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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.
© Daria Valkenburg
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 email@example.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).