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Accessibility Advocacy ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) Assistive Listening Device Captioning CART (live captioning) Employment Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss State Agencies Workplace

Workplace Accommodations for the Hard of Hearing

There is a chain of command for requesting accommodations at work. Do your research before making the request, check in with your tribe—peer support groups for Hard of Hearing [HoH] come in all forms now—to ask what they have tried and how it worked for them. Include options in your request and give as much information as you can about possible accommodation(s) to help educate your employer before they do their own research. When you’re ready, start with your supervisor who will go up the chain of command from there. Remember, it’s all in the asking. Be as polite as possible and true to yourself and your needs.

Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has an Employees’ Practical Guide to Requesting and Negotiating Reasonable Accommodation Under The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guideline with examples to get you started. One thing to note with hearing loss is that in some instances there isn’t a lot of room to negotiate, as we need the most effective communication access accommodation when doing our job depends on getting information right.

Reasonable Accommodations

Chelle: There are so many accommodation options for the HoH these days. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t well known to either the employer or the employee. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations. What is reasonable? Is it what the employer decides or what the person with hearing loss decides? What it comes down to is what do we need to be successful in our job

Messy desk with stacks of notebooks and books. Computer monitor faces away from the door. The empty chair is facing the door.
Desk with computer and monitors not facing the door.
Same office with the desk facing the door.
Desk facing the door.

For myself—it’s different for everyone—I’ll try what they suggest and work my way up. I document as I go sharing reasons when and why something didn’t work. Also, I share what works.  

Here’s a scenario from my last job. I worked in the state Deaf and Hard of Hearing center and they were great about providing the accommodations I needed. I was the first person to request CART (live captioning) consistently. At first, they forgot to schedule it half the time. They told me it was part of my responsibility to remind the office manager. I started looking at my calendar the last week of each month and listed all the meetings I’d like to have CART for the upcoming month. It taught me to be proactive with my accommodation.

Inclusion

We had a strategic plan meeting where equality and inclusion were embraced. The Deaf staff stepped up in making sure CART was provided. While CART is the gold standard, there is often a two hour minimum requirement in hiring CART. The staff scheduled CART for one-on-one, small, or side group meetings. Awesome, right? We were all learning to accommodate each other.  

However, some meetings would be forgotten, or were only 15-30 minutes. There would be an hour and a half of paid CART unused. Waste drives me nuts so I wrote up guidelines on what is reasonable sharing in a document with the staff.

CART vs ASR
  • I need CART for staff meetings. Always. I need that information and can’t guess at it, it’s my job. 
  • I need CART for any meeting that’s an hour or more.
  • I can do the short, casual meetings with ASR (automatic speech recognition) that are under an hour. It has to be Google Meet because their ASR (automatic speech recognition) is better than Zoom.
    • It has to be a group of 5 or less. If it’s more than 5 people, CART is preferable.

Michele: At sixteen, working as a waitress was a struggle during peak hours when the noise level was deafening. After high school, I worked in office jobs—bookkeeper, legal receptionist/secretary—where I was required to answer the phone, take dictation using shorthand, and transcribe audio from cassette tapes. Yikes, why did I think I could do those jobs well with hearing loss? Taking phone messages was torture. Meetings and transcribing audio were a nightmare. I missed things and made mistakes, and it made me feel incompetent, which wasn’t true. I simply couldn’t hear as well as I needed to for those jobs. 

1st Accommodtion Request, Flexibility

My first accommodation in the workplace was with a finance company. I disclosed my hearing loss in the interview and was hired. My employer had a volume controlled telephone installed for me. As my hearing loss progressed, I offered the solution that I would manage fax intake in exchange for being taken off telephone rotation—not a huge deal, as we were an email-driven company. I was grateful that my manager was agreeable and flexible, though some saw it as special treatment.

Even with a flexible manager and boss, I encountered others who were the opposite. Example: During an office remodel I requested that my cubicle be configured so the entrance was visible from my desk to alleviate being startled by people approaching me from behind. “No, that’s not possible,” was the answer. I didn’t know that I had the right to push it further.

Using State Services

I left the finance company to move to another state. Looking for work, I was introduced to the Minnesota Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) office by my CareerForce rep, where I qualified for job seeker services. I had no idea that such agencies existed or about any of the accommodation available to the HoH.

