6 Reasons to Be Thankful for KC HLAA

It has been a blessing working with the many volunteers of the HLAA Kansas City Chapter. Each have helped make 2010 a strong year for HLAA in Kansas City. Without these helpers, our city wouldn’t have as much support, publicity and advocacy for hearing loss issues. Among the ways countless volunteers have blessed local persons with hearing loss this year:

1. Made the 2010 HLAA spring picnic a successful and exciting experience

2. Helped develop and grow a thriving new blog for the KC HLAA chapter, local community and beyond

3. Raised awareness about cochlear implants and hearing aids by proudly wearing theirs

 4. Brought attention to having weekly movie captions at area theaters

5. Supported the Kansas School for the Deaf by walking and raising funds for its fall walkathon fundraiser

6. Partnered with the Deaf Cultural Center in Olathe and The Whole Person in Prairie Village on outreach and social activities

For all of this, and for being a personal support, I THANK YOU.
Cheers to a wonderful HLAA year and for a prosperous 2011!

Shanna Groves
Steering Committee, Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), Kansas City Chapter


5 Tips for Enjoying the Holidays with a Hearing Loss

By Shanna Groves, LipreadingMom.com

Originally posted at:


It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But for the 1 in 10 people with hearing loss, it’s also the most challenging time for communication. Lipreading Mom should know. I’ve had 10 years of holidaytime hearing loss experience.

The whole family is packed around the dinner table, busily chatting about their good fortune and laying food onto their plates. Simultaneous conversations are difficult for us hard of hearing folks to follow. And it’s nearly impossible to lipread the youngster sitting next to me who’s talking with a mouth full of mashed potatoes.

So what’s a person with hearing loss to do at the holidays? Avoid large crowds entirely?

Lipreading Mom offers these suggestions for focusing on happiness, not hearing loss, at the holidays.

Create the right environment. If you haven’t already done so, let the hostess know in advance about your hearing difficulties and for her help in accommodating you. Lipreading Mom suggests good table lighting for easy lipreading and no dinnertime music unless it’s at the lowest volume imaginable. Sorry cousins, but no squeaky clarinet performances. If a TV is playing, ask for the volume to be turned down and for the closed captions to be turned on.

Ask for hearing help. Sit close to someone who can be your hearing helper. Decide on a code word between the two of you that means you need help in a hearing situation. Be sure to sit close enough to the helper and have a pen and paper handy in case you need the details of a tableside joke written down.

Face your guests, not the stove. If you are hosting the get-together, have most of meal and table preparation completed before guests arrive. This will give you time to converse with guests as they arrive instead of standing over a stove. This year, Lipreading Mom prepared all side items for Thanksgiving dinner 24 hours in advance, then put everything into the refrigerator. A half-hour before mealtime, the items warmed in the oven after the turkey came out. So you can spend a few minutes lipreading your chatty niece, take a guest up on his offer to slice the ham.

Play the quiet game. After everyone is done eating or opening presents, excuse yourself into a quiet room, such as a bathroom or porch. Spend the next five minutes giving your ears a break from holiday noise. Clear your head by meditating, praying or replaying a fun holiday song in your mind. This is your time to decompress from having to follow table conversations and also a good excuse not to wash a sink full of dishes.

Find a one-on-one conversation spot. Pick the least noisy place in the house (not counting the bathroom), and grab a loved one for a chat. Just because you’re hard of hearing doesn’t mean you can’t still be part of meaningful conversation. You just have to pick your quiet spot so you can actually hear that conversation. No gum chewing or smoking allowed since you need to see a person’s lips to lipread. And remind your chat buddy to speak at a natural volume level and pace. No shouting aloud (unless it’s part of a good joke).

While it can be challenging for a Lipreading Mom to always hear well with a house full of kids, I have one thing in particular to be thankful for this holiday. My hearing aids come with an on/off switch. I plan to use that switch as needed come December 25.


Follow Shanna Groves on Facebook, Twitter and LipreadingMom.com.

The Latest on AMC Movie Captions

AMC Entertainment is moving right along with making theater captioning technology compatible with its digital format films.

Melissa Johnson, director of guest services with AMC Entertainment in Kansas City, shared the following information today with our Kansas City HLAA rep, Terri Shirley.

