Tag Archives: CART

Support for Employees and Students with Hearing Loss or Deafness

Just because someone has hearing loss or deafness doesn’t mean they know which equipment could help them adapt to a world with many sounds.

For example, someone who always used a radio alarm clock who suddenly has hearing loss, wouldn’t know that there’s a technology solution–the vibrating and/or light flashing alarm clock! Most people with hearing loss or deafness have hearing families, so they may not have known about ways technology helps us adapt.

Kudos to Harris Communications for providing a handy question-and-answer page for people with hearing loss and their needs.

While Harris makes some recommendations–and they have useful products–I have additional recommendations.

Amplified, Captioned, and Video Phones

Black and white picture of a young Bob Hope on the telephone.
Do you know if your phone system produces quality sound, or are you just Hope-ful it does? photo credit: classic_film Bob Hope, on the Phone, circa 1940s-1950s via photopin (license)

Harris’ first topic was Staying in Touch and they recommended an amplified phone, the Panasonic KX-TGM450S Amplified Phone. Many people use only cell phones. If you need a cell phone, what kind do you get?

Test friend and family members’ phones to see which provide the clearest amplification for you. Which ones sound fuzzy? Which don’t provide enough volume? While I used to use Nokia phones to get enough volume, now Samsung phones have better sound–for me. See which works best for you.

While amplification works for many, it doesn’t give me the accuracy I need to communicate with strangers or conduct work. For those, a captioned phone works. Harris Communications offers captioned phones, though many people qualify for free captioned phones or video phones (for using sign language and/or seeing speakers). Below are some vendors that may provide a phone free to you.

I’ve used both Captioncall and CapTel phones and while the captioning isn’t perfect and can be slow, most of the time it’s a benefit–and the captioned phones can also be programmed to suit your type of hearing loss. They also provide super amplification that is appropriate only for people with hearing loss and isn’t provided with standard phones.

Man talks on cell phone looking at big picture of a man.
Seeing people on video makes it easier to communicate because you can read their lips too. photo credit: dalioPhoto face time at 53rd st via photopin (license)

Video phones assist for those who use sign language. People may make or receive calls using a video phone. If you’re the employer of someone who uses sign language, then your employee may have this type of phone, but they might need one for the office. In some cases, it’s free.

Captioned and video phones need special assistance to be wired into an office’s existing system, but I’ve had this done. Support from any of the companies below will assist with the process.

Free Video Phones

Captioned Phones

Skype, Face Time, Google Hangouts, or other Video Chat

One of the reasons employees or students with hearing loss can’t hear as well on the phone is because the quality of sound is less than in real life. Also, we often read lips–whether we know it or not.

Video chat offers people with hearing loss the chance to hear and see what’s said. There’s also usually a chat option so what’s not heard can be typed.

If you’re the employer of someone who uses sign language, they probably use some video communication methods like Face Time.

Ask your employee or student for the best way for you to communicate with them–and don’t pressure them to do what’s most convenient for you. They make extra effort for many interactions, not just the ones with you.

Alarms and Watches

Picture of digital alarm clock and person lying in bed ready to hit alarm clock with a hammer.
Common alarm clocks don’t usually bother people with hearing loss–in fact, they may not work! photo credit: purplemattfish Permanent Snooze – Day 114, Year 2 via photopin (license)

Harris’ second topic was Being on Time. Many people with hearing loss say it’s difficult to wake up because their cell phone, watch, and/or radio alarms don’t do the job.

Enter the vibrating, flashing, or light alarms. Harris Communications recommends the Sonic Alert Sonic Boom Super Shaker Bluetooth Bed Shaker. This vibrating device is controlled by your cell phone. A vibrating disc is set under the mattress and shakes the bed when the alarm goes off.

I prefer a physical clock. My first vibrating alarm clock was the Sonic Alert Boom, but it only had a single alarm! I could have bought one with dual alarms for $5 more.

My advice is to seek a dual alarm. The Sonic Alert Boom clocks come with a vibrating device that slides under the mattress. I can’t feel the device through the mattress–until it vibrates at the appointed time. It can wake me up. Make sure that the alarm you want comes with bed shaker and isn’t a separate purchase.

Now, I have the Sonic Alert Sonic Bomb Jr, which has dual alarms and a stronger sound that I can program to be in my hearing range (a deeper buzzer). While the sound won’t wake me up by itself, once I’m awake, it keeps me from snoozing too long. The clock also has a snooze button. It has a flashing light that if placed in front of you may also help. This alarm clock has stronger signals than the Sonic Alert Boom, so I recommend this one.

