KC HLAA Advocates for Looping

Technology allows those of us with hearing loss to enjoy live events. It is the Kansas City HLAA Chapter’s desire to advocate for this technology locally.

The chapter’s steering team recently submitted a letter to executives with the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts under construction in downtown Kansas City. The performing arts center, which is scheduled to open later this year, has the potential to appeal to the hearing loss community with the addition of looping technology.

Looping  is an induction system that magnetically transmit sounds to listeners’ hearing aids or cochlear implants. The system provides a crystal-clear transmission of sound from a stage’s microphones directly into hearing aids or implants.

Without this technology, a person with hearing loss has difficulty at live performances because distractions, such as background noise and audience chatter, are not easy to differentiate from what is happening on stage. In a recent survey of Kansas City HLAA members, 47 percent do not attend musical performances as often as they like for this reason. Sixteen percent never do. However, 47 percent stated they would attend a live event as much as possible if they could understand words and music on the stage.

KC HLAA leaders will follow up with Kauffman executives within the month to discuss the letter and the need for looping technology. Any updates will be posted on this blog.  

A copy of the letter to Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is viewable here.

A copy of a looping article, written by David Myers, is viewable here.

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Hearing Loss Award Nominations Due This Week

Don’t forget to nominate your outstanding person with hearing loss. Nominations will be accepted through this week only!

Hamilton Relay is in search of candidates for the Hamilton Relay 2011 Community Leader Award. The recipient of the 2010 award was Minda Nelson, one of the founding members of our own HLAA-KC chapter. The 2011 winner will be announced in May, during the Better Speech and Hearing Month. Below is a letter from the Kansas Outreach Coordinator, Cady Lear, and a questionnaire that you can fill out and submit, if you have a candidate you’d like to nominate.

Dear Kansas Residents,

It is amazing to think that it has been nearly a year since Minda Nelson was recognized
as the recipient of the Hamilton Relay 2010 Community Leader Award in honor of Better
Hearing and Speech Month. The positive contributions of leaders such as Minda are
appreciated and Hamilton is pleased to recognize individuals for their efforts.

At this time, Hamilton Relay is seeking your assistance in identifying candidates for
this year’s award. We are looking for individuals who are hard of hearing, late deafened
or have difficulty speaking, and who have been a strong influence within your state,
demonstrating commitment to enhancing the lives of those around them. The award will
be presented during Better Hearing and Speech Month in May. Is there someone you
wish to nominate? We hope so!

A questionnaire is attached to assist in providing information about your candidate,
including a brief description about the individual and what this person has done that
causes you to nominate him/her. Please send your nominations directly to me  via e-mail, fax or by mail. My contact information is included below.

Hamilton Relay enjoys the opportunity to give back to the community each year by
celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month through this award and looks forward to
learning more about the leaders in Kansas

Thank you for participating in the excitement!

Sincerely,

Cady Lear
Kansas Outreach Coordinator
Cady.Lear@hamiltonrelay.com
785-228-5666 (office)
785-234-2304 (fax)
4848 SW 21st Street Suite
Topeka, Ks 66604

Download the candidate nomination questionnaire

How to find captioned movies in Kansas City

With AMC’s recent addition of RWC systems to its theaters, deaf and hard of hearing Kansas Citians have more choices than ever before for enjoying a captioned movie! The links below will help you find show times at local theaters. Let’s thank AMC for their efforts by enjoying a captioned film at one of their six locations:

Mainstreet 6
1400 Main Street
Kansas City, MO 64105
(816) 474-4545

Ward Parkway 14
8600 Ward Parkway
Kansas City, MO 64114
(816) 333-1300

Barrywoods 24
8101 Roanridge Rd.
Kansas City, MO 64151
(816) 505-9199

Town Center 20
11701 Nall Avenue
Leawood, KS 66211
(913) 498-8696

Studio 30
12075 So Strang Line Rd.
Olathe, KS 66062
(913) 393-2262

You might also find the links below helpful in determining movies and show times:

Captionfish shows you all the accessible theaters in your area and what movies are playing for the date(s) you select. While we can’t guarantee the accuracy of the show times listed on Captionfish, it’s a great one-stop site to let you know what’s playing at accessible theaters in your area. In Kansas City, this means that Captionfish should list information for both AMC and Regal theaters. To ensure accurate show times, however, please check with the theater listed.

AMC Accessible Films shows you all the captioned films playing at their theaters for the date(s)  you select. According to the website, all six Kansas City AMC theaters have some kind of captioning capability. Mainstreet, Barrywoods, Independence, Town Center and Studio 30 all have RWC devices and Ward Parkway occasionally offers open captioned movies. Contact the theater directly for questions about show times and RWC equipment availability.

