Cinemark gave me the freedom to choose

When I was a child, I didn’t have a lot of options when it came to my hearing loss. I could only choose from the few analog hearing aids available. Going to see a movie in the theater was the stuff my dreams were made of. Talking on the phone was out of the question. I could only be accommodated as much as technology would allow.

Today, I get to choose. My hearing aids have gone digital, my CapTel phone gives me the freedom to chat and – at long last – my movie dreams are being fulfilled. I heard that Cinemark added a new closed captioning device called CaptiView to their Plaza location and decided to give it a try. My friend and I went to an evening showing of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We ordered our tickets and received the equipment without incident (though one of the employees didn’t seem quite sure what we were asking for… the manager came along and helped us out, though).

I didn’t get a chance to take a picture while the movie was playing, but I did snap this one after the movie was over. This is the CaptiView screen:

The screen attaches to a bendable “neck” which is connected to a solid “anchor” that fits in your cup holder. If you’ve ever used Rear Window Captioning (RWC), the general design is similar. Unlike RWC, the CaptiView system is much steadier – the screen mostly stayed in one place when I adjusted it. However, the anchor part had a hard time staying in the cup holder – I think the CaptiView could use a minor redesign so that the screen part isn’t heavier than the anchor. I ended up holding the anchor in place so I could enjoy the movie without moving the screen every few seconds.

The captions run on a different technology than RWC and do not reflect captions from a screen at the back of the theater the way that RWC does. Instead, the captions run on a “wireless band frequency” and I will tell you right now that means nothing to this former English major. 😉 What it does mean is that I did not have to sit in a specific area of the auditorium in order to reflect any captions – I got to choose where I wanted to sit!

The CaptiView screen is not very large, less than a foot wide and a few inches tall (I hope you appreciate my precise measurements there… again, former English major. I don’t speak numbers.). There are three slants that divide each line of dialogue. The CaptiView information sheet explains that this is to ensure privacy and minimize disruption for neighboring patrons. The slants did not bother me too much but because the CaptiView would tilt slowly (even while I was holding the anchor), the slants would obscure some of the text, so I would have to fidget with the screen every now and then.

The text itself was easy to read and I was able to (mostly) position the CaptiView device so that it was, from my perspective, right underneath the screen. While following the movie wasn’t quite as effortless as it would have been with open captions (seeing all the action and dialogue on the same screen), it still was a much more seamless experience than my past encounters with RWC technology. The text size was not an issue for me, but it was definitely much smaller than open captions or TV captions are. Some people may find it helpful to bring their reading glasses or be prepared to adjust the screen so that it is closer or further away.

When we dropped off the devices after the movie, I was able to chat briefly with one of the customer service representatives. She confirmed that the Plaza location has eight CaptiView devices and – my favorite part – ANY movie that is offered in digital format is available with captions (the only caveat is that 3D movies are currently not available with captions)! This means any movie, any showing (just be sure you are looking at the digital showings and not the standard format showings)… can you hear the Hallelujah Chorus right now?! Because I certainly can! 🙂

There were, however, a few downsides and some of them just boil down to my personal preference and perception. I’m not crazy about the extra work required for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing to see a movie. Requesting the equipment sometimes creates an awkward exchange if the employee behind the counter isn’t sure what you’re talking about. Walking through the theater with the device and then fidgeting in my seat to adjust the screen draws a bit of attention and I’m a shy lady… so feeling a few more eyes on me is not the most comfortable experience. I found it hard to get “lost” in the movie because I kept flickering back and forth between the CaptiView and the movie screen and had to adjust it every once in a while… I had to think about what was going on in the movie AND whether or not I was getting all the information. I’m still pining for the days of open captions, but I think that the CaptiView system is a valiant effort to fill the gap between RWC and open captions.

Overall, I had a good experience with Cinemark and CaptiView and would definitely go again because I have so many more options… I’m still trying to wrap my head around any movie, any time! 🙂

If you’re interested in seeing a movie at Cinemark on the Plaza, you can check their website, give them a call at 816-756-5877 or email them at E271@cinemark.com.

Local fire departments offer free smoke detectors

(photo credit)

I have a smoke detector with a strobe light in my apartment now and I promise it works effectively… do not ask me how I know this. It is definitely not because I tend to burn food or do silly things like put wax paper in the oven. Nope, not me! 😉

I’ll be moving across town in a few weeks and when I told my new landlord that I would need a smoke detector with a visual alert, she happily and graciously agreed. I thought I would have to do all the legwork and research and procure the device myself, but she beat me to the punch and got one from the fire department!

I’m thankful to have such a thoughtful landlord but you don’t need a landlord to get a free smoke detector with a strobe light. Simply contact your local fire department and ask about smoke detectors for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Kansas City, KS Fire Department
Overland Park, KS Fire Department
Kansas City, MO Fire Department

I’m here!

… But horrible at blogging! 🙂 I arrived in DC on Wednesday and have been walking ever since – I even have the blister to prove it!

The convention started yesterday but I may or may not have been looking for the White House at the time. Oops. After I got back from exploring, I picked up my registration packet and went back to my hotel to rest before going on the young adult scavenger hunt. Good thing, too, because it was as exhausting as it was fun! We had to hop the Metro (always an adventure in and of itself) and make our way to the Smithsonian to hunt down some clues. It was humid and we had another team (I’m looking at you, Dennis!) hot on our heels, but I’m proud to report that our team won! You’ll have to help me goad Sarah into writing a post about that because we wouldn’t have won without her! 🙂

After the hunt, we were treated to dinner at a pub and grill. The food was amazing and I thought HLAA did a great job organizing the event. I also enjoyed meeting some new friends and look forward to getting to know them better as the weekend goes on.