They also make travel alarms with bed shakers. I have the Sonic Alert Traveler. It’s not as strong as the other alarm clocks, but better than nothing when I travel!

To supplement a travel alarm clock, I order an ADA kit for my hotel rooms, which should include a flashing door bell alarm. Tip: ask for the manager if hotel staff don’t know where it is. Hotels are required to have this.

Then, I order room service coffee when I need to wake up, so the flashing door bell when they bring me coffee is a second way to wake up. The ADA kits have vibrating alarms, but I haven’t programmed one of those correctly, so I bring mine.

If you’re used to waking up with your watch alarm, Harris has a series of vibrating watches, including a smart watch.

There are more options for waking up, including alarms that gradually lighten the room.

Picture of a professional quality alarm clock with flashing light fire alerts.
This alarm is accessible for those with hearing loss or deafness because it flashes when it goes off. photo credit: Amarand Agasi Displaced via photopin (license)

Devices can be connected to door bells and fire alarms, creating a complex system of light signals for the home, office, or classroom.

Sleep Assistance Technology

People with hearing loss may have tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing in the ears. Devices with sounds may assist with this. Harris Communications recommends the Sound Oasis Therapy Machine. Some of the sounds the machine makes may mask the sounds of tinnitus.

I have tinnitus and it can disrupt sleep. Some eye drops, and some medications cause my ears to ring loudly. Whenever the ringing gets out of control, I examine what I put in my mouth or on my body that was new and different that day. Most of the time, when I stop using the new vitamin, medicine, or eye drops, the tinnitus gets quieter.

Picture of sunset with waves skimming over rocks in the water.
Ocean waves are one of the many sounds that may combat tinnitus. photo credit: tdlucas5000 Dawn Breaking on a New Year via photopin (license)

My old-school method for out-of-control tinnitus was to play music or leave a TV running with sound because tinnitus is less disruptive with other sounds. I also read to get my mind off the noise. Wearing hearing aids reduces the disruption for some, while others say it makes tinnitus worse. There are tinnitus vitamins on the market, but the two I tried made it worse.

Other Cool Devices

Notification Systems

Besides the devices I mentioned, there are a variety of tools to use. A light flashing device can be connected to your door bell or vibrating alarm clock. Check out Harris Communication’s Notification Systems, which include these visual light signalers, as well as baby crying and fire alarms for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

Cell Phone Accessories

There’s another device that lights up when your cell phone rings. I had this one, but it went off too often because it was triggered by my cell’s email notifications too, but there are other brands and Cell Phone Accessories here, including bluetooth loops.

Paging Systems

a man talks on a walkie talkie
Notice how this man has to hold the walkie talkie up to his ear. Employees with hearing loss may not be able to use traditional walkie talkies. photo credit: Oneras watchman via photopin (license)

Many businesses are concerned about the ability to reach their employees, especially if they use on-site radios, such as in technical facilities. One option is for them to text you and you to have a lighting, vibrating alert set. Another option is a lighting, two-way personal pager system.

Meetings

Big sign reads blah, blah, blah perhaps 100 times.
This is how your meetings could sound to employees or students without interpreters, captioners, or assistive technology. photo credit: Metropolico.org Blabla via photopin (license)

The old school option is to sit closest to the main speaker. However, in classrooms and at meetings, often many people speak, sometimes from across the room or from behind, cutting off a person’s ability to read their lips or capture quality sound.

Man writes man formulas on a chalkboard.
While this teacher is speaking at the blackboard, students with hearing loss are hearing next to nothing. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst) photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection A student solves a mathematics equation at the Mfantsipim Boys School in Cape Coast via photopin (license)

Speakers may also turn their back to the audience, disabling any lip reading, which is essential to people using their vision to supplement hearing loss or deafness.

At the bare minimum, a person with hearing loss would need to sit within a few feet of the main speaker. They need an agenda, outline, and/or handouts beforehand to assist them with determining what topics are being discussed–these make lipreading easier. Speakers should always face the audience, not turn away. Any videos or TV should be captioned.

