Texas Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant Purchase Assistance

A word map with words such as audiology, hearing, study, aid, deafness, education, medical.
Locating funding to pay for expensive hearing aids or cochlear implants is worth the time involved. photo credit: Ben Taylor55 Audiology via photopin (license)

Texas Health and Human Services has incorporated links for different programs to help Texans pay for their hearing aids or cochlear implants, which may cost thousands of dollars. There are many programs available to adults wanting hearing support, including service members and veterans, people seeking work or studying, or people who have retired or are not working.

Veterans Programs for Hearing Aid Assistance

For active service members, TRICARE coverage will assist with hearing aids as long as the hearing loss is great enough.

For retired service members, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides assistance with hearing aids. As long as you have ten percent of any service-related disability, you should qualify. You may apply in person or online for VA health care.

Assistance for Working-Age Adults

Workforce Solutions Vocational Rehabilitation Services is the provider who assists people with disabilities who are preparing to work or are working.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission’s website, to qualify for services, you must be able to work, need services to help you do that, and have a disability which is a barrier to employment. Hearing loss and deafness are including in this group.

Diagram of a person and the cochlear implant in place.
A cochlear implant is one of the most expensive pieces of equipment available for hearing loss–usually deafness or near deafness–and involves major surgery. Exploring financial assistance options can save thousands of dollars. photo credit: Rfunderburk90 Ryan-Funderburk-1 via photopin (license)

To apply for services, you may apply at a Texas Workforce Solutions – Vocational Rehabilitation Services office, call 800-628-5115 for information, or send your questions via email to customers@twc.state.tx.us. The website cautions you to include your name, phone and address including city, state and ZIP code in your email, but not your Social Security Number or birth date.

If you quality, the rehabilitation office will send you to be evaluated by an approved audiologist who will assess your needs and report to them. After that, you may qualify for hearing aids, cochlear implants, or related equipment.

Programs for Older Texans

An older woman puts in a hearing aid.
As we age, the incidence of hearing loss and deafness increases. photo credit: http://www.ilmicrofono.it Senior woman with a hearing aid via photopin (license)

Several programs exist to support providing access for older Texans to get hearing aids or cochlear implants. For people who are 60 or older, the state has 28 area agencies on aging (called AAAs). You can contact staff via email or phone at the agency nearest you by using this list of offices across the state. These programs do consider your financial and minority status, and whether you live in a rural area.

Services for Texans not Using Vocational Services for Work

In 2016, Texas transitioned services for Independent Living to the state’s Centers for Independent Living. Scroll down this page and locate the one nearest you to learn about what supports and services they can provide you with in your area. The centers assist with a variety of needs beyond adaptive equipment, such as advocacy.

Nationwide Hearing Aid Payment Assistance

The Starkey Hearing Foundation has a program, Hear Now, for Americans with low incomes. People who meet their criteria are fitted with new hearing aids. Learn more or complete an application.

While your family may make too much money to qualify for other programs, the Audient Alliance for Accessible Hearing Health Care helps individuals acquire hearing aids at lower prices. Call or download their application form.

Community Organizations

Kiwanis, Lions Clubs, and Masons may have local branches that will fund hearing aids. Their website may not list the extent of what they do, so contact your local branch to learn more.

Other Assistive Listening Devices

While you wait to get hearing aids, there are other options to provide some hearing assistance, depending on your needs. Local stores that sell Made-for-TV products have fairly powerful hearing aids for around $20.

Williams Sound offers more advanced equipment for reasonable prices that may help you hear better at home, religious services, recreational events, in restaurants, at school, and anywhere you need to hear better.

Contact Us

Contact The Capsule Group Inc for more support in locating hearing aid or cochlear implant services.

Advertisements

Applying for and Training Service Animals in Texas

The Capsule Group Inc and Sign Shares, Inc. team enjoyed meeting attendees from across Texas at the Abilities Expo Houston in early August 2019. Sign Shares, Inc. provided sign language interpreting to help make the expo more accessible. While there, CEO and Detective Eva Storey, TPLI met with staff from Service Dogs, Inc.

