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Accessibility Advocacy Communication Practices Connections Hard of Hearing Hard of Hearing Defined Hearing Loss Hearing Technology

The Better Connect Academy with Jean Nalbantian

Sometimes things just fall into place. One day we are looking at The Better Connect Academy (TBCA) website and the next day Jean (John) is contacting us to invite us to guest on his podcast. It is great when the stars align and the universe conspires to connect like minds on the subject of hearing loss. Hearing Loss LIVE! talked with Jean in late March, sharing our passions and what we do. We got to know TBCA further when Jean was our podcast guest—video will be available May 16th.

Michele, Chelle, and Julia are Jean’s guests on the TBCA podcast.

May is Better Hearing and Speech month, and we are celebrating American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) theme of Connecting – People. Our crossing paths with Jean and TBCA is a great example of connecting and the timing couldn’t have been better!

Jean (John) Nalbantian, CEO and Founder of The Better Connect Academy

Jean: I am Jean (John) Nalbantian, the CEO and Founder of The Better Connect Academy (TBCA). We are an online course (about an hour long) that teaches enrollees how to provide effective communication for Hard of Hearing (HoH) individuals. 

Providing effective communication is federal law per the American Disabilities Act (ADA); we can help.

I have over 25 years of experience working with people who are HoH and deaf. I hold a BS in Human Services Management and two Gerontology program certificates from USC. My passion has always been to help, ever since I was a kid.

I identified a need within the HoH population and after hearing the same complaints over and over again, I decided to develop a course that educates the general public how to provide effective communication. The course has been reviewed by members of the HoH and deaf communities to ensure that nothing has been left out. 

The course is accredited by two entities, the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals as a Continuing Education course and by the American Academy of Physician Associates as a Continuing Medical Education course.

When enrollees are done watching the course and have taken the quiz, they receive a certificate of completion, which is an asset to their current employment but more importantly, helps them communicate with HoH individuals.

The goal of the course is to educate as many people as possible, especially people who work at medical offices, hospitals, restaurants, government offices and others. Every single business and organization should enroll their staff. 

Providing effective communication is federal law per the American Disabilities Act. The ADA states: “The ADA requires that title II entities (State and local governments) and title III entities (businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public) communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities. The goal is to ensure that communication with people with these disabilities is equally effective as communication with people without disabilities.” 

So why should businesses and organizations risk receiving official complaints about not providing effective communication? We can help.

We want every HoH individual to advocate for themselves and if they encounter a business that has a difficult time communicating with them, then they should give our information to the supervisor or manager of the business. It’s a serious matter but it can be alleviated.

Eventually, The Better Connect Academy will push for this program to be mandated to all businesses, but it will require all HoH people to support the idea. As we grow, we will also plan on hiring HoH individuals. 

We appreciate Hearing Loss LIVE! for giving us the opportunity to speak about TBCA.

Chelle: What a pleasure to meet Jean and to get to know his business, TBCA. He has a big heart and cares about effective communication for our community. We watched the online course video and hope businesses will take HoH communication needs seriously by taking the course. Many places I go lack effective communication and I am constantly educating. 

If you are HoH, share TBCA’s information when businesses get it wrong. I find most businesses mean well but they just don’t know. People know the ADA but they rarely get specific education. We can help, you can help, and Jean can help. We all need to work together to make a more accessible community. When you advocate for yourself, you’re also laying a path for others who come behind you. Start small with self advocacy by sharing TBCA website when you find businesses on the wrong path. 

Julia: Working with other like minds means more folks understanding communication needs for people with hearing loss. If you haven’t heard me say it in the past, then let me say it again, “One size does not fit most with hearing loss.

The Better Connect Academy (TBCA) gets it. TBCA’s online certification to help businesses to be better trained on communication skills with their employees who have a hearing loss matches up nicely with live training offered from Hearing Loss LIVE!—Sensitivity Training for Business owners with respect to hearing loss. 

If you are a business owner and you need training and education on better communication with your Deaf and Hard of Hearing employees, The Better Connect Academy (TBCA) has a great course for you. Better yet, combining TBCA’s online certification with in-person training by Hearing Loss LIVE! will give you a more diverse and well-educated staff with respect to hearing loss and communication. Think of how you can promote and grow your workforce with employees who are vested in seeing your company grow because you took the time to get to know what people with hearing loss face and what they need. 

Something else we talk about, you don’t know what you don’t know. Hearing loss can happen at any time for any reason. If you are already practicing good communication guidelines with all your employees, that hearing loss fear and unknown is eased and help can be sought sooner. Erasing the stigma before an employee is facing hearing loss will ease their fears around hearing loss.

Michele: When advocating, I always try to make the point that responsibility for accessibility and inclusion should be shared, not solely shouldered by the person with hearing loss. Twenty percent of the population has some degree of disabling hearing loss and the world needs to know how to effectively communicate with us. And, that doesn’t mean Sign Language Interpretation for over 95% of us.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas—employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government’ programs and services. In addition, Federal Rehabilitation and State Human Rights Laws provide for full and equal access in these same areas.

However, not all businesses are proactive regarding compliance, and that shifts the burden of enforcement onto the person with a disability when there are issues. It is up to us to force businesses to comply by filing a complaint or lawsuit. We could use more help.

As customers, clients, and patients, with a communication barrier, we encounter the lack of effective communication daily. That is especially true in medical/hospital settings. The HoH need quality Speech-to-Text Interpretation/Translation, and that means captioning by a live stenographer on a screen provided by the medical facility or office. Many HoH people are unaware of the effective communication access accommodations available to them, or it doesn’t occur to them to request accommodation at the doctor or hospital. This needs to change.

We are thrilled that The Better Connect Academy (TBCA) is focused on helping those who serve the public own their part of the effective communication equation. We need more co-advocates like Jean who encourage entities to be proactive and provide them with the information and training needed for effective communication. TBCA’s online training course for employers and their employees is a valuable tool for spreading awareness of the HoH community and our communication needs and accommodations.

Watch our companion podcast here. Or listen to it on Spotify, iHeartRadio and BuzzSprout. Transcript is available on BuzzSprout.

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Hard of Hearing Defined

Defining the Hard of Hearing

Defining our needs as a community of Hard of Hearing (HoH) people who use spoken and written language to communicate is a challenge due to the diversity of hearing loss.

As an individual, defining your own specific needs, depending where you fall on the hearing loss spectrum, is one of the most important things you will do. The earlier it happens, the better. 

The Deaf Community is well-respected and admired for their accomplishments, and rightly so. They have fought long and hard for recognition of their language and culture. Deaf people influenced the passage of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Their culture, community, and communication needs are visible and well-known. For that reason, anyone with hearing loss is commonly lumped together with the Deaf, labeled as hearing impaired or people with hearing loss (pwhl), and assumed to communicate fluently in sign language.