Regal Cinemas Open Captioned Films will link you to the show times for open captioned films being shown at their theater.
3200 Ameristar Drive
Kansas City, MO 64161
(816) 454-7921

Let’s get out there and show our support! Ready? Annnnnd…. ACTION! 🙂

More AMC theaters offering captioned movies

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know we’ve been working with AMC to bring more captioned movies to Kansas City. Thanks to efforts by HLAA’s Terri Shirley and Shanna Groves, AMC has installed RWC (Rear Window Captioning) in additional theaters and closed captioned films are now available at the Barrywoods, Independence and Olathe locations. Below is the latest update from Melissa Johnson, Director of Guest Services at AMC:

“Thank you for your continued interest and understanding as we have worked through the many technical issues involved in delivering captioned content after our conversion to digital cinema.  AMC is committed to improving access to movies for deaf and hard of hearing guests at our theatres and understands your frustration with the delays.  We are pleased to inform you that the Rear Window Captioning (“RWC”) systems at our Barrywoods, Independence and Olathe locations are once again operable.

AMC has long been an industry leader in providing access to closed captions, installing more than 160 RWC systems throughout the country.  We have not significantly expanded the number of RWC installations in recent years due to the planned conversion of our theatres from traditional 35mm to digital projection technology which commenced on a large scale last year.  RWC systems were not compatible with digital cinema and we anticipated that the digital projection technology would provide a platform for new closed captioning systems that would be both more cost-effective and provide a more user friendly experience for our theatre guests.

Unfortunately, new digital captioning technologies did not develop as quickly as we had hoped and as we commenced conversion of our theatres to digital projection, our existing RWC systems became inoperable and there were no digital based captioning systems commercially available.  AMC technicians have been working diligently with our technology vendors to find a solution to allow continued showing of closed captions at our digital theatres.  We believe we now have the necessary hardware and software configurations to provide a bridge between the digital servers and the existing RWC displays.  As mentioned above, this has allowed us to bring the existing RWC systems back online at our digital theatres in the Kansas City area.

In addition, we are evaluating various new digital closed captioning systems.  These systems will broadcast captions into the theatre auditorium to a display device (likely either a seat mounted LCD device or special eyeglasses) used by the theatre guest.  We are in the process of installing prototypes of these systems at several auditoriums in our Kansas City theatres (including 6 additional auditoriums at Studio 30 in Olathe) for further evaluation.  The systems are technologically complex and require compatibility across hardware, software and digital files from multiple providers.  However, we expect to have these systems operational within the coming weeks.

We anticipate selecting a digital captioning system for our theatres in the coming months based on the results of our tests.  After that, it is our intention to commence installations that will significantly increase the availability of captions at our theatres.  The exact number of auditoriums to be equipped with captioning systems will depend on a number of factors including equipment selection and cost, guest preferences and demand, technological compatibility, and captioned content availability.  At this time we cannot commit to you that captions will be available for all movies at all showings.  In particular, it should be noted that captions are not provided by the studios and distributors for all movies shown in our theatres.”

Many thanks to AMC for their professional and courteous responses to our requests!

Hearing aid bling

I sat in my audiologist’s office, thumbing through the catalog he had just handed to me. We had just decided to move on to new hearing aids and I was trying to pick a style. Technology sure has come a long way, I thought as I viewed my selection.

(photo credit)

I didn’t have these kinds of options when I was growing up. Some of my deaf and hard of hearing peers at my elementary school opted for bright or sparkly ear molds but I was never brave enough to join their ranks. Beige hearing aids and clear ear molds suited me just fine, blending in to my dark blonde hair and fair skin. As I got older, I wore my hair down so I could cover my ears, too shy – and at times, too embarrassed – for anyone to see that my ears weren’t like theirs.

I didn’t like to stand out or feel “different.” I wanted so badly to be just like everyone else and as far as I was concerned, my hearing aids were ruining those plans. I tried to hide my ears, to pretend I wasn’t hard of hearing, to blend into the background. Back in the audiologist’s office, my fears overwhelmed me and I chose beige once again.

I’ve had my not-so-new-anymore beige aids for over two and a half years now, but I wonder sometimes what it would be like if I’d chosen differently. Would electric blue hearing aids clash with my dark blonde hair? How would I look with red or purple or zebra stripes behind my ears? What if my ear molds were pink or orange or green? Would people look at me differently? What would colorful ears tell others about my personality? About my hearing loss?

Since then, I’ve decided I want to be the kind of person who would be brave enough to add some bling to my hearing aids. I’m less shy to speak up and ask for clarification. I’m quicker to explain my communication needs instead of clamming up. I know that my experiences as a hard of hearing person aren’t abnormal compared to everyone else’s – I just live a different version of normal. Don’t we all?