Woman's face and text below reads, Does your life have meaning?
Captioned films have a lot more meaning for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. photo credit: via photopin (license)

If you use a TV for your presentation, televisions since the 1990’s have captioning capability. Enable it. Learn how to do this before the meeting since doing this for the first time can take a while or may be incredibly fast. Don’t try to make it pretty, if it has those options. All caps with a black background offers good visibility. Make sure the person needing captions sits close enough to the TV to read them easily–even if they need to change seats to do so. Reserving an extra viewing seat near the TV makes it easier to offer this accommodation.

If you show videos from YouTube, make sure that when you click the captioning option on the video, that captions are on the video. If the video doesn’t have captions, select another video with a similar topic that does. YouTube has many videos to select from, even for the exact same topic. They also have the option for you to create captions for your own video content.

If you bring DVDs or even older VHS tapes, ensure that they have captions. Look on the back of the box for clues. Does the box say “CC” for Closed Captioned, or does it say it includes “Subtitles for People who are Hard of Hearing”? Sometimes you have to look hard for it. Westerns, music videos, and Discovery Channel products are notorious for not providing captioned content, so be on the lookout.

While at first using captions is different, many people who think they hear well discover that they have missed many words the captions show them. Captioned videos are a tool that benefit more employees or students than you realize!

Adult puts a blue hearing aid on a young girl.
Children with hearing loss have fewer strategies for adapting and benefit from creative solutions. photo credit: bundesinnung_ha Kind, Hinter-Ohr-Gerät-Anpassung. Copyright: biha, 2015 via photopin (license)

If your employee or student is functionally deaf, and a good sign is if they use sign language, then a sign language interpreter may be required for the entire meeting. The interpreter would request captions for videos. Ask your employee what they need, again, without pressure from you about the costs. We can save money many ways, but let it not be in ways that discriminate employees and students.

Picture card showing sign language
How many ways are there to sign? Apparently, less and less with the widespread use of American Sign Language. photo credit: Positive signs via photopin (license)

In some cases, a student or employee may be functionally deaf but not know sign language. If this is true, live captioning, or CART, can be requested and a person with a stenography kit can type what is said at the rate of 250 words or so a minute. This is if your content is involved. In many cases, a note taker won’t work well unless they’ve been trained.

Capsule and Sign Shares' LogosDo you need to request a sign language interpreter or CART? Contact Sign Shares 24/7/365 and we can help.

Loops and Assistive Listening Devices

A loop is a system that can feed sound directly into a person’s hearing aid, offering them a chance at direct sound. Portable loops enable them to take the device from place to place.

I’ve used three portable loops for work and school. My favorite was from Williams Sound. I take it with me, push a button on my hearing aids and a button on the loop and we’re connected and I hear more clearly those sounds around me, which is better for small group participation in a large room, when I need to hear the people near me most.

Picture of assistive listening devices, boxes that have small microphone
Assistive listening devices communicate to one another via FM, making clearer sound. photo credit: http://www.audio-luci-store.it set 9000 via photopin (license)

Assistive Listening Devices, called ALDs, are generally more appropriate for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, but there are a few options for those with greater hearing loss.

These devices generally use two devices. One receives sound, the other transmits it. They communicate to each other via FM radio, which means the sound from one box to the other is pure.

ALDs work well in classrooms, meetings, and churches, when the speaker wears the transmitter and the person with hearing loss holds or wears the receiver. Since the receivers often have microphones too, it’s possible at times to need only the receiver.

When I was in college, my hearing loss was moderate, and the college provided me with a Williams Sound Pocketalker Pro. I had to remove one of my hearing aids to use it but I was blown away with the superiority of this sound over my hearing aids in a classroom. Wow. The microphone on the device is awesome. Buy an extra windscreen if you purchase one of these. Since the microphone sticks out, the microphone cover, or windscreen, gets the most wear and tear.

When teaching with severe hearing loss, I used the Comfort Audio Contego FM system with a neck loop so I didn’t have to keep track of my receiver–I wore it around my neck. My transmitter was placed at the back of the classroom or near a group of students I wanted to hear best. Both the transmitter and receiver paired with my hearing aids, so I didn’t have to remove them.

At this level of hearing loss, it was a temporary and not a permanent solution, but it was better than using hearing aids alone.

The Comfort Audio Contego FM system would work well for someone with mild to moderate hearing loss, but I would recommend the Pocketalker first, since it’s an affordable, quality product with great amplification and clarity.

