needs.  Another reason may be that hearing loss isn’t sudden in many cases, and there are people who are unaware that they don’t hear as well as they should.  A third reason is that hearing loss is not readily visible, so hearing loss is not front and centre in people’s minds.

One of the reasons this blog and our small provincial group exist are to help build awareness of hearing loss issues and to provide information on hearing health and hearing loss issues. In January and February, Summerside’s Age-friendly Community Committee held town hall meetings to discuss “pathways to building an age-friendly and inclusive community”.  Would the events include a discussion on hearing loss, we wondered?  Would the meeting venues be accessible for those with hearing loss?

Annie Lee MacDonald contacted a member of the Age-friendly Community Committee and asked those questions.  The town hall meetings were funded with a grant from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons For Seniors Program, but no allowance in the budget had been made for accessibility tools such as real time captioning or a temporary hearing loop.  Nevertheless, the group was very interested in hearing accessibility.

Annie Lee attended the town hall meeting in Emerald.  She reported that the event was well organized and the sound system was excellent. They were really conscious of this and making sure everything was heard.”  During the meeting, Annie Lee explained that “I stressed the need for hearing accessibility and it was picked up, especially looping by Summerside, and then Shelley Cole commented on it.”  Shelley Cole is from the Seniors Secretariat of PEI, which had invited us to do a presentation to their group before Christmas.  (See Grant Awarded From Seniors Secretariat of PEI)It was great that the Seniors Secretariat representative supported the need for hearing accessibility!

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  With upcoming provincial and federal elections coming up in the near future, your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed. Please share your ideas by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

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.  If you would like to register, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.

 

8 Questions To Ask When Doing A Needs Assessment For A Hearing Loop Installation

LoopPEI_logo-P2

February 22, 2019.  We quite often get questions about hearing loops when people are looking at options to improve hearing accessibility in their public facilities, such as a town hall or church.

A hearing loop works with an existing sound system, it is not the sound system itself.  What is a hearing loop, then?  It’s a copper wire that “loops” around the periphery of a room.  It transmits an electromagnetic field within its loop, allowing a hearing aid or cochlear implant’s telecoil (also called a T-Coil) to function as an antenna directly linking the listener to the facility’s sound system.

Once a place is ready for an estimate of the costs to install a hearing loop, a site survey questionnaire is completed about the facility.  Before that step is taken, however, there is usually a basic ‘needs assessment’ process prior to getting approvals to setting aside funds for hearing accessibility.

This is perfectly understandable, but one always wonders…. would the same discussion occur if we were talking about a wheelchair ramp?  A washroom that’s wheelchair accessible?  How many people need to use a wheelchair ramp before a facility will install one?  Is a cost/benefit analysis done?  Or do you agree that the facility needs to be accessible for even one person?  Hearing accessibility is just as important.  But it’s also important for people with hearing loss to acknowledge it.

The ‘needs assessment’ can be a way to build awareness of the importance of hearing accessibility and to gain support and approval for installing a hearing loop.   Encourage decision makers and members of the organization/church to listen to the difference between what you hear through a hearing loop and what you hear through the sound system.  Ask them if they hear not only the clarity of sound, but also if they have noticed that all background noises are eliminated.

What was recorded through the microphone by the front pew of the church: 

https://soundcloud.com/user-82887253/zoom0013pieternonloopedmp3?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email

What was recorded through the hearing loop:

https://soundcloud.com/user-82887253/zoom0012pieterloopedmp3?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email

So, what are the 8 questions that could be included in a needs assessment?  To get the most honest answers, you may wish to make completing the assessment done anonymously.

  1. Who is having trouble hearing and understanding what is being said during meetings/concerts/services?  People may ‘hear’, but do they understand what is being said?
  2. What is the size of the venue? How many members or attendees generally attend?
  3. What is the venue used for?
  4. Who already has a hearing aid or cochlear implant? Ask them to be honest!
  5. Of those who have a hearing aid, how many have the telecoil activated? If not activated, would they be willing to speak to an audiologist and ask to have it activated?
  6. If someone has hearing loss, but doesn’t have a hearing aid, or has a hearing aid without the telecoil activated, would they use a hearing loop receiver to access the hearing loop? A hearing loop receiver would mean wearing earbuds or headphones.