Response from Melissa Johnson, AMC Entertainment
I spoke with our Project Manager again this morning to verify that testing at Mainstreet [in downtown Kansas City] had been completed (per the last email I had sent).  Testing has been completed and was successful.  The next step is sign off from our Technical Group.  Once this has been completed, installations will be scheduled. 
Installation is a two-part phase.  First phase is pre-set up which is done by an AMC engineer followed by the second phase of a contractor performing infrastructure work.  The installation process can take up to a week.  Testing on the system to verify it is operational can take up to two weeks following.  We do have all equipment ready to go (pending any faulty items, etc.).
Our Project Manager assures me that we are closer than ever, but is hesitant to commit to a specific date.  We would hate to see a delay if there are installation problems.  Studio continues to be high on the list for installation and I am excited to share some news I found out this morning.  It looks as if Studio will have the original theatre (#19) RWC with SIX additional theatres outfitted as well.  I’m told that these six theatres may have high-tech equipment such as Sony glasses that capture the image inside the glasses… we’ll keep our fingers crossed on this one.
I’ve attached the below questions with answers (from your email).  As I continue to hear news, I will keep you posted.  Please understand this is a process that does not happen overnight and we’re working to ensure the systems are brought back efficiently and as quickly as possible.  Thank you for your continued passion for the project.
I would appreciate if you could explain what CC/DV code is.  (as told by our Project Manager)
“Code” when talking about CC/DV could mean a couple of things, depending on the technology involved:
For assisted moviegoing accompanying 35mm film on strips, “code” most likely would refer to what is called “time code” in the A/V production industry.   It’s probably best explained with a diagram:
File:35mm film audio macro.jpg                              File:Anamorphic-digital sound.jpg
The left image is an extreme closeup of a side section of 35mm film.  The rounded rectangular holes are of course sprocket-holes used to guide the film through the projector head.  The movie’s visual frames would be to the side of this, as you can see in the right image. 
In the left photo, there are four distinct “tracks” of information represented that accompany the images that are projected on-screen.  As the film progresses during playback, these tracks are scanned by a special reader that shines a light through them and turns the visual data into audio information. 
The blue strip is Sony SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound), an 8-channel surround mode.  The gray is Dolby Digital (note the tiny “DD” logo in the center of the square) and is a 6-channel surround mode.  These two tracks are, like a CD or DVD, fully digital—this “image” is essentially a bunch of tiny dots that are converted by the projector’s reader into digital sounds. 
The next track, the two vertical squiggly white lines, are optical stereo analog audio—just two channels, left and right.  These tracks are literally waveforms of the audio sound, very similar to an LP record, except that instead of a needle reading a groove for playback, it’s a tiny light reading this visual representation of the movie’s soundtrack, which is converted into audio.  Most modern movie houses are digital today, and optical analog audio is pretty rare any more.
Finally, to the right of the squiggly waveform lines is a trail of white vertical dashes.  This is the time code I’m talking about.  It’s essentially a stream of numbers that are represented as time (hours:minutes:seconds:frames) and is there to tell the projector exactly where the film is, chronologically.  This is important for 35mm—because the projector is mechanical, two different projectors may operate at slightly different speeds, depending on factors like the age of the machine, the humidity or temperature in the booth, the physical condition of some parts, etc. 
A closed captioning or descriptive video hardware component must have this time code information, in order to sync CC/DV content with the feature.  Without the time code, the movie and the captions or descriptive narration audio track will slowly lose sync.  At the beginning of the feature it might not be very noticeable, but as the movie progresses the sync will continue to degrade, and by the end of the film, the sync will be significantly off, which is obviously unacceptable. 
So this bring us to the crux of the problem: the digital feature files for digital projectors do not have time code tracks associated with their playback.  Without the time code information, they will not function, thus, when a theatre is converted from 35mm to digital projection, the existing closed captioning and descriptive video hardware components become unusable. 
The fix for this requires two things.  A digital feature must have CC and DV information accompanying it in digital files—that is to say, included in distribution of the feature, provided by the movie company.  (For 35mm projector assisted moviegoing, an outside organization, MoPix, provides and distributes CC/DV content to theatres on CD-ROMs.) 
This content by itself however, isn’t simply enough to make the existing CC/DV equipment, such as RWC panels or headsets, start functioning again.  Typically a device called an encoder is necessary to gather and broadcast or display the digital data (which could also be called closed captioning “code”). 
So to outfit a digital theatre with CC and DV, an encoder and all the accompanying infrastructure (cabling, mounting, networking, etc.) has to be installed and configured to function with the auditorium’s projector. 

Join us for HLAA Holiday Party This Saturday

Only two more days until party time…

The Kansas City chapter of HLAA welcomes you to our holiday party on December 11, 2010! HLAA supports increasing awareness of hearing loss in the Greater Kansas City metro area. We think it’s high time we got everyone together for a social event and the holidays are all about being around friends and family. Join us for some food, fun, games and meet new people!