Now I’m at the research synposium learning about the effects of noise on hearing loss – be sure to follow @hlaakc on Twitter for live tweets from the synposium.

This afternoon, I’m off to a couple of workshops: “The Art of Telling – Or How to Tell Your Date/Boss/Friend About Your Hearing Loss” and “Surviving the Stress of Hearing Loss: What You Can Do.” I’ll be tweeting from those as well so be sure to check in!

Then tonight I get to go see Wicked!!! Can. Not. Wait!

But now, it’s time for breakfast/lunch. 🙂

Mark your calendars for upcoming social events!

We’re pleased to announce that in addition to our regular monthly meetings at the Plaza Library, we will also be coordinating monthly social events around the Kansas City area. It could be as leisurely as meeting at a coffeehouse and just chatting or as riveting as a Bocce ball game! Locations and events will vary from month to month, and we always welcome suggestions! Please send us an email at hlaakc@gmail.com if you have a favorite place or activity that we could all enjoy.

Mark your calendars for June 24 because Shanna Groves is planning a delightful evening for us at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art! More details will follow, so be sure to watch for blog and email updates.

Don’t forget to follow @hlaakc, @YAHWL and @hlaa on Twitter for convention updates and be sure to follow our blog, as well as the official convention blog, to keep up with what’s going on in DC!

The countdown has begun!

The HLAA National Convention is just three days away! Even if you’re unable to attend this year, there are several ways to stay connected:

Twitter:

@hlaakc – I’ll (Lucy) be tweeting live from the convention, so be sure to keep your eye on your Twitter feed for up-to-date information on all that we’re learning!
@YAWHL – keep up with what’s going on with the young adults during the convention
#HLAA2011 – search for tweets with this hash tag to find out what other tweeters are saying about Convention 2011!

Blogs:

Hlaakc.com – I’ll (Lucy) be blogging from the convention, so be sure to subscribe by clicking on the RSS feed button or entering your email address in the “Email Subscription” box on the right hand side of this page.

Official HLAA Convention Blog – Elizabeth, known as (e on the interwebs, will be blogging from the convention, so be sure to get your follow on!

Some things I am most excited about:

Washington, D.C.! I’ve never been and my inner nerd is eager to soak up all of the history in our nation’s capital! I’m planning to brush up on Night at the Museum 2 and National Treasure to help me prepare. 😉

Wicked! I love, love, love musicals but I rarely watch live theater because even with sign language interpreters, I miss out on the performance (I have two choices: Watch the interpreters and miss the acting or watch the acting and miss the dialogue). However, Wicked will be captioned and I’m eager to see what captioning looks like at a live event!

Winning! Ok, not really, but I felt like I needed another “W” phrase in there. 🙂 What I’m probably looking forward to the most is relaxing with my hearing loss. CART will be provided at each workshop, some of the rooms will be looped and everyone will be familiar with hearing loss! I’m looking forward to several days of being with other people who get hearing loss, of not having to (I hope!) labor, labor, labor to communicate with others and to networking with others who know how to communicate with me – because they have the same kinds of needs that I do.

Just two more days to go… can’t wait!

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!

Belonging. And also, Mexican food.

So I’m the new girl on the block. I’ve only been going to HLAA-KC meetings since January. And then I took a hiatus to tend to bridesmaid duties over the summer. And if I had to be honest, there were a couple of meetings that I was just too shy to go to. But this fall has seen me a little more active with the chapter, and now I’m wondering what took me so long to come around… but I’m so glad I did!

I lost my hearing when I was four years old and even though my childhood was spent among interpreters, deaf education teachers and a few deaf and hard and hearing peers, the majority of my growing up years was spent in the hearing world. My sign language grew rusty and I found myself in that awkward place between D/deaf and hearing. I couldn’t claim either as my home and even something as simple as asking someone to repeat themselves or requesting accommodations in my college classes felt like a monumental task. I didn’t consider myself culturally Deaf but I didn’t know how to be hard of hearing among the hearing, either.

Fast forward a few years, to my mid-twenties. I had finally started coming to terms with my hearing loss and wanted to meet other people who would, I hope, get it. A friend told me about HLAA and encouraged me to go to one of their meetings. The first couple of meetings went smoothly, if uneventfully. Introverted as I am, it was a big deal for me just to walk into the room and even then, I would mostly sit, listen (and read – yay for CART!) to the speaker, chat with people for a few minutes and leave. But I grew just a little bit braver with each visit. I wasn’t afraid to ask for repetition – because everyone else was doing the same thing. I could read the CART text. Or I could read lips. Or write notes. Or sign… kind of. And I noticed that the tension – of asking, “What?” over and over again, of bluffing my way through conversations, of trying desperately to fill in the communication gaps – had dissolved. The playing field had been leveled; I was no longer the only one wandering in this no man’s land of hearing loss.

As I look back over the last few months with HLAA, of making new friends and learning about new technology and thinking about how to be a more effective communicator, one word comes to mind: Relief. It is a relief to be with people who understand the struggle of not belonging to any one world, of not being Deaf or hearing. Who make communicating easy and not burdensome. Who get it. Here, I belong.

On that note, we’d love to get to know you and talk to you about HLAA. I wanted to invite you to our lunch social this Saturday, Oct. 16, at noon at Fronteras Mexican Restaurant – 13415 S. Blackbob Rd., Olathe, KS. This is definitely one gathering I will not be missing (they had me at “Mexican!” ;-)) and I hope we’ll see you there!

Adios!

Lucy