Old School Tools

Mirrors

Picture of a mirror on a wall.
Mirrors allow people with hearing loss or deafness to see the world that makes sounds behind them. photo credit: judy dean Hotel room via photopin (license)

One of the cheapest assistive technology items for someone with hearing loss in an office or home is a mirror. Since people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing often don’t hear people approach, or know when someone is standing behind them, this leads to shock and sometimes a surprised scream when co-workers magically appear.

Place a mirror on the wall in front of your normal work stations and you can catch movement behind you and have less surprises by co-workers whose approaching footsteps you can’t hear. There are doormats that flash lights when people enter the room if this is a bigger problem than a mirror can solve.

Office/Work Space Organization

Two people sit in an office at their computers, the door is behind them so they face it sideways, not directly.
These office desks aren’t ideally suited for someone with hearing loss or deafness because they don’t face the door. The open space could be an advantage if the environment isn’t loud. If it is, extra noise could make it more difficult for a person with hearing loss to hear. photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection Yosr works as a consultant for an export promotion agency via photopin (license)

Ideally, if you have hearing loss or deafness, placing your desk or chair facing the door or the most co-workers is the best option. If you have an enclosed office, then placing the desk with your back to the wall and face facing the door will help. If you have a work area that is too noisy, request a quieter area where it will be less stressful to communicate.

Learn Some Sign Language

Physicians like Doctor Strange here who are friendly with those who use sign language stand out like local superheroes. photo credit: Strange Magicks via photopin (license)
Physicians like Doctor Strange here who are friendly with those who use sign language stand out like local superheroes. photo credit: Strange Magicks via photopin (license)

There are places online where you can learn some sign language, and there are also sign language dictionaries. If you and the employee or student share some signs, it cuts down on confusion and miscommunication. Every location has specific vocabulary and necessary emergency signals, plus there are common communication signs that could benefit anyone with hearing loss or deafness and create a welcoming environment.

Lifeprint.com has an ASL University that has videos teaching sign language for free. Here is the 100 First Signs.

Want to learn some specific words in sign language? Use a sign language dictionary!

Signing Savvy has an extensive American Sign Language dictionary. You can also use Google to help you find words in sign language by typing the word you want + American Sign Language.

Disclaimer: While I mention products from Harris Communications, I was not paid by them nor do I receive any funds for my reviews. I don’t and have never worked for them. I have purchased several products from them and am thankful that Harris Communications has been a one-stop shop for me and others who have hearing loss or deafness.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Who Ensures Deaf/Hard of Hearing Voting Access during Caucuses?

Disability advocates are working to ensure that people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing can participate in the selection of presidential candidates for their political parties during the Iowa caucuses.

What’s a caucus?

Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins helmets on display in a football stadium.
Think of a caucus as playoffs leading to the teams that will play the Super Bowl-our one Democratic and Republican candidate for the presidential elections. photo credit: houston texans vs. miami dolphins via photopin (license)

According to LifeHacker, “Before a presidential candidate can be on the ballot for the general election, they have to win the approval and backing of their political party. Think of the caucuses and primaries as the NFL playoffs—with candidates dropping out after each round of voting—and the general election this fall is like the Super Bowl where (usually) two candidates go head to head…”

According to a report from RespectAbility, five people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing have requested ASL and CART, or Communication Access Real-time Translation, to participate in the Iowa caucuses, when “Iowans will publicly pledge their support to one of the Democratic or Republican candidates and by the end of the evening, each county will have a winner.”

Because the caucuses selecting political party candidates aren’t government run, but are run by the state’s political parties, they don’t follow traditional election procedures to ensure voting access. Some caucuses are held in churches or individuals’ homes, complicating accessibility, according to the report.

Jane Hudson of Disability Rights Iowa, has helped empower Iowans of all abilities to participate in candidate selection through the caucuses, according to the report. Hudson has had conversations with the Democratic and Republican parties and helped secure ASL and CART for the five people requesting it.

ASL open mic, cross through picture of microphone and shows sign language instead
Having sign language interpreters at events ensures greater access for people who are Deaf to have their hands heard. photo credit: Poetic Vision via photopin (license)
The nonprofit organization is “part of a national network of protection and advocacy systems established in the 1970s by the U.S. Congress to respond to repeated abuse and neglect of individuals with disabilities in large institutions.”

According to RespectAbility report, “While there was discussion on who should pay for this [ASL and CART], the Iowa Democratic and Republican parties are footing the bill.”