Specialized Service Animals for a Variety of Needs

Seeing eye dog guiding a person on a conveyor belt.
Most people are aware of guide dogs aiding people who are blind, but there are also service dogs for hearing, mobility, and emotional needs. photo credit: EX22218 – ON/OFF This White Dog…. via photopin (license)

The nonprofit Service Dogs out of Dripping Springs provides a variety of service animals that many people may not be aware exist, including hearing, service, courthouse, first responder facility, and PAWS juvenile offender dogs. Whatever the type of dog, Service Dogs provides free trained dogs and lifetime training for them for qualified applicants. They have been providing free assistance dogs since 1988.

Hearing dogs alert partners to sounds from their environment, such as a baby crying, smoke alarm, and other beeps and buzzes around the home or at work. Service dogs provide motor skills support, such as retrieving objects, opening, closing, and pushing things within their partner’s environment, as well assisting with movement or dressing. Courthouse dogs provide emotional support for children in tense courtroom situations.

According to the organization’s website, one of their programs, PAWS, is “the first and only juvenile offender service dog training program in the country.”

First Responder Facility Dogs work with emergency medical professionals, such as EMTs, paramedics, Emergency Room staff, and others in the hospital setting. The dogs help staff “de-escalate from the traumatic things they see every day,” such as fatalities, accidents, and emergency room happenings.

Seeing Eye Dogs in Texas

While Service Dogs, Inc. provides many types of service animals, they do not provide seeing eye dogs, which are provided by Guide Dogs of Texas. If you’re at least 17 and legally blind, you can call the organization to set up an appointment at (210) 366 4081. No matter which organization’s service animal type you need, expect to wait one to two years to secure a service animal that is trained to your specifications.

Additional Services Provided by Service Dogs, Inc.

Picture of a service dog from the Wisconsin Academy for Graduate Service Dogs.
Service animals are finely trained to devote their attention to work and to have the appropriate temperament for a working animal. The amount of dogs who qualify is limited. photo credit: slambo_42 Friendly service dog via photopin (license)

Service Dogs, Inc. also provides training for professional dog trainers.

Besides assisting people, the organization provides a new start for shelter and rescue dogs, as well as dogs changing careers from other organizations.

If you wish to apply for a Hearing, Mobility or Facility dog, you must be at least 25 years old, have a hearing or mobility disability or represent a facility that provides some of the services listed above, such as at first responder or law and justice programs. The application process may take up to six months, and it may take 10 months to a year before a service animal is placed.

Contact Us to Increase Accessibility and Adaptability

Sign Shares and The Capsule Group is on your side. Contact us regarding interpreting services or advocacy needs.

Sign Shares’ Team Rides to Help Children with Cancer

Two Sign Shares Inc staff have biked 701.4 miles as Team Eva and Ant in honor of loved ones who have fallen to cancer and to raise money for children with the disease. The event was organized by Great Cycle Challenge USA, a company that has “raised $16,070,740 in support of research to develop better treatments and find a cure for childhood cancer” over the past four years.

A woman poses with a puppet, next to another woman with a puppet.
Sharon Miller-Bless often shared puppets. This picture was taken of Sharon and Eva Storey at the Abilities Expo Houston.

Eva Storey, CEO and president of Sign Shares, rode 350.7 miles in honor of a former interpreter for the agency, Sharon Miller-Bless, who was a tri-lingual interpreter for the interpreting agency. “Sharon was more than an employee, but a dear friend,” Storey said.

A woman holds a sign with the name Grace Raitano.
Grace Marie Rataino Butkovich, mother of Anthony Butkovich.

Anthony Butkovich also rode 350.7 miles in honor of his mother, Grace Marie Rataino Butkovich. According to his dedication page, his mother was an advocate for alternative therapies for cancer. “She literally traveled the world studying the root of all cancer and seeking cures in countries that permitted unorthodox treatments.”

Over the month of June 2019, Storey and Butkovich showed determination when they biked in outdoor and indoor conditions, jointly and independently.

According to website participants, they undertook this journey because “cancer is the biggest killer of children from disease in the United States. Over 15,700 children are diagnosed every year, and sadly, 38 children die of cancer every week. Kids should be living life, not fighting for it.”