Contacting your state agency to see if they offer workplace training for your employer and coworkers is a good idea. They also should have equipment and technology for you to try. And remember, one size does not fit all. You may have to explain to your employer that what works for someone else with hearing loss might not be the best solution for you. Having DHHS in your corner as a co-advocate can help assure employers that there are solutions to help people with hearing loss perform their job well.

Employers Getting in the Know

Julia: Over the years I have heard all sorts of horror stories about accommodation requests going right and wrong. 

When it failed:

  • The business didn’t know what accommodations were available and refused to find out what could be tried.
  • The employee didn’t want to make a fuss.

And when it went right:

  • The employer worked with the employee to find the correct reasonable accommodation(s).
  • The employee knew they needed accommodation(s) and may or may not have known all available tools. And was proactive with requesting accommodations.

Start with knowing your rights as an employee. Be proactive by researching and reaching out to others on what they use at work. Our Talk about it Tuesday is a great place to do this. On our Glossary page we have an organization listed, JAN, Job Accommodation Network. They have great online tools that can help employees and employers with respect to accommodations. 

Accommodation Options

Businesses: If you know and understand ASL accommodations for an employee. Awesome! You’ve met 1% of the hearing loss community needs… Now here is what else you should be able to say you know about:

☐ ALDs – assistive listening devices
☐ Caption landline services
☐ ASR – automatic speech recognition
☐ CART – communication access realtime translation
☐ Typewell
☐ Cell phone caption apps

If you are able to put a check in each of the boxes above, thank you for being a proactive employer ready to meet your employees every need. If not, there are many places that offer education with online CEUs. And, if you want to understand more about employees with hearing loss, sign up and meet with us here at Hearing Loss LIVE!

Changes Can Be a Good Thing

Sometimes employers are resistant to providing accommodations and you might have to push or make your request higher up in the chain of command. The ADA is on your side. However, we don’t recommend beginning the process in a threatening way. Give your employer a chance to come through, help educate them when necessary, and use the services available to you and your employer to arrive at solutions that work for you both. Making changes can be a painful process, but it’s a good feeling when it all comes together and you get what you need for optimum performance in the workplace. Remember, you aren’t just helping yourself, you’re making a path for others who will surely come after you.

View our companion podcast here. You can also find us on Spotify, iHeartRadio, BuzzSprout and more. Search for Hearing Loss LIVE!

If you liked this post, be sure to read our posts on Interviews and Requesting CART/Live Captioning.

If you enjoy our content and find it helpful, please consider donating so that we can reach more people with hearing loss to help them help themselves.

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Accessibility Advocacy ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) Captioning CART (live captioning) Cochlear Implants Communication Practices Connections Emotions, Psychological Stress Hearing Aids Hearing Loss Live Theatre Public Advocacy Speechreading/Lipreading Uncategorized

Hearing Loss and Hearing Partners

Written by Julia Stepp

Who is responsible for communication when hearing loss is part of your family dynamics? The person with the hearing loss, right?

Let me ask you; as the hearing partner are you saying any of the following:

  • You are purposely ignoring me.
  • Turn that damn TV down!
  • Why are you yelling at me?
  • What do you mean the phone isn’t working right? I hear fine.
  • Are you serious? Do you really think I said that?
  • What do you mean you don’t want to go out with our friends on Friday nights?
  • I think you need to see the doctor, something is not right with you mentally.
  • Is it just hearing loss? Oh no biggie then. We’ll just get some hearing aids. Just stick’em on and good to go.
  • We just spent $8000 on hearing aids, what do you mean you still can’t hear me?

One that has stuck with me over the years during Hard of Hearing workshops: Your hearing loss is now our life.

Hearing loss affects every family member, especially when it comes to communication. Communication is the key to staying connected. There are many tools that can help you stay connected. Most families don’t find these tools until the connection is a struggle and everyone is beyond frustrated.. My hope is that this finds folks before the connection is damaged.

