Categories
Accessibility Advocacy CART (live captioning) Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss State Agencies

State Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services

According to the National Association of State Agencies of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NASADHH), there are approximately 38 state agencies of the deaf and hard of hearing (HoH). If your state is missing in the roster linked above, try finding information through your state’s Rehabilitation Services (aka Vocational Rehabilitation) or Labor/Careerforce/Workforce offices.

The above graphic is a sampling of where services for the HoH and deaf reside in state government—Departments on Aging, Children & Families, Civil Rights, Disabilities & Communication Access, Economic Opportunity & Security, Health & Human Services, Independent Living, Industry, Long Term Support, and Social Services—and it is no wonder information can be hard to find.

Looking further at the NASADHH website, their organization has identified a need for a national database of information and a heightened public awareness of services, and are working toward that goal.

Also, information and services relevant to HoH needs and accommodations can sometimes only be found by navigating through multiple content layers of a state’s website. If the HoH see information relevant only to someone in Deaf culture and ASL Interpretation on the website’s homepage, likely they get the impression there are no services available to them. And, because they are not a part of Deaf culture, and do not know or use sign language, they leave. That is a factor in the HoH being underserved.

Random examples of state website homepages:

Homepage: West Virginia’s state website (https://dhhr.wv.gov/cdhh/Pages/default.aspx). No information about CART services or HoH needs; appear to only offer Deaf services.
Homepage: Rhode Island’s state website (http://www.cdhh.ri.gov/). Equal focus on Interpreter & CART services; appear to offer both Deaf and HoH services.

HoH people comprise over 95 percent of those with disabling hearing loss. They communicate, live, work, and socialize in the hearing world, in a spoken language they are fluent in. They need accommodations in their language.

JULIA: What do you know about your state services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing? State services are your tax dollars at work. Be sure to take advantage of these services. 

  • Do you know who the HoH Specialist is?
  • Do they have an Advisory Council that you could join and learn more about your state services for Hard of Hearing individuals?
  • Which state department funds them? 
  • If you needed a list of CART or live captioning companies, would your state agency be able to provide one? 
    • And if not, are you right now looking up your next state legislation meeting? 
  • Do you have a local HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America) chapter who might lobby with you? 
  • How can you make a difference for HoH needs in your state?

If you can answer these questions, HOORAY!!! If you can’t, I hope it prompts you to find out more. Chelle Wyatt is one person and she made a huge difference in the thought process at a state level by showing one size does not fit most.

Even if you don’t live in the same city as the state office, send an email to the HoH specialist and ask what might be available in your area. Advisory Council meetings are often online, so you can join from anywhere in your state and help make a difference. Reach out, we can make a difference.

MICHELE: I found out about the DHHSD (Deaf and Hard of Hearing Division) through my CareerForce (formerly WorkForce) office after moving to Minnesota in 2006. They suggested I contact DHHSD—I had never heard of them—to partner with should any employer express concern regarding my hearing loss. I remember wondering why none of my audiologists had ever mentioned that there are state agencies that serve the HoH and deaf? At the end of every unsuccessful hearing aid trial, I was desperate for additional help and information, but they had no answers for me.

I met with the local DHHSD director, who is culturally Deaf, and received some helpful information about captioned telephones and mobile CapTel. I was also assured their office would indeed serve as a co-advocate with prospective employers if the need arose.

What wasn’t helpful was the lecture I received for referring to myself as “Hearing Impaired”, or the invitation to the monthly pizza night where only sign language was spoken, followed by “Most HoH people only come once; they have no way to communicate.” 

I did not learn about CART from DHHSD and was given some material on learning sign language.

My initial impression was that their services were more focused on Deaf culture and sign language, which is not my experience. My fitting into Deaf culture seemed more important than their meeting my needs as a lipreader, English speaker, and captioning consumer. I’ve learned more from my tribe of HoH peers than from my state agency or audiologists.

In early 2018, I volunteered as a delegate for my state political party and requested CART for the March convention. The local convention organizer contacted DHHSD for assistance after the remote CART provider recommended an on-site provider would be a better fit for a political convention. What they (the same culturally Deaf director) advised demonstrated how misinformed they are about CART and CART providers, and that they clearly need to be more knowledgeable about HoH needs and accommodations.