New Captioning Technology Provides Greater Telecommunications Access

Many people with hearing loss and deafness use a variety of tools to assist their telecommunications, including video and caption phones. Another tool has been added to their access—captioning with Skype.

Skype is known for providing audio and video communications. When Sign Shares Inc. staff held a recent video conference, they learned that Skype now provides captions for video. They were pleased with the quality of the captions for personal use.

Until now, captioning for video has been limited and was mainly available through captioning in YouTube videos, but not for interpersonal communications. With this latest upgrade, individuals with hearing loss and deafness can supplement their video communications with family and friends instead of relying on a combination of lipreading and messaging.

A TV screen shows the news and the captions read, "Welcome back to the light doormat coverage of the..."
Captions are an art between technology and people. When communication matters, contact professionals for captioning.

More experience with Skype will determine its value for professional use. When business meetings are important, or when multiple individuals need to teleconference, contact Sign Share Inc. and The Capsule Group to determine the best accommodations for your needs. This involves considering the individual preferences of the personal with deafness or hearing loss, the location of the meeting, the number of individuals involved, as well as room acoustics and the distance the employee will be from the speaker.

In most situations, employers are required by federal laws to provide accessible meetings that provide a similar experience to the one that any other employee receives, and the Sign Shares Inc/The Capsule Group team will ensure that your employees receive a smooth delivery of services.

As for personal use, Skype’s captioning is a welcome tool to enhance communications with family and friends.

Skype is a free service available online and via a cell phone app. Click here to learn more about Skype or create your account.

Once you download Skype, which is available on desktop or cell phone, you can set the subtitles to run captions while the other person speaks. According to the company’s website, “Live captions & subtitles are available in Skype on Android (6.0+), Android tablet, iPhone, iPad, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web, and Skype for Windows 10 (version 14).”

The Capsule Group, inc & Sign Shares, inc will be at Abilities Expo Aug. 2-4: Join Us for a Book Signing, Advocacy, & New Launches for Fall 2019!!!

Capsule logo_bigGearing up for Abilities Expo, Houston, TX, on Aug. 2-4, 2019!!! The event will be held at the NRG Center, Hall E from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 2-3, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, August 4.

The expo is a national, annual event that celebrates the abilities of all. It includes:

Register for the event

The expo is free to attend. Register now. Indicate on the registration if you will need a sign language interpreter or CART live captioning. When you register, you can opt to receive Abilities Expo updates.

Find us at the expo

The Sign Shares and The Capsule Group Inc team will be at booth 930, which is located toward the back right of the expo hall, around the corner from 3E Love and directly across from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Author and audiobook cast book signing

This year, Sign Shares, Inc and The Capsule Group, Inc will host author Christina Goebel for a book signing for her novel, the science fiction fantasy, Birth Right: Galak’s Rising.

Birth Right Galak's Rising logo
Join Birth Right: Galak’s Rising’s audiobook cast and get your book signed at the Abilities Expo Houston on Aug. 2-4, 2019.

Members of the agency’s team read parts in Goebel’s upcoming audiobook for the novel and will be available for the book signing, including The Capsule Group’s Eva Storey and Anthony Butkovich, and Kade D.M. Murdoch, Faith L.D. Storey, and Gerald Goebel. The audiobook is in the editing phase and will be available later this year. This is a rare opportunity to have most of the audiobook cast sign Birth Right.

GoldenHeart: How to Love Humanity by Christina Goebel
Christina Goebel’s book, GoldenHeart, contains a chapter on disability with information about awareness and resources. GoldenHeart focuses on how to love yourself, others, and humanity.

Goebel will also sign copies of her self-help love manual, GoldenHeart: How to Love Humanity. This book was the start of the Twitter movement of 29,000 followers (@lovegoldenheart) promoting love and kindness and using the #GoldenHearts hashtag.

Those purchasing the novels will receive a discount price and free giveaway items not available elsewhere, including buttons for the book. You can learn more about Goebel’s books at her website. Goebel is the Advocacy Advisor for The Capsule Group.

