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Hearing Loss LIVE! Attends the SayWhatClub Convention

Let me give you a taste of a hearing loss convention. Julia and I went to the SayWhatClub (SWC) convention August 10th-13th in Nashville, Tennessee. We believe everyone should go to at least one hearing loss convention. You get to experience Hard of Hearing culture. What does that mean? 

Hard of Hearing Accommodations

You have the accommodation you need to understand everything that is said. They put in temporary hearing loops for those with telecoils in their hearing aids. (*Ask your audiologist to turn on the telecoil program before you go. Make sure it’s a dedicated telecoil program. About 70% of hearing aids have a telecoil.)  If you don’t have telecoils, it’s okay because there’s also a human providing live captioning as we go. (Called CART, Communication Access Real-time Translation.) Our human providing captions was Julia, who also sponsored some time through her CART business.

I helped to lay the hearing loop.

At conventions, you make connections with people. People who are more experienced and can answer all kinds of questions. If they don’t know, they know someone who can. Because most of the attendees are Hard of Hearing, we know how to talk to each other and people are patient with repeats. Knowing what it feels like being left out, they are usually careful to make sure everyone is included. 

Day 1

Conventions start with a welcome party. This is where you find old friends and make new friends. The SayWhatClub has a theme at their welcome party, this year they told everyone to wear a music t-shirt.  Somehow I missed the memo. Thankfully another attendee brought extra t-shirts and let me borrow one for the evening. 

I had a lot of fun with that shirt!

When the welcome party ends, we spread out to either the hotel bar or take on the city. Come on, we’re in Nashville so let’s explore! We found Printers Alley and a bar with a live band. It was loud but the group I was with knew some form of sign language and we lipread too so we got by. We all help each other with signs as needed. 

Day 2

We started the workshops. At the SWC con, give the first workshop to sponsors. Each sponsor had about 10 minutes to speak. Vendors help fund the conventions we love. They bring us knowledge and technology. Some are Hard of Hearing themselves. Here’s the sponsors this year:

  • T-Mobile Accessibility & Wireless who sponsored the welcome party. InnoCaption who sponsored the hearing loop.
  • InnoCaption has sponsored many SWC cons, they are a regular.
  • We have also had Mitchell Levy of Hamilton CapTel sponsoring and attending SWC cons for many years.
  • Advanced Bionics came and talked to use about their cochlear implants and the Roger Technology.
  • CaptionCall is another sponsor.
  • Yours truly was sponsor as well, Hearing Loss LIVE! and we talked about our Lipreading Concepts classes coming up. Vanderbilt University Brain Development Lab – They are studying how D/HoH children learn. Here is their project.
  • We also had Listen Technologies as a silver sponsor and Cochlear though neither could  show. Thank you vendors for helping make this convention possible!

Hearing Loss and Mental Health

The next workshop was Robin Nobling with NAMI of Davidson County. Her talk was  titled: Got Stuff? “Not a single person gets through life without a period of anxiety, depression, fear, grief, anger.” Those of us with hearing go through all those emotions well. She encouraged us to unpack our ‘stuff’ and move toward acceptance. What I got from it was that we should talk about it and connect with peers. 

Our last workshop of the day was with Cynthia Moynihan, a hearing loss advocate for 30 years who gave us Hearing Loss Empower Hour.  She shared some of her challenges from over the years with us. “Why me,” she used to ask. “Because I have the opportunity to learn and give back.” She finds a word to focus on each year, this year’s word is “opportunity”.  She’s found plenty of opportunity. She warned us against fitting into a mold, accept and embrace our uniqueness. 

The SayWhatClub also has daily, accommodated activities. That night we all met at the Wildhorse Saloon to learn line dancing with captions and sign language! Captions thanks to Julia and the ASL interpreter was provided by Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Are you tired yet? I was but it’s worth it.  I love hanging out with my tribe. 

Day 3 Friday, August 12th

Friday’s first workshop was with Nancy Denning-Martin & Mike Helms of Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. It was titled Advocating for Big Change. For those of us passionate about advocacy, this was informative! Nancy and Mike talked about creating change on the “micro level” which is family, friends and people you meet day to day. There is also the “meso” level of advocating which is things like churches, schools and other groups. Last, there is the “macro” level which affects change on a larger scale; politics, legislation, policy. Samples were given of each category.

The second workshop was:Jourdan Holder AuD, the director of the Cochlear Implant Program at Vanderbilt University. She gave us: Hearing Devices, An Update on Technology, Candidacy and Outcomes. She gave us a lot of information about cochlear implants. They are working on shortening the electrodes to have a better chance at leaving the remaining hearing. This is going through the FDA process of approval. 