In 2020, the VRS (Vocational Rehabilitation Services) placement coordinator I was working with asked if I needed a sign language interpreter for our meeting. It was an opportunity to inform about how vast the HoH community is (18% of the population), my needs as a lipreader, and to educate about CART and captioning. To his credit, my VRS person was not okay with being knowledgeable about Deaf culture, but having no idea about the HoH community. Assuming the same was true for his co-workers, he encouraged me to submit a workshop proposal for that year’s upcoming Health & Human Services Conference in our county, which I did. That workshop was the basis for the One Size Does Not Fit All workshop that Hearing Loss LIVE! plans to offer in the future.

CHELLE: In 2009, after a big drop in hearing and a life change in moving to Salt Lake City, I discovered our state agency while looking for the local HLAA chapter who happened to meet there. The Utah Division of Services of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DSDHH) had classes for hearing loss and I took them all, anything to learn how to live better with hearing loss. Every time I walked through those doors for a Hard of Hearing event, I felt the burden of communication dropped off my shoulders. These were my people, my tribe. 

I like to joke that I was around there so much, they finally hired me in 2012 as a Hard of Hearing Assistant for statewide services. I loved reaching more people and helping others deal with their hearing loss better. I worked 5 years as HoH Assistant and then 3 more years as a HoH Specialist, the first not to be fluent in American Sign Language (ASL).

Though I loved what I did, working in the “Deaf Center”, as it was often called, had some challenges. As the HoH specialist, I began to remind people that it was the Deaf AND Hard of Hearing Center. It was hard for people to change that habit, the Deaf community started services years ago. The Hard of Hearing portion came later with the Hard of Hearing Specialist job, classes and presentations. The ‘new’ office building was dedicated as the Sanderson Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. After reminding enough people, they started saying the Sanderson Center instead. I wanted to make sure the HoH felt included and they knew it was their center too. 

While there, I learned enough sign language to get by but did not become fluent. I’m Hard of Hearing. I speak English and read English. I use lipreading and CART. I was the Hard of Hearing Specialist and I wanted to represent the majority of the community I belonged to. It was my job to make Hard of Hearing communication needs known which included requesting CART at outside events, something that hadn’t been done much before me. 

Most of my Deaf coworkers respected me though a few were resentful that I did not become fluent in ASL.This is the Deaf AND Hard of Hearing Center, I think a mutual respect is needed and that was my goal. I did serve the Hard of Hearing community well and brought in a record attendance and gave CART more recognition on the state level.

AREAS THAT WARRANT IMPROVEMENT: The majority of state agencies that serve the HoH and Deaf require their employees to be fluent in ASL, which disqualifies some of the most knowledgeable and talented people to help the HoH. That needs to change.

It is important that state agencies give equal billing to HoH needs and accommodations. CART should not continue to be a well-kept secret. CART for the HoH is exactly the same as ASL Interpretation for the Deaf. Both are considered reasonable communication access accommodations by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Go to your state’s website and look around. If you can’t easily find information relevant to HoH needs and CART, contact them and give them some thoughtful feedback and ask for what you need. The HoH community will remain underserved until they become more involved in getting the same level of service as the Deaf community. We should look to the Deaf community as a model for our own movement.

Unfortunately, the HoH most often learn about state agencies, and the services they provide, from their own internet search, referrals from Work/Career Force offices, peers, or by accident. State Agencies must do a better job of finding ways to reach the HoH and offering services equal to those offered for the Deaf.

Categories
Accessibility ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) Captioning CART (live captioning) Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Hearing Technology Stenographers

InnoCaption Services

It is our extreme pleasure to welcome Cristina Duarte, Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs & In-House Counsel of InnoCaption, as our guest this week! Cristina has a pretty impressive title, but it doesn’t describe all that she does at InnoCaption. When speaking with Cristina, it is her passion and commitment to a company that holds a deep personal connection for her that comes through. She loves connecting with customers and helping the Hard of Hearing (HoH) and deaf improve their lives by broadening their ability to communicate.