Creating capsules with you

Besides providing access for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, The Capsule Group teams enjoy meeting people with all abilities and providing information and resources for a variety of needs so that all Texans can live a full and rewarding life. Stop by to discuss any concerns you have, and the team will assist you in finding answers during or after the event. The Capsule Group creates capsules that enable your growth and success.

Stop by the The Capsule Group Inc | Sign Shares Inc’s booth 930, receive some goodies, and enjoy a chat with our team. See the floor plan for the Abilities Expo Houston.

Receive updates

For updates, join Sign Shares’ more than 55,000 followers on Facebook.

Getting to the expo

NRG Center events utilize Gate 10 on the corner of Kirby and McNee. Type in the address: 8600 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX 77054 for the most accurate driving directions. Learn the location of accessible parking here. Parking will be $15 and is accepted via cash only and does not include any debit or credit card payments.

Abilities Expo Links

Facebook: @AbilitiesExpo
Twitter: @AbilitiesExpo
Imstagram: @abilities_expo
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/AbilitiesExpoTV
Pinterest: @abilitiesexpo
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/abilities-expo/

Learn about Federal Grants for Free

2020 goals on chalkboard
Many organizations and businesses are planning now for 2020 grants and beyond. photo credit: wuestenigel 2020 goals on chalkboard via photopin (license)

The U.S. government provides grant options for governments, organizations, and businesses. According to an email from USAGov, “The federal government typically awards grants to state and local governments, universities, researchers, law enforcement, and institutions planning major projects that will benefit specific parts of the country or a community as a whole.”

The federal website www.grants.gov, provides information about the government’s more than 1,000 programs. Many grants do support initiatives to benefit individuals with disabilities.

Grant writing is a process and grants often have a structure that is different from what many people would expect. If you’re in Texas and would like to receive grant writing instruction for your organization or business, A Circle of 10, Inc. provides intensive paid workshops.

The GrantsGov website cautions that if you receive an email saying that you qualify for a free grant, it may be a scam. The Federal Trade Commission has information on their website and in their newsletter that will help you avoid all types of scams that the agency encounters.

To learn about future scams, subscribe to the commission’s newsletter.

Equifax Security Breach: Half of You Who Read This may be Involved

Unlocked lock over numbers on a computer screen.
Half of all Americans may have had their identity information, such as their social security numbers, compromised. Are you one of them? Read on to learn more. photo credit: Visual Content <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/1436015photo credit: Visual Content Data Security Breach via photopin (license)

The Federal Trade Commission has shared a link where you can verify if your security has been compromised in an Equifax breach. Equifax is a credit reporting agency. According to the commission, a settlement that was reached with Equifax and others “alleged that the credit reporting company’s failure to take reasonable steps to secure its network led to a data breach in 2017 that affected approximately 147 million people.”

Was your personal information compromised?

To learn if your information was compromised and is in danger of potential identify theft, conduct a search here.

The form requests some information to verify your identity.

What to do if your information is at risk

If your personal information was included in the breach, you have several options, including free credit monitoring by three agencies for six years, and an additional protection for four years from Equifax, totaling 10 years of protection. This service is normally $19.95 a month. It will notify you when someone uses your personal information for loans, credit, or large purchases.

If your information was included in the breach, file a claim here.

Additionally, if the security breach has caused you time or money, you may be entitled to some financial compensation, but they will request documentation.

How all Americans will benefit from this

In 2020, Equifax will provide up to six free credit reports a year for seven years for all Americans, according to the commission.

How did this happen?

In the settlement of Federal Trade Commission v. Equifax Inc, Apache Struts was part of Equifax’s database portal that stores the information for millions of Americans. In March of 2017, “the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team alerted [Equifax] to a new critical security vulnerability found in Apache Struts, an open source framework used to build Java web applications.”

According to the settlement, the Equifax employee who needed the information didn’t receive the email notification about the vulnerability. Though Equifax made efforts to locate the vulnerability, further mistakes were made, which led to their alleged failure to “notice or remediate the unpatched” database. This vulnerability allowed hackers to penetrate deep into the database.