Having CART at events ensures that people with hearing loss have another option. photo credit: CART captioning via photopin (license)
Having CART at events ensures that people with hearing loss have another option. photo credit: CART captioning via photopin (license)
The Iowa caucus will occur on Monday, Feb. 1, starting at 7 p.m. Central Time and lasting two or three hours. Results will be posted here.
Texas will not have caucuses, as it has had in the past, but will have a primary when voters determine which candidates gain their vote.
The Texas primary is on March 1 from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Early voting begins on Tuesday, Feb. 16 and ends on Friday, Feb. 26.
 

 

What is CART?

CART, or Communication Access Realtime Translation, is a way for people who are Hard of Hearing or Deaf to receive communication information, especially when they don’t prefer or know sign language.

This might occur when the person who is Hard of Hearing or Deaf lost their hearing later in life, or if their family chose for them to attend mainstreamed schools where the opportunity to learn sign language may not have been provided.

According to the National Court Reporters Association, CART is “a way to transcribe the spoken word into readable English text using a stenotype machine, notebook computer, and realtime software.”

Picture of a person typing on a shorthand typewriter, or stenograph.
The CART provider uses tools that require natural ability and technical skill. photo credit: Playing Chords via photopin (license)

Their equipment is similar to the court reporter’s, with a stenotype machine that types shorthand so that they can record the natural pace of speech closely.

“CART is also referred to as realtime captioning or live-event captioning,” according to the association. During captioning, a CART provider types text that appears on a computer screen or on a projected screen or other display.

The CART provider types all environmental sounds for the person, serving the same purpose as hearing. For example, if a phone rings while a professor is speaking, the CART provider might insert “[phone ringing]” into the transcript, while also typing what the professor says.

To provide this accuracy, certified CART providers must type between 180-225 words a minute, according to the association. They must also understand and use the technology needed to provide CART in live settings, including computers, software, projectors and other equipment they need.

According to a Houston Chronicle article , typing over 120 words per minute is considered highly proficient and the fastest typist on record typed 212 words a minute.

Talent combined with technology makes the certified CART provider one of the fastest and most accurate conveyors of communication.

Transcripts from the captions may be requested from CART providers, usually for an additional fee, since transcripts may require the provider to review the content and make slight corrections as needed for a polished product.

Some businesses that use CART for employees request a copy as an internal record of their meeting, a perk from providing accommodations.Sign Shares boat logo with blue hands

Do you need a live or remote CART provider for an event, class, meeting, or other auditory experience? Request CART from Sign Shares here.

February Disability Film Festival will be Held in Houston

The ReelAbilities: Houston Film Festival is a “free city-wide film and arts festival to promote inclusion and celebrate the lives, stories, and talents of people with disabilities making an impact that lasts far beyond the week of the festival,” according to the event’s website.

Films that are made by or about people with disabilities will take place Feb. 14-18 in various Houston venues. Reservations are required.

Houston skyscrapers.
Houston and Austin engage in a national trend to showcase accessible films by and about disability. photo credit: H-town via photopin (license)

See films being showcased across Houston for this year’s event and reserve your seat. At the top of their webpage, you can access a visual or text-only brochure.

Films address many abilities and two films are about deafness/hearing loss: Hear This! and No Ordinary Hero: The Superdeafy Movie:

  • Hear This!When 10 year-old Tristan wants his dad to become the trainer of his soccer team, the club won’t allow it because his father is deaf. Tristan decides to prove them wrong.” Hear This! is playing Tuesday, Feb. 16, from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24, 3839 Weslayan St, Houston, TX 77027.
  • No Ordinary Hero: The Superdeafy Movie Tony Kane plays a superhero on TV, but in real life he’s just another guy who happens to be deaf. Eight-year-old Jacob Lang is also deaf and is having a hard time. When Tony and Jacob’s paths cross, they inspire belief in each other and in themselves. Featuring Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin.” No Ordinary Hero: The Superdeafy Movie is playing Monday, Feb. 15 from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24 (address listed with other movie above).

    Marlee Matlin holds us plaque of her Hollywood star.
    Marlee Matlin poses with a plaque representing her Hollywood star. Matlin advocates for Deaf issues. photo credit: Marlee Matlin via photopin (license)

The Houston Commission on Disabilities is a sponsor for the Feb. 16 evening event showing Hear This!, Coaching Colburn, and One Year Later.