CRISTINA: As soon as I could speak, I took charge of answering the phone in our house. I was so proud every time I would answer and say in my most adult voice “Duarte residence, Cristina speaking, how can I help you?” Both of my parents were born with profound hearing loss and the phone was always challenging for them. Fast forward about 12 years, I was the only kid in my high school with a two way pager – which was incredibly cool – because it was the only way I could get a hold of my parents and fully communicate with them when they were out of the house. My father, an audio visual engineer who specialized in accessible solutions, frequently traveled and called me to test out new technologies he encountered while on the road. It was a normal occurrence for me as a young adult to get a call from a random number and hear – “Hi Cristina, it’s Dad! Just trying out something new and want to see how it does.” Every single time there would be some part of the solution which fell short of expectations, whether it was the speed, accuracy, sound quality or compatibility. I remember the first time my father called me using the InnoCaption app – I can honestly say it was the first phone conversation I had EVER had with them that it was like I was talking to a hearing person. At the time, the technology was still pending approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – but we both knew it was going to be life changing.

Fast forward to today, I have had the opportunity to be a part of InnoCaption for seven years and am incredibly proud of how far we have come. We are still the only company to offer our users captioning provided by stenographers and have added the ability to use automatic speech recognition (ASR) as well. Instead of imposing our own views on which captioning technology best meets our users’ needs, we empower our users by giving them full control with the ability to switch between a stenographer or ASR captions at the press of a button, before or even during a call. We listen to the community and our users – which has resulted in some really awesome features. A few of my favorites, and how they came about, are:

Caller ID Selection: This feature allows our user to choose between whether outgoing calls from their InnoCaption show as their InnoCaption number; their regular cell phone number; or blocked. We implemented this feature after receiving requests from deaf and hard of hearing doctors who wanted to use their cellphones to call patients, but did not want to provide the patients with their personal numbers. They explained that their hearing peers were able to do this, and they wanted to be able to as well. Shortly thereafter we launched the Caller ID Selection solution!

DeskView: At the beginning of the pandemic so many were forced into remote work environments without accessibility. I remember hearing from users who explained that they did not need accommodations in person, but as soon as their work shifted to the phone or video conferences, they were really struggling. In the beginning, we had many users dialing in to video conferencing platforms from their mobile devices and relying on the captioning. The feedback from that time that I remember best, is someone describing the feeling of looking between their computer screen and mobile device trying to keep up as “whip-lash” inducing. To address this, our team rolled out Deskview, which is a browser based InnoCaption feature which allows users to either mirror the captions from their mobile device to their computer OR now users can call directly from the browser eliminating the need for the mobile device. This empowers the user to have control of the captions on the same screen as their video conferencing – our users were thrilled!

Dyslexic Font: At some point last year, I received a message from a long time InnoCaption user sharing that they were dyslexic and there were dyslexic friendly fonts which would enhance the ease of reading and comprehension for them. Our engineering team was able to implement a dyslectic font customization within the app – and now we are even more accessible.

I could share so many stories behind the features we have released and why – but that would take quite some time. Instead I share the ones above as examples of the changes that have been made as a direct result of feedback from community members. I love what we have been able to do together working alongside the community. Honestly, my favorite part of my job is having the opportunity to connect with users and hear their experiences. I am beyond proud of what has been accomplished to date and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

CHELLE: The phone was such a big source of anxiety for me that in 2009 I quit using it. There’s no lipreading on phones, all I get is a voice which for me is missing many consonants in speech. Trying to piece together the missing sounds of speech without any visuals was pure hell. I lost a few friends who would not convert to text or email, that hurt.

Caption phones came along around 2012 and I had so much anxiety with phones it was a last resort for me. I’d walk by the phone for 2 or 3 hours before working up the courage to make the call. The captions helped and little by little I got over the fear.

InnoCaption was my first captioning smartphone app. I like that they use stenographers, I’m more confident than ever with phone calls. During the pandemic shutdown, I had to use my cell phone at home to make business calls. I found the captions to be more consistent and they came up faster too, so I transitioned to using only my smartphone with InnoCaption for phone calls.. No more anxiety.

JULIA: In 2017, HLAA National held their convention in Salt Lake City, where I first learned about InnoCaption and that they contracted steno writers. I thought to myself, sounds too good to be true (find out more in our podcast Monday).

I put off looking into it for a little minute, but eventually took their assessment test. It. Did. Not. Go. Well. Maybe down the road I will blog about my severe test anxiety. Just writing the word “test” has me in a sweat. Luckily they offered a second chance and I was ready. Sweat and all.

For the past four years InnoCaption has done just what they said they would do. Supply steady contracted work during times in the past I would have had none. I tell them every two weeks what I have available to work. Some months I have more, some I have less. I have as many hours as I want or need most weeks. A side bonus is InnoCaption pay is every two weeks without any problems.

