Neighborhood access, Skagit style

Led by two of our star advocates, Jerry and Joanna Olmstead, hearing access in the Burlington area is happening.

And by happening, we mean happening.

In Burlington, Dimensional Communications installed loops in the Burlington City Council Chambers.

Island Hospital in Anacortes has counter loops at the intake and emergency desks–look for the blue ear symbol. Our advocates are working so staff are trained to use the loops and that they’re available, not left in a cupboard. Meanwhile, an Island Hospital committee is looking at ways to improve services for people with hearing loss.

Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon is considering adding a hearing loop.

You already know about the hearing loops at the Burlington Library.

And the hearing loop at Skyline Club House in Anacortes helps make it a well-loved, hearing-friendly event space. We need more of those, eh?

When we talk about boots-on-the-ground advocates and hearing-friendly neighborhoods, this is what we mean. You don’t have to drive to Olympia or call your senator (though we urge you to do those things if you can.) You can simply ask for hearing access in your own back yard, and keep asking until it’s provided.

It really works.

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Seventy-five loops, and counting…

Seventy-five loops? That’s a lot of loops. That’s what you’ll find at Washington State Community Services Offices (CSOs) and Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) offices across the state. Oh, and two of those loops are in their mobile vans.

ODHH photo w logos

Inspired by the Let’s Loop Seattle and Let’s Loop America campaigns, the Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH) began its own Let’s Loop DSHS campaign. The loops were funded with State General Fund dollars, and more funding has been added for repairs and replacements.

“For DSHS to be proactive and ready to provide loops should any client with hearing loss walk into the office to me is an excellent customer service.  This is preferable to being reactive and unprepared without the proper equipment.  Hence we committed the resources to accommodate clients’ communication needs,” said Eric Raff, ODHH Director.

You can find hearing loops at the Seattle North and Mercer 1 & 2 offices and the Spokane, Puyallup, White Center, and Kennewick offices—plus lots more. The mobile CSOs are an especially handy resource in rural areas. The vans can help with cash, food or childcare assistance, eligibility reviews, EBT cards, and some Medicare and Medicaid questions. Check the mobile CSO’s schedule to find out when a looped van is near you.

Eric and the ODHH staff welcome feedback on the loops so they can track who’s using them and how well they work. When you visit, look for the sign, turn your hearing aid to T-coil mode, make sure the loop is on (it’s OK to ask!), and give it a try. If the loop doesn’t work, politely let them know, and refer them to us if they need assistance. The ODHH is working on providing more signs and publicity so even more people can use the loops.

The State of Washington ODHH provides many services for people with hearing loss, including relay services, public video phones, interpreters, CART, and case management. For more information about their services, visit their website.

 Let us know if you’ve used these loops and how they worked for you: loopseattle@gmail.com. To see if the office near you is looped, visit the front page of www.loopseattle.org for a downloadable and printable list. As always, please thank ODHH staff for this valuable service and share the news with people with hearing loss.

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Advocacy in action: 5177 passes unanimously

5177 Signing 2

Advocacy works. It really does. Thanks to your hard work and support, long-term care staff will be trained to recognize hearing loss and seek assistance when it’s needed: Senate Bill 5177 passed unanimously and was signed by Governor Inslee.

5177 Signing 1

Hearing loss is often overlooked by caregivers, especially in long-term care. Other medical issues, especially health problems that are urgent, take priority. Yet hearing loss is a serious health issue, too. Untreated hearing loss is linked to an increased risk of dementia symptoms, falls, depression, and isolation.

And hearing loss interferes with caregiver communication. Patients can misunderstand instructions or information about their own conditions. Caregivers can misinterpret hearing loss a behavior problem or confusion.

A huge thank you to everyone who contacted their lawmaker to urge 5177’s pass. Your energy and compassion truly do have an influence. Stay tuned for more ways you can help people with hearing loss with crucial public policies.

5177 Signing 5

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ACT introduces Figaro MobiTxt to help people with hearing loss

A riddle: What looks like an iPad, shows only words, and sits atop a goose-neck holder? It’s a Figaro MobiTxt captioner, helping people who are deaf or who have a hearing loss understand, follow, and enjoy the performances at A Contemporary Theatre (ACT).ACT MobiTxt

In large venues, many people—both with and without hearing loss or hearing aids—struggle for complete understanding of the dialogue during live theatre. Rapid speech, accents, and dialects make comprehension even tougher. Some theatres use large captioned screens or scrolling digital text placed next to or above the stage, but that didn’t work well for ACT’s space.

“In the past when we had a captioned show, our patrons would have to sit in a specific section and choose from looking up at the captions hanging from the grid or from looking down at what was happening on stage. It was a frustrating experience for our patrons, and it made it practically impossible to enjoy our shows for those who need captioning,” says Jeremy Rupprecht, ACT’s Audience Services Manager.

Rupprecht explained that they’d been looking for a solution for years, and once they found one with privacy screens to eliminate glare and a detachable goose-neck arm to position the caption device where it’s needed, “everything started falling into place.”

I had the opportunity to test the Figaro at a performance of Tribes. It took a little getting used to, but the Figaro helped my comprehension tremendously. The staff at ACT have listened closely to their audience and incorporated their suggestions. For example, ACT removed the lock screen so that when the MobiTxt is switched on, only one button is visible with the name of the show. “The goal is to make it as useful and as easy to use as possible,” says Rupprecht.

The MobiTxt will bring many people with hearing loss back to the world of live theatre. “Theatre is an art form that can only exist with a community, and it is important to ACT to include everyone in that community. We have patrons who have been with us since the beginning, people who have supported us and helped build ACT into what it is today, and who have had to stop attending shows because they can no longer hear what is happening on stage. The Figaro MobiTxt devices make our community accessible to them again and opens our doors to people who have never had the chance to experience the magic of live theatre,” says Rupprecht.

Patrons can use one of the fifty Figaro MobiTxt devices from any seat in the theatre for mainstage shows every Tuesday and Friday night and every Thursday and Saturday matinee. Reserve a device in advance to have it waiting for you at your seat.  Printed instructions and a quick tutorial are available, though the MobiTxts advance on their own at the pace of the show. No outside devices are allowed due to glare and sound concerns.

For a list of captioned shows and a demonstration video, visit http://www.acttheatre.org/Tickets/Figaro.

–by Cheri Perazzoli

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Help people at SeaTac Airport hear

Understanding clearly in airports can be challenging, even for people with good hearing. Competing noise, echoes, and reverberations combined with accents and dialects can cause confusion, fatigue, and stress–not to mention misheard instructions, unheard gate changes, missed flights, or an inability to follow emergency or safety instructions. But for Seattle travelers, communication is about to improve.

Passengers at Sea-Tac's Concourse A, 19 May 2011.

The Port of Seattle aims to make SeaTac Airport the most accessible airport in the country, in time to welcome the Special Olympics to Seattle in 2018. You can help by sharing your experiences navigating SeaTac with a hearing loss, including how you fare on the light rail and at security, gates, and check-in.

SeaTac Hearing Access Meeting
Thursday, April 20, 2017
5:30pm-7:30pm
HSDC
1625 19th Ave, Seattle

CART and ASL provided.

If you can’t make the meeting, send us or Laura Gramer (laura at gramer dot com) your comments. And watch our website and social media for updates.

DTW-Airport+
 

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