I wish now that I had I had chosen my hearing aid style more carefully. Not because I wear my hearing loss as a badge of honor or because I take pride in being hard of hearing. No, I wish I’d been bolder in my selection because over time, my hearing aids have become less of a sworn enemy and more of an old friend. Colorful ears would remind me, I think, that I’ve called a truce and made peace with my hearing loss. I can have fun with it now. It’s too late for me to get zebra-striped hearing aids, but what do you think? Can I pull off purple ear molds? 😉

How about you? Do you trick out your hearing aid(s) or cochlear implant? Do you hide them or show them off?

And the Oscar goes to…

A HUGE thank you to everyone who participated in our recent survey about attending live musical performances! We were able to use the data to draft a letter to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, encouraging them to consider looping their venue to benefit deaf and hard of hearing patrons.

Everyone who took the survey had an opportunity to enter a drawing for a $10 gift card. The results are in and the honor goes to…. drum roll, please! … Terri Shirley!

Congratulations, Terri! Enjoy your gift card!

A Petition for Equal Access

Originally posted at:

http://LipreadingMom.com

By Shanna Groves, KC HLAA Chapter Steering Team Member

If you could write a letter you knew would be read and followed through by a business’ Person in Power (PiP) who is sensitive to your hearing loss, what would you write? Feel free to use the following letter, but be sure to change any reference to yours truly.

Dear PiP,

I am a hard of hearing person. While I once frequented the halls of your movie theater/place of worship/music venue/sports arena, my progressive hearing loss has made it increasingly difficult to participate without accommodations. For the record, I wear hearing aids, lipread reasonably well, and have family members who double as my personal listening assistants (I ask, “What did he or she say?” They repeat highlights of what he or she said.) From outside appearances, I blend in with the crowds who attend your events. It would seem I enjoy myself just fine. Except when I can’t hear well, which is every time I attend your events.

What does it mean to be hard of hearing? First, my eyes are my ears. I rely on watching people’s lips move to understand what my ears can’t comprehend of their speech. I am not culturally deaf and know very little sign language. Thus, sign interpreters are ineffective for me. My hearing aids increase the volume of what I hear, but they don’t always help me to understand what I am hearing. In a crowded room with a lot of background noise, hearing aids have difficulty focusing on the sounds I want to hear. Without some additional accommodations, I often sit at your events, idly taking in all the sights and sounds–without making much sense of it.

 What can your facility do to accommodate the thousands of people like me? Consider one or, preferably, both of these things:

Captions – Real-time text of your performance, printed on a screen within comfortable distance of me and/or the main stage. There are various methods for this: captions printed directly on a screen above or below the stage; LED captions printed from the back of the facility and reflected onto a shiny device you provide me with; broadcast captions via the Internet that are accessible through my phone or facility laptop; special glasses you provide me that reflect captions onto my lenses.

Looping – An induction system you provide that magnetically transmits sounds to my hearing aids. This system, in essence an in-the-ear loud-speaker, can provide listeners with hearing aids or cochlear implants the ability to receive a crystal-clear transmission of sound from your stage’s microphones directly into their aids or implants.

From a marketing standpoint, your facility could benefit from the inclusion of one or both of these accommodations. Besides helping hard of hearing people and their families, imagine the interest your act could capture in the special needs-sensitive media and with certain special interests groups; not to mention the publicity it could gain with groups devoted to cutting edge technology. No matter what the cost is of providing captions or looping, isn’t the added business from good publicity worth it?

Business talk aside, imagine how good you would feel being able to provide your loved one, who may have a hearing loss, the chance to fully engage in your event. You would no longer have to repeat what someone said from the stage or what was announced over loudspeaker. You both can sit back and relax, able to enjoy the show without your beloved’s unwelcome intermissions.

Pretend that you are me. I am a person nowhere near middle age, having to rely on my 10-, 6- and even 3-year-old children to repeat important information I can’t hear well at your facility. What child should have to be a listening interpreter for her mom?

Take the burden off mine and my children’s shoulders, and provide me with the hearing accommodations I need. In the end, wouldn’t you do the same for your own mom?

Sincerely,

Me

Hearing loss research done on older adults

According to a study done by John Hopkins Medical Institution, nearly 2/3rds of Americans age 70 or older have hearing loss.   Interestingly enough, people of ethnicity who tend to have darker skin seem to have some kind of measure of protection against this kind of age-related hearing loss.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110228090212.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+sciencedaily+(ScienceDaily:+Latest+Science+News)

Older adults having hearing loss is a major issue as baby boomers reach retirement age and depend on assistive technology to overcome hearing limitations.  If this study is accurate, we could be facing a rising tide of people living longer and longer and having to face hearing loss as a natural side effect of getting older.  I would gather that there’ll be a heightened need for services like captioning and looping as this continues.