CART providers, interpreters, Voice Relay Operators, Caption operators, operators in general, are all held to high confidentiality standards. We type/sign the spoken word and when done, we flush it. We are essential workers, and sometimes part of the first responder team. But we also allow someone with a hearing loss to share in the best parts of life with friends, family, and coworkers. At the end of the day, my job is about supporting someone who otherwise would be left out of whatever event they are facing, good or bad.

MICHELE: I have not had audio capability on my cell phone since 2012. When I moved to Germany, I had no use for audio (I don’t speak or read German) and so I dropped back to text and data only. After returning to the U.S., in mid-December of 2015, I kept putting off adding audio to my cell phone plan, as I had become accustomed to not having it. I kept telling myself I wanted to add it in order to try InnoCaption, and some of the other accessibility apps that caption cell phone calls, but I procrastinated.

The day before filming our podcast with Cristina, I stopped at my cell provider and changed my service to include audio capability. I was so excited to finally try InnoCaption and connect with people on mobile calls like a hearing person. I am blown away by how well it works and am kicking myself for not taking action sooner. Everyone I have used InnoCaption with so far says they love hearing my voice and chatting on the phone with me again.

Matt Goncalves of InnoCaption at the 2019 SayWhatClub Convention in Sacramento, CA.

I first learned about InnoCaption in 2017, while serving as a volunteer for the SayWhatClub Convention Steering Committee. InnoCaption has sponsored our convention for several years, and what is always evident is their caring, commitment, and willingness to listen to, and work with, their users.

Categories
Accessibility Hearing Loops & Telecoils Hearing Technology

Hearing Loops & Telecoils

Assistive Listening Symbol
Assistive Listening Symbol specific to Hearing Loops

A hearing loop, a.k.a. an induction loop, wirelessly transmits magnetic energy from sound systems to telecoil (T-coil) sensors in hearing devices. Installation of a wire loop (various arrays) in the floor or ceiling of a facility or area is required. Activating the T-coil in their hearing device allows the user to hear sound directly from any looped room or facility, stage, hall, playhouse, theater, conference area.

Hearing loops are old technology (invented in 1937), but that doesn’t mean they are outdated. The U.S. lags far behind European, and other, countries in providing loops. And, they aren’t just for the Hard of Hearing (HoH), anyone can experience the clear and direct sound piped into their ears via hearing loops and telecoil receivers.

Feel free to contact us through our website if you want to learn more about loops.

Julia: In various group gatherings, peer groups, and classes, I have heard the question, “Do you have a T-coil?” The usual answers:

  • What is that?
  • My audiologist says only to use bluetooth, telecoils are outdated.
  • Is that my number three program for telephones?

As I am writing this, I am wondering if I have ever heard anyone give the answer, “Yes. I use it for…”? Utah has state legislation that makes it mandatory for audiologists to talk about assistive listening systems when selling hearing aids, including loops and telecoils, to help patients understand what T-coils are, along with other options. The fact that people have more questions than answers about telecoils says something about the lack in the hearing health medical profession and patient care that currently exists.

What I have learned, from HoHs who know and understand what telecoil function can be used for, is that they love it. It brings the sound of a room straight to your hearing aids.

Chelle: I was one of the lucky ones with an audiologist encouraging me to use the T-switch (telecoil) back in the mid 90’s. I worked in a salon and the background noise could be horrendous, competing with the phone calls. The T-switch shutdown my environmental noise and concentrated on what came across on the phone instead. Some background noise bled into the phone calls, but usually I could hear better…unless the other end of the line had a lot of background noise. 

Not too long after moving to Salt Lake City, our state Deaf/HoH center had hearing loops installed in two meeting rooms and I was able to experience my telecoil program (hearing aid technology improved, no longer a switch but a dedicated program) in a whole new way. The tables all had microphones and as long as everyone talked into the microphone it was great! Hearing loops became my favorite assistive listening system, I hear much better/clearer through the loop than FM systems. For the first time in years, I did not have to concentrate so hard on lipreading or focus as much on CART. (I still need the backups for missed words.)

Here in the Salt Lake valley, we have our D/HoH center, Hale Centre Theatre and the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City. Other cities have their own looped options. Check the ALD Locator (also lists other assistive listening systems) to find out what’s available in your city.

Loop wires, they go around the edge of the floors typically but that doesn’t work in our house so we put them along the ceiling.