Get your free, annual credit report from three agencies

Federal law provides that all American are eligible to receive one free credit report a year from each of the credit reporting agencies, which includes TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Request yours.

Learn about scams and security updates as they happen

To avoid future scams or receive updates on matters of security, subscribe to the commission’s newsletter.

 

Governor appoints Eva Storey to the Texas SILC

The office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the appointment of Detective Eva Storey to the Texas State Independent Living Council. Storey is the CEO and President of Sign Shares, Inc. and the Founder of The Capsule Group, Inc. Her term is until June 20, 2022.

EvaStorey_reducedsize
Detective Eva Storey

“It is an honor to be appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to serve within the State Independent Living Council of Texas,” Storey said. “I will respectfully advocate for individuals of disability, creating accessibility between their choice of educational, employment, medical, and legal providers, for all to engage on positive platforms of understanding and acknowledge one another through effective communication.”

The Texas State Independent Living Council, or the Texas SILC, has a mission to “ensure that all Texans with disabilities have access to quality Independent Living services by providing a framework for service delivery.” This is done via the Independent Living Movement principles of peer support, self-help, self-determination, equality, and positive systemic change.

Within that mission, the Texas SILC develops the State Plan for Independent Living in conjunction with the state’s Centers for Independent Living. The three-year plan “establishes the goals for the provision of Independent Living services in Texas.” The SILC also monitors the implementation and effectiveness of the plan and collects input from across the state via meetings, events, and town halls.

Texas SILC meetings and events are listed at the organization’s website at https://www.txsilc.org/.

Storey will provide unique input to the SILC regarding the needs of Texans with all abilities, including those who have mobility, communication access, accommodations, and other needs.

This is the second time that Storey’s advocacy has been recognized by Gov. Abbott. In 2015, Storey was the CEO of Sign Shares, Inc. when it won the state’s 2015 Lex Frieden Small Employer Employment Award

Texas Poster Contest for Artists with a Disability

A picture of a Texas Capitol entrance with the Texas flag hanging in front and on top of the Capitol.
The Office of the Governor promotes disability inclusion through the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities.

According to a bulletin from the Office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities is calling for art entries for the
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) Poster Art competition. Entries must be submitted by May 31, 2017.

Picture of screenshot of two former posters, one is paper art of a moon and another shows a cowboy in the sunset.
Above are examples of previous poster contest winners. Use the link below to learn more about the artists and their work.

The winning artist gets statewide recognition when the committee releases free copies of the winner’s art on posters to businesses across Texas.

“The winning artwork is incorporated into the Texas HireAbility Campaign #TXHireAbility,” according to the press release.

In 2016, the committee distributed 2,500 posters.

Submissions

Submissions from Texas artists with disabilities can be sent to the committee via email at GCPD@gov.texas.gov with a photo attachment of the original work in a high resolution digital format, either JPEG or PDF.

They also accept color photocopies, or images on a CD sent by postal mail. The original artwork does not need to be submitted unless it wins the competition. It is free to enter.

All entries must be accompanied by a signed Entry Form, which is available on our website along with the Submission Guidelines.

Due date

Entries must be received by email or postmarked by May 31, 2017. The winner will be announced by June 21.

Artist Recognition

Besides having their art on a poster that is distributed across the state, the original art and the poster will be placed on display in the Office of the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities, as well as at other exhibits.

See previous winners at this link.

The winning artist may opt to be a featured guest at the annual Lex Frieden Employment Awards ceremony this October. Sign Shares, Inc./International won a Lex Frieden award for its support and inclusion of employees with disabilities.

Spread the love for inclusion

Join Sign Shares in ensuring that your office provides access an inclusion in the workplace. If you have an employee who needs sign language or foreign language services, request language services with Sign Shares.

 

Deaf Scholar: Appreciating Sign Language and English

Since a popular talk at Stanford University, a scholar who is Deaf has continued her quest to understand the beauty of both sign language and English.

Rachel Kolb at RE:CREATE TEDx
Rachel Kolb presents at TEDx about her experiences with English and sign language.