Saturday, December 11, 2010
2 p.m. – 5 p.m.

The Whole Person office
7301 Mission Rd #135,
Prairie Village, KS
Near 73rd St and Mission Rd

Parking available in the large parking lot in the backEnter building entrance “A,” first floor

Food and beverages will be provided. Just bring yourself and be ready to have a blast!

Going to Court for Captions

By Shanna Groves

Originally posted at: http://lipreadingmom.com

I’m among the thousands of Deaf and hard of hearing moviegoers fed up with not being able to understand movie dialogue. Now a group is sueing Cinemark theatres for lack of captioned movies. This is a theater chain that hasn’t yet embraced captioning technology like other theaters have. For a listing of theaters currently showing captioned films, visit Captionfish.com

Below is a comparison of Cinemark with two other theater chains: AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas. Unlike Cinemark, the latter two show captioned movies at some of their locations.

Cinemark – The Lawsuit

A lawsuit brought on by the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA) and two individual plaintiffs claims Cinemark discriminates against hard of hearing and Deaf communities by failing to provide any captioned films in its Alameda County, California, theaters. The suit sees this oversight as a direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s anti-discrimination statutes, the Unruh Civil Rights Act and Disabled Persons Act.

ConsumerAffairs.com reports that about 85 percent of first-run movies are captioned and compatible with the rear window captioning system when they arrive in theaters. Each individual movie theater has the option of whether or not to install the $10,000 captioning equipment.

Apparently, Cinemark opted to save money at the expense of being accessible to the Deaf and hard of hearing.

AMC Theatres

AMC has nearly 160 theaters equipped with rear window captioning (RWC) units. RWC involves a reflective cupholder device that reflects captions emitted from a LED screen at the back of the theater. Some locations show open captioned (OC) movies, in which each movie has captions printed directly onto the film.

The theater chain provides an online search by zip code service of locations playing movies that are open captioned, closed captioned (rear window captioned) or with descriptive video.

Although AMC has been showing few captioned movies recently in its headquarters of Kansas City, the Kansas City HLAA Chapter is in talks to expedite the return of captioned movie showings. Kansas City HLAA rep Terri Shirley is in twice-weekly contact with AMC to encourage the theater chain to expedite showing captioned digital format movies. AMC’s Olathe, Kansas, theater is expected to be the first AMC location in the U.S. to show digital format films with rear window and open captions.

Regal Entertainment Group

Here is the latest on the theater chain’s captioning efforts as stated on its Web site:

“Regal Entertainment Group, the National Association of Theatre Owners (“NATO”) and the Inter-Society Digital Cinema Forum (ISDCF), film studios, manufacturers and technology designers have agreed and implemented a goal to have all digital standards associated with closed captioning and descriptive audio available for digital servers and projectors in the near future.

“The primary intent behind these efforts is to have 100% of all digital cinema systems being manufactured for theatres contain closed captioning and audio described technology that is accessible to theatre patrons in the near future.

“We also are working directly with manufacturers of closed caption systems that will be able to plug into compliant digital cinema servers.

“While there remains much work to be done, and while we are dependent on third party manufacturers, we are optimistic that acceptable personal captioning system will become available in the near future.”

What the Cinemark Lawsuit Means

While the Cinemark lawsuit has captured media attention and has fired up those of us with hearing loss, what difference will it make in the long term? If Cinemark, the third largest U.S. theater chain, can be sued over captions, how quickly will other theater companies heed the warning and make their films accessible to everyone?

I’d like to imagine theaters packed with people with varying levels of hearing, deafness, vision loss and other (dis)abilities. Here’s hoping that 2011 becomes the Year of Accessible Theater for Everyone.

HLAA Holiday social gathering – December 11, 2010 @ The Whole Person offices

The Kansas City chapter of HLAA welcomes you to our holiday party on December 11, 2010! HLAA supports increasing awareness of hearing loss in the Greater Kansas City metro area. We think it’s high time we got everyone together for a social event and the holidays are all about being around friends and family. Join us for some food, fun, games and meet new people!

Saturday, December 11, 2010
2 p.m. – 5 p.m.

The Whole Person office
7301 Mission Rd #135,
Prairie Village, KS
Near 73rd St and Mission Rd

Parking available in the large parking lot in the backEnter building entrance “A,” first floor

Food and beverages will be provided. Just bring yourself and be ready to have a blast!