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.

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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.

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/

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

Congressional Bill Challenges the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) allows people with disabilities the right to go to court if they can’t find satisfaction regarding their civil rights under this law and other disability rights laws.

American flag shines in the sunlight.
Will Congress reduce the power of one of its greatest laws? photo credit: docoverachiever VOTE via photopin (license)

However, a new Congressional Bill, H.R. 620, seeks to change the way people with disabilities may seek redress, or resolutions, to the inaccessible world they encounter. You can read the bill here.

According to a newsletter from the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the bill will take away some rights that now exist under the ADA.

According to bill H.R. 620, it is designed “to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to promote compliance through education, to clarify the requirements for demand letters, to provide for a notice and cure period before the commencement of a private civil action, and for other purposes.”

The fund opposes the bill. “We must counter the business lobby, which wants to make it much more difficult to attain accessibility when businesses such as stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. disregard their ADA responsibilities,” according to the fund’s newsletter.

Black and white photo of an empty wheelchair at the bottom of some stairs.
Stairs are an example of an architectural barrier for someone who uses a wheelchair, scooter, or cane. But what if they block access to a doctor, lawyer, or school? (license)

Two problems in particular will affect people whose rights are violated under the ADA under H.R. 620, and according to the newsletter, it:

  • “Requires a person with a disability who encounters an access barrier to send a letter detailing the exact ADA provisions that are being violated;” and
  • “Rewards non-compliance by allowing businesses generous additional timelines, even though the ADA’s reasonable requirements are already over 25 years old!”

Gavel with a book in the background
How many actions must a U.S. citizen take before they can bring an action to court? (license)

If a person with a disability encounters an architectural barrier, according to the bill, they must do three things before they can take civil action:

  • “Provide to the owner or operator of the accommodation a written notice specific enough to allow such owner or operator to identify the barrier;” and
  • “Specify in detail the circumstances under which an individual was actually denied access to a public accommodation, including the address of property, the specific sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act alleged to have been violated, whether a request for assistance in removing an architectural barrier to access was made,” and
  • Specify “whether the barrier to access was a permanent or temporary barrier.”

The amendment language also calls for the creation of a “model program with … an expedited method for determining the relevant facts related to such barriers to access and steps taken before the commencement of litigation to resolve any issues related to access.”

H.R. 620 seems to contradict the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, which states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Since lawsuits allow U.S. citizens to “petition the government for a redress of grievances,” or for a remedy for their problems, then requiring people with disabilities to take additional steps before they can bring a lawsuit would hinder that freedom and cause them to have an additional burden unlike other U.S. citizens.

The fund recommends that individuals let their representatives in Congress know if they don’t wish the ADA to be limited by the amendments that H.R. 620 brings.

To find out who your state’s representatives are, you can type your Zip Code in at https://contactingcongress.org. Contacts include phone numbers, emails, and social media of your representatives.

Picture of the domed White U.S. Capitol building.
U.S. legislators will vote whether amendments are made to limit the ADA. (license)

You may also contact your legislators via phone by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You may ask them to help you locate your representatives if you don’t know them.

 

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Disability News Update: Advocacy Resources

The beginning of a new year is a great time to begin collecting valuable information and resources for advocacy. Below, you’ll find resources for:

  • workplace accommodations,
  • disability inclusion,
  • accessible signage, and
  • pre-school inclusion.

Woman in wheelchair interacts with a dog.
Is your workplace accessible? If not, JAN has a guide for you! photo credit: Bennilover Benni, the Christmas Elf, making friends via photopin (license)

Do you need a Great Workplace Accommodation Resource?

The Job Accommodation Network, or JAN, has updates its resources to provide a Toolkit to help businesses build an inclusive workplace.

The kit provides streamlined access to its resources that can assist employers and their staff with workplace accommodations for people who have disabilities.

Included in the toolkit are tools for:

  • Employers, employees, co-workers and others in the workplace, and
  • Reasonable accommodations.

Do you understand Disability Inclusion?

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion, or EARN, has created a captioned video, “Primer on Disability Inclusion.”

“John Kemp, President and CEO of the The Viscardi Center, explains the benefits of fostering a disability-inclusive culture in your organization.”

To begin with, employers should make sure that people with disabilities are present and included in all levels of employment.

Does your place of business have accessible signage?

The U.S. Access Board has created an animation demonstrating accessible signage.

“The 15-minute animated film reviews and illustrates requirements in the standards for signs and clarifies common sources of confusion. It covers provisions for visual access, tactile signs, required access symbols and other pictograms.”

Adults and small children make paper crafts in classroom.
Preschools should also be a place where children of all abilities are included.

Did you know pre-school needs to be inclusive too?

According to the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) issued a “Dear Colleague Letter” on Least Restrictive Environment for preschool age children.