The ReelAbilities Film Festival events provide accommodations, including:

  • ASL Interpretation,
  • CART,
  • adaptive listening devices,
  • captioned films (unless otherwise noted), and
  • wheelchair-accessible venues.

Other accommodations are available upon request with at least 72 hours advanced notice by contacting Jordan Lewis at 832.786.0361 or info@reelabilities.org

Tickets are available online at www.ReelAbilitiesHouston.org or by calling 832.786.0361.

The Need for Star Wars Access for All Abilities, Signing May the Force Be with You

Children dress up as Jedi masters from the Dark Side with red lightsabers.
People of all abilities want to put on a costume and share the Star Wars’ experience. Credit: Christina Goebel, Star Wars: The Force Awakens Dec. 17 premiere at Disney Springs in Kissimmee, Florida

While premieres for the latest Star Wars movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, were last night, the film opens in nationwide theaters today. Almost everyone who wants to can view one of the coolest movies in the galaxy–but not quite. For one blogger who uses a wheelchair, leaving home to view the movie with a damaged wheelchair could endanger his life. Another young man may be attending the film because of director J.J. Abram’s and others’ contributions.

Access to movies for people of all abilities will take a community effort.

Star The Force Awakens Wars lit up on the ground.
This Star Wars: The Force Awakens step and repeat on the ground at Disney Springs in Kissimmee, Florida makes it easy for everyone to snap their picture, even if they use a wheelchair. Credit: Christina Goebel

Movies have been a stress point for many people with a disability. For some, they need captions or amplification to hear, others need descriptive voice, and others need physical access to parking, the building, and accessible seating and bathrooms. Many theaters now provide this access and indicate next to the movie listing if it’s accessible.

A lot of work is still needed for ensuring access, as you can tell from viewing this “official” trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens that has no captions or this one, with 22 million views–but no captions for people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deafblind. As for descriptive voice for people who are blind, also not there.

Star The Force Awakens Wars light display on side of a Disney building.
This Star Wars: The Force Awakens building wall projection provides another accessible backdrop for people with many abilities. Credit: Christina Goebel, at Disney Springs

Here is how theaters accommodate disability, but visit your theater’s website or call to verify and if necessary, reserve access:

  • Descriptive voice: actions described by voice, supplied for those with low vision or blindness and available over a theater-provided headset
  • Closed-captioning: viewed by theater-provided Sony glasses, a captioning device, or shield (View a captioned video of how captioned glasses work here.)
  • Open captioning: scheduled less frequently, captions are shown on the film itself for all to see
  • Assistive Listening Device: a theater-provided amplification device for those with mild to moderate hearing loss
  • Accessible Parking, Seating, and Bathrooms: those spaces with no seats allow someone using a wheelchair to sit–and may run out temporarily during Star Wars’ showings
  • Showings for People with Cognitive Disabilities: usually scheduled later for showings, allow viewers to walk around or talk as they desire, sound may be lower for those with Autism, reduces stress about “proper behavior” for viewing films
  • Showings for with Sign Language for People who are Deaf: usually scheduled later with sign language interpreters

Watching films with sign language is a truer form of communication for those who are culturally Deaf and use sign as their primary method of communication.

To see how different sign language is from captions, learn how Deaf Star signs, “May the Force be With You!”

Seats in a theater with open space next to them to accommodate a wheelchair.
Seats with open spaces next to them are for wheelchairs. Don’t occupy these areas unless you or family members need them. photo credit: Riverview Theater [006/366] via photopin (license)
If you need accommodations, call early for theater access, especially when seats will be full, to know if there will be enough accessible seating, if captions will be available for the 3D version of the movie, if the film will have descriptive voice, if an open captioned film will be shown, or if there will be enough amplification devices on hand.

On crowded days, those using wheelchairs might want to call ahead to arrange for assistance carrying their food and drinks while navigating thick crowds in hallways.

Those needing additional access should show up early to the film to ensure their space or equipment is available. Accessible seating and equipment take extra time to arrange.

While many people with disabilities will experience Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters, some will not.