Since it may not be financially feasible to loop an entire facility, it’s a good idea to have an idea of the number of potential users.  Questions 2 to 6 address that.

7. People who attend churches usually have favourite places to sit in the sanctuary. One concern some churches have is whether congregation members would be willing to move from their customary spot into a looped area, in the event that the entire sanctuary cannot be looped initially. We’ve not heard of this issue in other types of venues, but a reasonable question may be to ask if the person would be willing to sit in a looped area in the event that the entire venue can’t be looped.  Another question to ask if whether people who don’t have hearing loss be willing to move out of the looped area in order to accommodate those who need to access a hearing loop.

8. The needs assessment should be answered by all, not just those who currently have hearing loss. A sample question could be:  Would you support the installation of a hearing loop for improved hearing accessibility, even if you yourself do not have hearing loss?   You may have to explain that this would be no different than making other accessibility provisions, such as a wheelchair ramp, a wheelchair accessible bathroom, or grab bars in the bathroom, for those with physical disabilities.

Have you done a needs assessment before determining whether to install a hearing loop?  Have you installed a hearing loop in your facility?  Please share your experience, and any additional questions you may have asked, by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

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. Variety concert and cake auction at West River United Church, 9 Cornwall Rd in Cornwall, March 2, 2019 at 6:30 pm.  Event is to raise funds for the Rogers family’s upcoming 8 week stay in Montreal for surgery to improve mobility due to cerebral palsy.  Storm date: March 9.  Admission by donation.

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.  If you would like to register, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.

 

A New Hearing Accessibility Tool For Your Phone Or Tablet

February 14, 2019.  When you have hearing loss, you are always looking for something to help you hear.  One of the problems so many of us have is trying to hear in a group situation.  Pocket talkers are great for one to one conversations, or for hearing the television. A pocket talker is portable and doesn’t require an internet connection.  It works on a long lasting battery and doesn’t need to be plugged in.  However, a pocket talker is not great in group situations or a noisy environment as it picks up any sounds within its range.

Voice recognition software has been around for a few years, trying to give people with hearing loss an experience similar to closed captioning as we can see on TV, or through the use of subtitles on a DVD.  Real time captioning is available for conferences and meetings, but what if you are a person on your own and want to be able to participate in a conversation?  One program many of us tried is Live Caption. (See Who Knew Technology Was Our Friend?)  It wasn’t perfect, but better than nothing.

So I was very interested when blog reader Jane Scott sent an email about a new application.  “I was reading today about Google’s new LIVE TRANSCRIBE application for android phones that seems to do a pretty decent job of transcribing live speech to text.  It looks very promising.

Jane downloaded the app on her phone and tried it out, and gave her opinion on it. “Love the attachment!  From limited use it does very well.  Once on you get real time captioning.  Easy Peasy. I do wonder whether it would work over a speaker phone.  Anyway it’s cool…..

The phrase ‘easy peasy’ did it for me, so I asked Tech Support (my husband) to download the app on my Android tablet.  Not only was it free, but it was very easy to download and even easier to use.  One of the tests I had was whether it would be able to transcribe what my husband, with his Dutch accent, said.  Not a problem, it picked up every word both of us said.

Even better, the app has a choice of over 70 languages to use, and you can choose a primary language, English in our case, plus a secondary language.  This gives you the flexibility to have a bilingual conversation.

We first tried it with English and Ukrainian, as I was curious to see if it would transcribe Cyrillic letters.  It did.  We then changed the secondary language to Dutch.  It worked perfectly, as you can see in the photo below.  One caution:  You’ll note that it transcribes in the second language, it doesn’t translate.

CIMG2906 Live Transcribe

Live Transcribe bilingual conversation in English and Dutch on my tablet. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The next test was to see how it did in a group and very noisy environment.  I didn’t have high hopes, but to my surprise, it picked up the conversation at our table for four people during breakfast in a crowded and noisy hotel lobby and ignored the background noise.  Wow! No more struggling to hear!  I could follow the conversation on my tablet.