The letter “provides information on why it important to offer educational programs for our youngest learners with disabilities from the start, and how states and districts can achieve this goal and meet their obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

According to the letter, OSEP wishes to “reaffirm our commitment to inclusive preschool education programs for children with disabilities” because the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act applies to children of all ages—including those in pre-school.

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Texas Emergency Planning for People with Deafness or Hearing Loss

Hurricane as seen from a satellite in space: clouds spin in circles.
The time to prepare for a storm is before it comes. photo credit: ISS017E015718 via photopin (license)

Texas cities prepare for emergencies and how they will affect people who have a variety of needs, including communication needs. More community input is needed to ensure that existing programs serve a purpose and are easily understood, but emergency preparations have come a long way.

Registering for communication and other needs during disasters

The State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry, or STEAR, is a program where people with disabilities may register and list their needs in times of disaster. According to the website, the registry “provides local emergency planners and emergency responders with additional information on the needs in their community.”

The program doesn’t guarantee that accommodations will be available to Texans in time of emergency, since, according to the website, Texas communities use the data in different ways. However, it’s recommended that people who have communication needs register so their local community is aware of their emergency needs.

Register at STEAR here.

Preparing ahead for emergencies

The Texas Department of State Health Services’ Ready or Not? website has checklists, brochures, information, and printable emergency wallet cards to help people prepare for emergencies. The site’s Disaster Supply Checklist includes items that people may need for assistive technology, such as hearing aids and hearing aid batteries.

Two men in suits receive questions from an audience.
How government plans ahead for communication access needs for the state’s Deaf Community depends on them learning how large the needs is now. photo credit: Engaging with FEMA Employees via photopin (license)

The Department of Homeland Security’s Ready.gov provides special concerns for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

This includes having a NOAA weather radio or downloading the FEMA Safety App, and they offer unusual considerations, such as taking an older analog TTY phone or captioned phone with you.

Nine service dogs wearing jackets.
Service animals are allowed in shelters, including Hearing Dogs, but owners must be able to answer questions about how the dog is assisting them. Service dogs don’t need to wear a jacket. photo credit: Service Dogs of Hawaii Fi-Do, Training Session, Working Dogs, Job, Group Photo via photopin (license)

They also make recommendations regarding service animals, which may be taken into shelters, provided the individual with a disability remains with them and can answer the necessary two questions.

Do you have suggestions for how Texas could better prepare for emergencies and disasters? Share your ideas with us at the Sign Shares’ and Capsule Facebook pages.

 

 

Capsule: For the Love of Advocacy!

Sharing contributions with the world & future generations, one Capsule at a time! 

On August 16, 2016, Sign Shares, Inc./International announced the website publication of a new business on Facebook:The Capsule Group, known as Capsule. “We are proud to announce our advocacy group’s website is now live!!! Right before the August 18th rally at Houston, City Hall, well that just gives us goosebumps!”

Man uses sign language for interpreter and captions read: "My friends said 'VRI Deny. We choose a live interpreter.' That's a great idea."
Deaf Advocate Robert Yost signs about the right to choose a live interpreter.

The Aug. 18 Houston rally is a consumer-demanded event to address the Deaf Community’s response to the increasing use of Video Remote Interpreting, or VRI, at medical appointments without asking people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing about their preference.

At focus group meetings, advocates who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing urged Capsule and Sign Shares’ staff to help them make a stand for their civil rights.

The rally is just one of Capsule’s time capsules–“sharing contributions with the world & future generations.”

Eva Storey picture: a woman with dark hair smiles.
Detective: Eva Storey, Founder of Capsule.

According to the Founder of Capsule, Detective: Eva Storey on Facebook, “Our late founder asked me one day to bring my passions for all disabilities forward and collaborate my love for advocacy. This includes a main focus on the Deaf & Hard of Hearing communities from local, statewide, to international. It is far time for a different way to advocate, educate & legislate beyond the scope of interpretation and with flexible, creative freedoms.”

Storey has a disability herself, which informs her about the needs for a better way of supporting others with additional needs. “I myself am a five-time stroke survivor with an auto-immune deficiency, but I don’t go around introducing my disabilities. I introduce myself, raw & real. ‘Hi, my name is Detective: Eva Storey, founder of The Capsule Group.'”

Capsule’s mission is “to advocate, educate, and legislate on behalf of people of all disabilities to have unlimited access to resources and support needed to achieve life!”

According to Capsule’s website, the business exists “For the Love of Advocacy! A Different way to Donate! Advocate, Educate, Legislate!”

By creating Capsule, Storey became the first Capsuler. Meet the rest of the Capsule team.

Register to Join Capsule and begin making your own capsule here.

Fill Your Capsule With Love. Launch.

Follow Your Capsule. It Will Be Loved.

Click here if you would you like to create your own capsule by donating the following for a person with a disability:

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For the Love of Advocacy, Follow Capsule on Facebook.