Darth Vader kneels on ground. He has painted the words Epic Fail on the wall.
Technology exists to improve people’s lives, but many can’t receive access to it. In some cases, when equipment fails, people with disabilities may have to wait years for a replacement. photo credit: Weston Super Mare – Epic Fail via photopin (license)

For actor, blogger, and activist Dominick Evans, Dec. 17 was a reminder of the downside of the lack of access. Evans said in his blog, “Not only can I not go see [Star Wars: The Force Awakens], but I probably won’t be able to see it until it comes to streaming or television. The reason is because I lack access to the things I need to not only get out of my house, but also out of my bed. I have been trapped in bed before, and it sucks, but today it is my reality…not because I’m disabled, but because any type of equipment and services I (and others) need, are 10 times more expensive. ”

Wheelchair foot rest is alone on floor, broken off the wheelchair.
Something as simple as a broken wheelchair foot rest can contribute to broken bones for the user because the wheelchair can roll over his or her foot. photo credit: Broken leg via photopin (license)

Evans has had a broken wheelchair for three years. He said that if insurance comes through, he may have a new wheelchair next spring. In the meantime, Evans’ wheelchair is painful and dangerous to use.

Not having a wheelchair is one of Evans’ access problems. Another is needing a new Hoyer lift, equipment used to move Evans into his wheelchair and out of it.

Evans said, “Due to something called contractures in my legs, which can be very painful, my legs hang around the bar of the kind of lift I use. My feet snag on it, and I have recently experienced multiple sprained feet and broken toes.”

The new lift that won’t break Evans’ bones costs $5,000 and may not be covered by insurance.

For people like Evans, not having appropriate technology is life-threatening and deprives him of choices many of have that we take for granted.

“This is the part of having a disability that stinks the most … knowing you could have your freedom back, but lacking that access to get the things you need, to make it happen. Today I wish I could go to the movies. I have long been a Star Wars fan,” Evans said.

Evans asks us to think of him when we experience the film at theaters. He said, “So today, if you get to go enjoy Star Wars…have some popcorn for me, and think about ways you can help support the disability community, so those of us currently unable to go see this film, or any other film franchise we happen to love, due to lack of access, have a greater chance of not facing these barriers, in the future.”

J.J. Abrams standing a podium next to microphone.
J.J. Abrams, director of the new Star Wars movie, has contributed to the access of those with disabilities. Have you? photo credit: J. J. Abrams via photopin (license)

J.J. Adams, the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, contributed $50,000 this year to the family of 10-year-old Michael Keating, a young man who has Cerebral Palsy and whose family needed an accessible van to transport him. They needed more equipment too, since his mother had two hernia surgeries related to moving her 70-pound son.

According to a Washington Post report, Abrams said, “Katie and I made the donation. Likely for the same reason others did: we were moved by the Keating family’s grace, strength and commitment to each other.”

Picture of Yoda's head. It reads, "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try."
Abrams lives Yoda’s mantra by taking action to ensure greater access for others. It’s probable that a young man whose family he helped was able to see his movie because of Abrams’ contribution. photo credit: Yoda wisdom via photopin (license)

Sign Shares staff realizes the need to advocate for access and inclusion so that everyone can live, work, and play in the least restrictive environment. Sign Shares has contributed to disability events across the state and nation to support disability education, awareness, inclusion, and advocacy for people of all abilities.

If you need a sign language interpreter, CART live captioning, or similar resources, you can request services here or call: Local (Houston): 713.869.4373 • Toll Free: 866.787.4154, or at the Videophone numbers for callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Videophone 1: 832.431.3854 • Videophone 2: 832. 431.4889.

The Sign Shares’ advocacy team can provide resources to those who need technology, access, or advocacy information. Contact us here or by calling the numbers above, at  or at the Videophone numbers for callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Videophone 1: 832.431.3854 • Videophone 2: 832.431.4889.

May the Force Be with You!

 

 

 

Houston Commission on Disabilities Meeting will Swear in New Commissioners

Picture of Houston skyline showing highway and tiered and glass skyscrapers.
Like Houston, most mayors have a committee for people with disabilities. The committee can usually be accessed at the mayor’s website. (license)

The Houston Commission on Disabilities will meet from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10.

According to the mayor’s website, “The Commission is responsible for advising and making recommendations to the mayor, City Council, department directors and the individual designated by the mayor to head the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.”

The month’s agenda includes the swearing in of seven new commissioners. Michael Mcculloch will discuss the possibility of a Disability Pride Parade. There will be time for public comment  after the presentation. The commission meets every second Thursday of the month from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., unless otherwise noted.

ASL interpreters and CART services will be available for the meeting.

The meeting will be held at the Multi-Service Center, 1475 West Gray, and Houston, TX 77019.

Review the meeting agenda here.

Source: Houston Commission on Disabilities