Some simple things that every hearing partner/family member can do:

  • Get involved from the beginning. There will be a period of time my friend Sue refers to as the “I’m not there yet” statement. When they’re not there yet, you can still work staying connected.
  • Stop talking from another room. This is good practice for everywhere, including your job, if you’ve gone back to the office.
  • Stop talking with food in your mouth. Ew. Just. Ew.
  • Make sure you’re facing them. This helps them use body language to fit with what is being said. It also helps you to see their facial expressions to make sure they understand what you are saying. 

The more important the conversation the better the outcome will be if you can follow these simple rules.

The list above is good practice to use with everyone, not just those with hearing loss. You can practice it over and over everywhere you go because one in five people you meet will have a hearing loss. Plus, practicing everywhere you go makes it a habit.

There is evidence that shows getting hearing aids from the onset of a hearing loss have better outcomes. BUT making someone get hearing aids so they can hear YOU will not work as well as you’d like unless you change some communication habits. You will be disappointed. When you are both ready for hearing aids, be involved. Keep the connection:

  • Go to the Audiologist with your partner. Learn what hearing aids can and cannot do. Help keep a diary of sounds and what your partner would like to hear. 
  • Find out why T-coils are important. Find out where loops have been installed to use with T-coils
  • Learn how assistive listening devices work. We all love our bluetooth, right? There are ways to use your Bluetooth with personal devices. There’s also FM systems and WiFi assistive listening options. Look for the Assistive Listening Device (ALD) symbol in venues.
  • Learn more about caption options. Apps on phones and computers, television, landlines phones, and public venues, office meetings.
  • Loops, ALDs and captions can all be used even before the person is ready for hearing aids. 
  • If certain environments are no longer doable, keep a list and brainstorm ideas on how to make it work. If Friday night is date night with friends and your local hangout is too loud, start looking for a new hang out. And if that Friday night date night is a quiet home dinner for two. That’s okay too.

And something I cannot stress enough. JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP. Support groups for hearing loss allow the person with hearing loss to connect to others with shared experience. Support groups are where hearing partners can learn how to better support hearing loss too. Don’t let the hearing loss be your life. Live life better with hearing loss. 

Another important list that has helped my family is to know signs of hearing loss. 

  • Repeating questions you have answered (them making sure they heard right)
  • “What?” A lot of whats or huhs or say that again.
  • TV is becoming louder and louder.
  • Trouble hearing on a phone.
  • Not answering questions you ask, or answering incorrectly.

I watched my grandma’s friends and family misdiagnose her as being “senile” or showing signs of “dementia.” It was during a class provided at an HLAA chapter meeting on how to recognize symptoms of dementia that helped me realize that grandma did not have dementia. She needed her hearing evaluated and more life skills to help her participate in all her extra-curricular activities

Because I decided I should go to the Audiologist with grandma, we discovered she had been using lipreading to pass her hearing tests.

Even though I knew better, five years later I misdiagnosed dementia vs hearing loss in my own spouse. (BTW, he’s not there yet. My husband may never “be there.”) He has a mild hearing loss and still lives a full life at 73. We have practiced communication skills well over 20 years. This is  thanks to the fact that I work with and have many friends with hearing loss. No one is perfect and we all slip up. Daily. However, we own it when we don’t follow the rules and move on. Usually.

Octoberfest at Snowbird this past fall.

Keep connected. Don’t let communication with hearing loss manage your life. Manage the hearing loss instead. Learn, grow and most of all LIVE your life.

PS: JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP! Find out why with us.

If you liked this post, try Hearing Small Voices because kids are hard to hearing. Also we wrote early on about Hearing Loss: Family and Communication.

(No companion podcast.)

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Accessibility Advocacy ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) Captioning CART (live captioning) Employment Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss

Requesting CART

Michele: Requesting CART is something that the Hard of Hearing (HoH) do NOT do routinely. Partly due to a large percentage of HoH having no idea that CART exists as a reasonable accommodation, as outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Most of us learned about CART by chance research, through our hearing loss peers, or from attending a live event where it was provided. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we got this valuable communication access information at the time we are diagnosed with hearing loss?

My first visit to my state’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services agency in 2006 didn’t include any information about CART. Some state agencies fail to focus on CART to the same degree as ASL Interpretation for communication access. That helps perpetuate the myth that all people with hearing loss know sign language. In reality, over 95% of people with disabling hearing loss need captioning in their spoken language, and that is CART for live events.

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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.