IMG_20190214_085912559 Daria with Chuck & Ruth

Daria, centre, with Minnesota snowbirds Ruth and Chuck. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

I asked a lady with a Ukrainian accent to try it out, and it captured her speech perfectly.  Then I showed her how it worked in transcribing Ukrainian and she was amazed.  Unfortunately she had an iPhone, so couldn’t download the app.

So, now a bit about the app, as explained on the website…. “It’s powered by Google’s speech recognition technology, so the captions adjust as your conversation flows. And since conversations aren’t stored on servers, they stay secure on your device.  Live Transcribe is easy to use, anywhere you have a WiFi or network connection. It’s free to download on over 1.8B Android devices operating with 5.0 Lollipop and up.”  So, it appears that your conversations don’t go into ‘the cloud’, which is good news.  It also auto-corrects if it realizes that it has made an error.

Google explains that the app was developed in partnership with Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, a school for the deaf and hard of hearing, “to make sure that Live Transcribe was helpful for everyday use.

My opinion? Live Transcribe is FANTASTIC!  I’m going to take my tablet to tonight’s Snowbird Valentine Dinner, another high decibel level event that makes hearing impossible.  Want to try it for yourself?  Here is the link:  https://www.android.com/accessibility/live-transcribe/.

Please share your experience by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

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.

 

 

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.

cimg2867 dec 10 2018 human rights day stratford town hall real time captioning

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

cimg2869 dec 10 2018 human rights day stratford town hall

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.

 

 

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.

img_20181229_172918284-1 dec 29 2018 sign on hoh accessible room at fairfield inn christiansburg

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.

cimg2889 dec 31 2018 trent walker mgr of fairfield inn west knoxville

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.

img_20181231_093541246 dec 30 2018 hearing accessible door sign in fairfield inn west knoxville

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!

cimg2888 dec 31 2018 kit for hoh at fairfield inn west knoxville

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

 

Hearing Accessibility Tool Now Available At Victim Services Offices in Charlottetown and Summerside

December 5, 2018.  If you’ve ever been the victim of a crime, then you know how stressful it can be to deal with all that follows….. police, maybe a court appearance, lawyers.  If you have hearing loss as well, your stress load can double or triple, depending on what happened.

We need all our faculties just to hear on a daily basis, and anything that can upset us or cause anxiety makes it very difficult to have the concentration needed to focus on hearing.

Over the past two years, a program to improve communication between the legal community and those with hearing loss was made possible by a grant from the Law Foundation of PEI.  As more and more members of the legal community learned about the program they not only willingly participated, but encouraged others to participate as well.  One of the first comments we received came from the Honourable David Jenkins, Chief Justice of PEI, who noted, “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.

Navigating a world in which you have been a victim is traumatic, so we were very pleased when Victim Services heard about the program from Kelly Robinson of CLIA PEI and wanted to participate.  To help in our mutual goal of access to justice for all, we provided a few tips on better communication with those with hearing loss and introduced staff at the Charlottetown office to a portable hearing accessibility tool to amplify sound – a pocket talker.

Susan Maynard, Provincial Manager, Victim Services, explained that “Victim Services is a program of the Department of Justice and Public Safety which assists victims in the aftermath of a crime and throughout their involvement in the criminal justice system.

CIMG2838 Nov 26 2018 Victim Services bought 2 pocket talkers

Seated, left to right: Annie Lee MacDonald; Susan Maynard, Provincial Manager, Victim Services; Darrell Gallant, Alternative Dispute Resolution; Georgina Bowness, Victim Services Worker. Standing, left to right: Daria Valkenburg; Catherine Chaisson, Office of the Childrens’ Lawyer. (Photo taken by Carolyn Peters, Victim Services Worker)

We asked what kind of assistance Victim Services provides, and Susan gave us a summary of the varied and important work done by this office. “Services include:

information about the status of your case and the criminal justice system

– short term counselling and emotional support

– referrals

court preparation

– help in preparing a victim impact statement

– assistance under the ‘Victims of Family Violence’ Act

risk assessment and safety planning

– help to recover financial losses

-coordination of services”

So, if you’re the victim of a crime on PEI and have hearing loss, you’ll be happy to know that Victim Services of the PEI Department of Justice & Public Safety has a pocket talker at the offices in Charlottetown & Summerside. All you have to do is speak up and ask to use one.  Kudos for increasing hearing accessibility!