Audiologists will say hearing loops aren’t used anymore and talk more about Bluetooth. Bluetooth works great for personal devices but they have not come out with a public option yet. Bluetooth also drains battery power, T-coils have no extra battery drain. I encourage everyone to attend hearing loss conventions for many reasons: the people, the workshops, they provide CART and install temporary loops. If you don’t have the telecoil in your hearing aid, or the program turned on, you will miss one of the best hearing experiences of your life. It doesn’t cost more to have a telecoil so when you go to get new hearing aids, make sure it has one.

Loop driver, it pushes the sound through the wires.

To be honest, my favorite time to wear hearing aids is in hearing loops. That’s when my hearing aids really come through. I don’t have to pick up devices and worry about them being clean. I don’t have to return them after the meeting/show. I just walk in, turn on my telecoil program and I have my very own personal listening system. I have one in my living room too.

Michele: Because I have never worn HAs other than in trials (hyperacusis complicates things), I don’t have much experience with loops or telecoils. I always wondered if I could benefit from hearing loops in another way? Then, several years ago, while visiting Chelle in Salt Lake City, I was able to try out the looped room at the Sanderson Center with headphones. The little bit of sound from the loop enhanced my lipreading skills. 

Thomas Kaufman, founder of OTOjOY, poses for a portrait at FilmBar in Phonenix, AZ in April of 2018. Nick Serpa, The Republic
LoopBuds app turns my iPhone into a Hearing Loop Receiver

In June of 2018, I was able to try LoopBuds at the HLAA convention during a presentation by Thomas Kaufmann, the founder of OTOjOY and LoopBud inventor. I wound up buying them. The downloadable LoopBud app turns an iPhone into a loop receiver that lets you control the volume, balance, and equalizer settings. Again, the little bit of sound I get with the LoopBuds enhances my lipreading skills. I bought a second set to donate for the SayWhatClub convention silent auction. It was a hearing spouse who made the winning bid, impressed by Thomas Kaufmann’s (our keynote speaker) description of how hearing loops allow you to hear things that would normally be drowned out by background noise.

Living in Europe for almost four years (beginning in 2012) I noted the proliferation of hearing loops outside of the U.S. I’ve heard many hearing loop advocates speak about the benefits of bringing sound directly into your ears via telecoils in HAs and CIs. I’m not sure why we lag behind other nations in this area, or why audiologists often fail to inform consumers about the benefits of telecoils?

So much of what is available to the HoH community seems to be well-kept secrets and Hearing Loss LIVE! wants to help change that. If you have questions, contact us.

Watch our companion video podcast.

Categories
Accessibility Captioning Open-Captioned Live Theatre

Open-Captioned Live Theatre

Our guest this week is our friend Vicki Turner, whose career as court reporter and CART provider began in 1980. Vicki founded Turner Reporting & Captioning Services in 2005 and soon after provided Las Vegas with its first open-captioned theatre performance. Her list of theatre captioning credits continues to grow, as does her passion for spreading awareness of the importance and benefit in providing accessibility to Hard of Hearing (HoH) and deaf patrons. By providing open-captioned live theatre, Vicki makes it possible for a person to fully participate in their life experience and not feel isolated from the hearing world.

Vicki: A student asked, “Vicki, do you think you can caption the play for me after school?” “Sure, I’ll give it a try,” I replied. I had no idea how that exchange with the Deaf high school student I was providing CART for at a performing arts high school would change the trajectory of my career.  

With the caveat that I had no script, no names of characters, and I’d be going in cold and writing the show live in its entirety but would give it my best shot, we took our seats in the theatre.  

I did a decent job keeping up with the actors, but what I didn’t expect was what happened during intermission. When the lights came up, I turned to the student to see how it was going, and tears were streaming down her face. “This is the first time in my life I’ve been able to understand what was going on in a play.” The impact of that hit me hard, and I was hooked. I feel a pang in my heart to this day reflecting on that moment.

Fast forward 22 years later and countless open-captioned performances in cities across the U.S. and Canada, and my heart still swells as I think of the amazing patrons I’ve met who have become friends, as well as the extraordinary talent and creativity I’ve had a front row seat to experience, all of which have enriched my life. Seeing people shed tears of joy at being given back a part of their life they thought was over still touches me deeply to this day.