Rhodes Scholar Rachel Kolb gave a TEDxStanford Talk: “Navigating Deafness in a Hearing World.”

Kolb was born profoundly deaf and knows sign language.

She said, “I could have chosen to use sign language today instead and that would have been a perfectly viable choice. But for me, the answer was 18 years of speech therapy.”

Kolb tells the story of a presentation she gave to her middle school history class.

Days after the presentation, she said the teacher’s feedback was: “You should never speak like that in front of a group without an interpreter. It is not fair to anyone who has to listen to you.”

This lack of awareness causes some in the d/Deaf community to shy away from speech, but not Kolb.

She has challenges though, she said, and one of those is social communication with hearing people when she relies solely upon reading lips.

Rachel Kolb says, "Never put limitations on this child."
Kolb shares about what her speech therapist told her mother when she was 18 months old–to not limit her.

“I communicate fine face-to-face, but walking into those kinds of group conversations is like watching a world championship ping pong match with ten different people and half a dozen balls,” Kolb said.

In another article, Rachel Kolb’s mother, Irene Kolb, shares about learning what to do about her daughter Rachel’s hearing loss. Irene went to the library and read about hearing loss and communication.

“I learned that the biggest window of opportunity for language acquisition is from birth to three years. We started using signs that same day and within a few months, Rachel was communicating to us with baby signs,” Irene Kolb said.

When cochlear implants were approved by the FDA and their daughter was a candidate, Irene Kolb said, “We chose not to pursue cochlear implant surgery for her because we were sensitive to the message it may send, that she was not okay being deaf. The most profound book I read was Deaf Like Me. With that book, we came to the early realization that Rachel may never learn to hear or speak, even with a cochlear implant, but we could learn to sign.”

Kolb’s father, Bill Kolb, shared a story about how he came to understand deafness through a New Mexico state-sponsored program.

He said, “Then during one visit the individual brought a record that gave me, as a hearing person, an insight to what  different levels of hearing loss sounded like. The record repeated a story over and over again, and each time the narrator would drop certain frequencies until the recording lost all frequencies – that is, let me hear what it sounded like to be profoundly deaf. This recording really hit home with me. Going forward, I decided I would learn as much as I could about how to communicate with my precious daughter.”

According the the article, her parents learned sign language over lunch where they worked and took continuing education sign language classes. Their daughter Rachel studied at Deaf, mainstream, and private schools—an environment that may have helped her develop an appreciation of diverse communication.

“Having a family that signed and that worked to provide language access for me gave me a sense of confidence in myself, even when things got challenging,” Kolb said.

Stanford News reported that Rachel Kolb had a unique perspective on communication.

Rachel Kolb says, "But I can learn how to use the abilities that I do have."
While she doesn’t have a choice over everything, Kolb says, she does have a choice over how to use her abilities, which include sign language and English.

She signed, “As someone who understands the different forms communication can take, from spoken to sign language, I understand the value of flexibility in transmitting ideas. I see well-rounded, effective communication as essential to ideas, creativity and progress.”

In an article she wrote for the New York Times, Kolb illustrated the d/Deaf communication dilemma. She said, “While talking to a hearing person at a noisy party, I inevitably reach the point when I want to stop, switch off my cumbersome voice, and let my hands fly.”

“The general advantages of sign are numerous: not only talking through overwhelming noise, but chatting to friends from various distances, or through barriers like doors or windows. Sign, too, possesses a vibrant visual-spatial orientation and a robust directness of expression that spoken languages lack,” she said.

Kolb uses a party example to illustrate how people who don’t know sign language may have a limited ability: “…when faced with a noisy party filled with signing-impaired people, I sometimes marvel, instead, at the skill my eyes and my hands possess.”

She said people who are hearing note her ability to visually navigate a loud environment where hearing people have difficulty too. They’ve commented that it would be preferable to use sign and she encourages them to learn.

When people do learn sign language, she said it helps people to grow. “It is the human desire to communicate – which always strains to break out of presupposed categories, always insists upon its own flexibility and power.”

Communication is unique to the person and situation, to their education and experiences, but it’s valuable to embrace flexibility in communication with others, regardless of ability.

Links