Let’s loop Seattle was thrilled to have a role in the special community program on accessibility that the Phinney Neighborhood Association (PNA) held last weekend at the historic Phinney Ridge Blue Building. What better time to introduce our HEAR HERE format than during a program focusing on accessibility?
According to Patrick Dunn, PNA Program Director, the recently installed elevator inspired the accessibility program to bring the community together to celebrate improved access and examine what attributes are needed to create an accessible community.
The community event was planned to take place on the newly accessible 2nd floor , but what about hearing access? We wanted to ensure that we were including and engaging all audience members.
Why is Hearing Access Important?
Hearing loss is an invisible disability that impacts daily communication for 1 of 7 Americans and increases to 1 in 3 at age 65. Hearing loss is a daily challenge that those with normal hearing find difficult to understand. Keeping up with conversations when you can no longer hear consonants make every verbal exchange in a noisy room a brain teaser work out.
Even the most sophisticated hearing aids cannot separate important sounds from back ground noises.
How do communities provide hearing access?
Technology helps hearing aids work better. We set up two completely different types of technology to demonstrate effective communication access.
- Hearing Loop Technology
For the accessible program, Spencer Norby of Hearing Loops Northwest installed a Portable Loop. In this vintage wood floor classroom, a simple perimeter loop laid around the room was more than adequate.
Microphones are key to making this technology work; a presenter speaks into the microphone and clear sound is delivered directly to the T coil located in the hearing aid. One simply pushes a button to access the T coil Program. Background noise is eliminated and the user is able to understand words clearly, as will anyone else with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Those who need hearing help who do don’t have hearing aids will benefit by wearing a loop receiver and headset. Hearing loops enhance sound to provide a full listening experience.
- CART Technology
Most are familiar with captions on the TV screen, but are surprised to learn about real time captioning or Communications Access Real time (CART). We are veryappreciative to Stanley Sakai who wowed us with his CART skills, providing captions along with all of the speakers at the event. CART may be provided in the classroom, at meetings, workshops and other presentations.
Accessible Communities for ALL
Room’s Ready Let’s GO!
Karen Braitmayer, Seattle’s Star of the US access board, uses innovative design solutions to break down barriers to access, to create environments that are welcoming to all.
Karen opened this visionary discussion with a simple question: “Would anyone like a verbal description of the slides”? The affirmative reply instantly directed our focus to develop interactive and inclusive conversation with the whole group.
Karen introduced us to the concept of Universal Design: the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design, and more specifically took us through the Seven Elements of Universal Design.
Karen shared with us that she personally defines accessibility in terms of easy access and ease of “visitibility”. She directs us through the neighborhood pointing to homes with a big welcome mat; homes that feature step less front door entries. Homes that are easy to navigate are welcoming and invite visitability.
Karen emphasized just how critical universal design is. Facilities that are designed to be welcoming and visitable by all different types of people in our communities, will, in fact, be visited and used by all people. Design Matters.
After Karen’s engaging presentation on Universal Design, we moved to a panel discussion, with Karen Ko, Ed Mederios, and Laura Gramer.
Karen Ko’s presentation invited us to imagine a sensory garden within Woodland Park that would be accessible to all ages and abilities. Plants and all garden elements are being designed provide sensory experiences unique to the garden. Raised beds and tall plants enhance and stimulate our senses, providing the ultimate garden experience.
Ed Mederios shared the benefits of volunteering within the village, the efforts to create and nurture a culture of community cooperation. Age does not define ability.
Laura Gramer inspired us with updates of her work with the Seattle Commission for people with disabilities. Laura has developed and fostered relationships with city leaders. She’s worked to amplify the message that access to the tools to break down barriers in communication, employment, and civic access are lacking. Her work with the education committee has strengthened the city’s Emergency Management program. Laura continues to promote accessible travel with Open Doors.
Throughout the day, we kept returning to this central question:
How can our communities best provide effective communication access within our neighborhoods?
Hearing loops have the potential to be the most useful and practical solution for hearing in acoustically challenging environments. Direct hearing aid access to clear and effective communication empowers the user by letting them choose how they want to hear. It’s clean, unnoticeable, affordable, and easy to use. By integrating hearing loops in our auditoriums, boardrooms, theaters, museums, transport kiosks, transportation vehicles and retail counters, as they are throughout northern Europe, we can make a difference every day for those with hearing loss. We can change the culture and eradicate the stigma of hearing loss.
Inspired contemporary design for presentations could include a room designed specifically to accommodate two screens for easy CART Access. Software can be implemented to incorporate captions at the top of power point presentations to optimize Cart
People of all ages benefit from accessible features and customer service practices. Accessibility makes a visit to the market, a theater performance, and an internet search easier, and much more enjoyable for people who experience limitations in vision, hearing, mobility or memory. Older individuals are more likely to use accessible features if they are integrated in to the overall design of the building, publication or website.
2013 was designated the year of sharing by PNA. Let’s join them.
Share the sound; let’s loop Seattle!
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