It’s been a long road, often frustrating, to get to where we are today. Thankfully theatres and event organizers have advanced from the days of offering a patron a script with a flashlight to follow along or responding to a request by saying, “Oh, we already have an ASL performance,” or the theatre who said, “No problem. We have a really, really large speaker we can place right next to your seat so you can hear better.”

Open-captioned performances are much more common and mainstream nowadays, with theatres often setting a specific date for an accessible performance for each touring show in addition to honoring individual requests for alternate dates.  

I often am asked, “How do I ask a theatre for captions?” The first stop is the box office, who hopefully has been educated on what open captioning is and already has a provider or vendor they utilize. If you’re met with a blank stare, then ask to speak with the person that oversees accessibility for the venue. Keep going up the chain of command until you reach the director of operations or general manager if you need to.  

If open captioning is a complete foreign concept to a venue, ask for a meeting to educate the theatre on why you need captions. Bringing a CART writer who is willing to donate their time to write the meeting for the participants is also very beneficial. 

Offering the name of a trusted vendor or provider to the venue is likewise appreciated.   Oftentimes, if a theatre has not offered open captioning in the past, they have no idea who to contact. Theatrical captioning is an art form that enhances the performance when it’s done properly, and you don’t want an uneducated box office to call a court reporting or sign language agency or even a CART agency that is not familiar with the ins and outs of theatre. A non-trained provider can make a huge difference in the experience you, and the rest of the audience, has.

There’s a lot of amazing entertainment available as theatres begin reopening after a 1-1/2 year shutdown. Don’t be afraid to ask for the accommodation services you need and deserve to have.  

Chelle: All theatres offer assistive listening systems but at a certain point in hearing loss, assistive listening doesn’t work. That’s when live captioning made a world of difference in my theatre experience. Without it, I’m lost. 

In Salt Lake City we have Hale Centre Theatre, they have a hearing loop which is the absolute best sound system for those with hearing loss. It feeds directly into our hearing aids via the telecoil which are programmed specifically for our hearing loss. This also saves picking up a receiver and returning it after. I do well in meeting rooms that have loops, however, I could not follow musicals. The music overrides speech and lyrics. They don’t offer captioned performances.

Vicki provides live-captioned performances at the Eccles Theater in Salt Lake. Open captioning is the only way I can understand what’s going on in a musical. Now I must admit musicals aren’t my thing. I went to support captions, then faded out. Plus Eccles only offered captioned matinee showings which sometimes interfered with weekend activities. 

Several years ago I attended a play at a small theater, the Salt Lake Acting Company, and had a terrible experience. The venue and play (not a musical) was something I could get into. They claimed to have assistive listening but I quickly found out it wasn’t any good. They have an omni microphone above the stage which doesn’t pick up dialog like individually-mic’d actors. Even though I sat up front, I couldn’t use my lipread skills because the actors often looking another way or were too far away. The management at the time offered to let me read the script…a few weeks later. That’s unsatisfying. 

Vicki before the play because I can’t take pictures during.

Vicki contacted me in October to let me know the Salt Lake Acting Company was offering their first captioned play in October; I had to go. Management had changed and I was happy to see accessibility on their homepage of their website. Not just captioned, but they have an audio described performance for the visually impaired, a sensory performance and an ASL interpreted performance. Wow! I went to the captioned performance and I loved it! I understood all the dialog and laughed when others laughed. I can’t wait to attend the next captioned play in February.

San Antonio Express-News: “Newsies” transforms a cult Disney film into a stage sensation. Courtesy Deen van Meer

Michele: My first experience with open-captioned live theatre was during the SayWhatClub convention in San Antonio, Texas in 2015. With Chelle as the convention steering committee contact, Vicki Turner graciously volunteered her services for a performance of “Newsies” at the Majestic Theatre. The highlight of any convention is having a new accessibility experience; the cherry on top was spending time with Vicki during the convention and hearing stories of her world travels and adventures in captioning live theatre.

Assignment: People with hearing loss often accept that there are things we can no longer do; then, once an accommodation comes along that makes it possible again, we are in the habit of not considering it as an option. If attending a live theatre performance is something you gave up, purpose to request an open-captioned live performance at your local theatre and invite everyone you know with hearing loss. You’ll be glad you did! Requesting open captioning for a live performance is the best way to educate the public and theatre owners about accessibility for the HoH and deaf.

Watch our companion video podcast.