Our last workshop was with Peter Hodes, Introduction to Tai Chi: Movement for Health, Balance and Relaxation. He led us through a series of tai chi movements, showing us how to breathe through them. He encouraged people to do what they could and no more. Pain isn’t the answer here. Use a chair or a table as needed. He made us laugh a lot. For many of us, wit was the first time trying tai chi. 

The afternoon activities were a tour of the Grand Ol’ Opry backstage, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and then attending the night’s show at the Grand Ol’ Opry. 

Day 4, Saturday August 13th

Our last day is dedicated to afternoon activities in the downtown area of Nashville. They went to the Country Music Hall of Fame to attend the Songwriters Sessions Bonus and tour the Museum there. 

It’s banquet night! The banquet was sponsored this year by Safe N Clear. Safe N Clear gave away a box of masks with a window, one box to each table. They also provided each guest with a mask to use. 

Keynote Speaker

Our keynote speaker was Meaghan Thomas, a broadcast meteorologist in Nashville who created  The Heart of Hearing Foundation.

Her dad had a hearing loss while she was growing up so hearing loss was no big thing.  Her own hearing loss was undetected for many years because they thought, “she just wants to be like dad.” In a high school physics class, they were working with different frequencies and that’s when her hearing loss came to light. Still she considered it normal and blew it off. It wasn’t until college that hearing loss became hard to blow off. She didn’t know about accommodations so she “scooted by”. In grad school she was more upfront about her hearing loss and they let her record classes. 

As a meteorologist/tv host, she had to get an ear piece. She was fitted for that at a hearing aid place. That was her first real hearing test. Up to that point, her coworkers thought she was unfriendly because she didn’t always answer them. One confronted her about it and that’s when Meaghan let her know she was deaf on one side and had a hearing loss on the other side. That helped clear the air and that coworker became one of her champions. 

Hearing Aids

Along the way she was able to get her parents to buy a hearing aid. That was all they could afford. She was amazed at how much she could hear and what things made noise. However, it was too unbalanced having only one so it got put away. 

Three years later she was told about the state vocational rehabilitation program by a new audiologist. The VR program was willing to pay half of the hearing aids and she wanted them so much she was willing to go in debt to pay the other half. When she went in, they gifted the other half to her because they knew she would go on to do good things. She said she sat there and cried.

Last year she came out about her hearing loss publicly posting a picture of her holding her hearing aids out. The next day she woke up to a thousand comments, receiving encouragement. Many parents of kids wrote in to say it helped their kids know they do whatever they wanted. She appeared on Good Morning America with this story. Shortly thereafter she wrote a children’s book based on the comments. Once she made her money back from the book, 100% of the funds goes to the foundation she created.

The Heart of Hearing 

The Heart of Hearing Foundation was created to help others in need of hearing aids. Right now it helps people within in the Nashville area but she’d like to go nationwide and help many others.  Her main goal is to help the working age people, 20-45, to get hearing aids. These people need hearing aids to keep working. 

“When you finally become okay with who you are, you don’t realize how many people you are going to bless.” A lot of heads here nodding at the convention. Hiding hearing loss is a lot of work. When we become more about about it, and what we need to communicate, the easier it gets. We touch many lives and we can make a positive impact. 

Grow your connections. Attend a hearing loss convention.  

Julia and are looking forward to attending the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA) October 19th-23rd in San Diego, CA. This too is a fun convention with lots of great people and information. ALDA is famous within the Hard of Hearing community for their Karaoke Night. Let’s sing our hearts out because we can’t hear anyway! Just have fun. 

Join our September 6th Talk About It Tuesday at 6:00 PM MST to learn more about either convention.  

Crowdfunding

We are bootstrapping it and started Hearing Loss LIVE! with our own funds. We keep as much of our services as we can free. There’s two ways you can help us. You can share our podcasts, blogs and events. Or you can Buy Us A Cup of Coffee

Categories
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.

Categories
Accessibility Advocacy Assistive Listening Device Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Hearing Technology

Listen Tech with Listen Everywhere

We are excited to have Listen Technologies (aka Listen Tech or Listen) as a guest this week! Listen Technologies creates assistive listening technology in a variety of formats. They have been supportive of the hearing loss community for many years, locally in Utah and with the SayWhatClub.

Check out Listen Technologies page devoted to Hearing Loss Advocacy

When you see this symbol there is an assistive listening device available for you to use.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in public settings. Hearing aids are great within 6 feet but after that, ALDs are needed to fill in the gap. Hearing aids and ALDs together make a better experience, when they are compatible with hearing aids. All public settings should have some sort of system; churches, movie theaters, stadiums, schools, colleges, courtrooms and more.