May 14, 2019. How many of you have heard of Vint Cerf? He has had hearing loss since birth and has a cochlear implant. He met his wife Sigrid at an audiologist’s office, and there they were, two people with hearing loss. Big deal, you may be thinking. Well, it is a big deal, because Vint Cerf decided to find a way to improve the way people like him and his wife could communicate. And he did. He’s one of the ‘fathers of the internet’, responsible for developing the early email protocols that we still use. If you use the internet and email, you can thank people like Vint Cerf who not only improved communication accessibility for himself, his wife, and everyone else with hearing loss, but transformed the way we all communicate. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vint_Cerf and https://dhhcouncil.wisconsin.gov/dhhfiles/pdf/Cerf.pdf)
In the November 3, 2018 issue of The Economist, in an article ‘Better By Design’ by the columnist Bartleby, he quotes August de los Reyes, a designer for Google, who notes that “Disability is simply a mismatch between a person’s ability and their environment.” Bartleby went on to say that “Disability is designed into the world. Imagine that your home had been built by cats. Entrances and exits would be small flaps, which is all that a cat would need. Humans would be trapped inside, rendered immobile by a particular environment.”
I thought of Mr. Cerf and Mr. de los Reyes recently, when I read that the Charlottetown Airport Authority was looking for public input into their long-term master plan. There was a link to a survey, which I read and participated in. To my disappointment, there was NOTHING in the survey about improving accessibility at the airport. I had to click ‘other’ in many of the options to address accessibility. (See https://www.theguardian.pe.ca/news/local/charlottetown-airport-seeking-public-input-for-long-term-master-plan-308437/)
If you have suggestions for accessibility, such as a hearing loop at the airport counters, real time captioning screening of announcements, and the adoption of sunflower lanyards for hidden disabilities, such as is used at Heathrow Airport (See Travelling With An Invisible Disability), please consider filling out the survey.
All of us can identify a family member or friend whose life is restricted because of their hearing loss. 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. While our outreach and educational activities help to change perceptions, we need your letters of support as 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 email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.
© Daria Valkenburg
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.
May Chapter meeting: Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Audiologist Derek Hughes of Campbell Hearing will discuss new trends in hearing aids and give a summation of his research findings on singing for those who have cochlear implants for his master’s thesis. Several members participated in this study.