Contact information for Victim Services: 

  • Queens and Kings Counties: 1 Harbourside Access Rd., Charlottetown, PE. Phone: 902-368-4582.
  • Prince County: Suite 19, 2nd Floor, 263 Harbour Drive, Summerside, PE. Phone: 902-888-8218.

For a list of lawyers on PEI and other members of the law community who have a pocket talker in their office, and who have agreed to have their information posted on the blog, see: https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/pei-lawyers-with-pocket-talkers/

If you would like to participate in this program for improving hearing accessibility, let us know.  Email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on our blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

Don’t miss our upcoming events:

  • Event in Venue Equipped With A Hearing Loop:  UPCOMING CONCERT: Sorensen Christmas Concert at South Shore United Church in Tryon, 7:30 pm on Friday, December 7, 2018.  “The Shepherds Were the First to Hear”, held in the sanctuary. Lunch and a time for Christmas socializing will follow the concert. Admission is a freewill offering which will be donated to the Church Building Fund. This venue is equipped with a hearing loop for the benefit of those with hearing lossIf you have never heard the clarity of sound through a hearing loop, this is an opportunity to try it out.
  • Event in Venue with Real Time Captioning and a temporary hearing loop: The PEI Human Rights Commission & Town of Stratford are hosting Human Rights Day 2018 at Stratford Town Hall, Monday, December 10, 2018, from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. This year’s event is to celebrate 70 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to introduce the new vertical $10 bill featuring Viola Desmond of Nova Scotia.  This event will have real time captioning available for the benefit of those with hearing loss, as well as a temporary hearing loop so you can experience the clarity of sound.  We will be there to answer any questions as well.

Check out our Upcoming Events page for more events.  (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/upcoming-events/)

© Daria Valkenburg

 

The Sound Through A Hearing Loop

November 8, 2018.  Quite often, we’re asked what the difference is in what someone hears within a hearing loop and outside of a hearing loop.  We’ve sent links that others have shared with us, and encouraged people to visit venues on the island that have a hearing loop installed.  During a sound and equipment check for a presentation last week at South Shore United Church in Tryon, Jack Sorensen of the church made a recording for us.  He recorded the presenter, Pieter Valkenburg, as heard through a microphone by the front pew of the church, and as heard through the hearing loop.

Jane Scott and Don Gribble were kind enough to transfer the audio files to a website, which allowed us to provide the links you see below. Can you hear the difference in sound quality?

looped vs non looped

What was recorded through the microphone by the front pew of the church: 

https://soundcloud.com/user-82887253/zoom0013pieternonloopedmp3?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email

What was recorded through the hearing loop:

https://soundcloud.com/user-82887253/zoom0012pieterloopedmp3?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email

Several blog postings have been written on hearing loops and there is a site page on this blog for places on the island where a hearing loop has been installed (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/places-on-pei-equipped-with-a-hearing-loop/).

While we are at the beginning of looping projects on the island, other places have been very creative in making sure accessibility for those with hearing loss is a priority.  Previous postings have mentioned a number of places around the world.  This time, here is a link to a story about shoppers in one store in Maryland who can choose the ‘hearing loop lane’ when it’s time to pay!  See http://www.baltimoresun.com/bs-bz-wegmans-hearing-loops-20160116-story.html

Thank you to Jack, Jane, and Don for their help with the sound files.  Do you have a hearing loss issue you’d like to share?  Email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on our blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

Don’t miss our upcoming events:   

November Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Jessyca Bedard, Clinical Support & Business Development Manager for Oticon Medical Canada, who will talk about BAHAs (Bone Anchored Hearing Aids).  The presentation will be followed by our Annual General Meeting.

Presentation:  Annie Lee MacDonald and Daria Valkenburg have been invited to talk about the pocket talker project with the Law Foundation of PEI and PEI lawyers at the upcoming meeting of the PEI Seniors Secretariat on November 30, 2018.

Check out our Upcoming Events page for even more events.  (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/upcoming-events/)

 

© Daria Valkenburg