Accommodation for Effective Communication

Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining our Rep Firm Ellison Northwest for their inaugural AudioFest Northwest event. Dave and Anne Ellison coordinated nine of their manufacturing partners to spend a day focused on educating customers about their respective product solutions.
The other manufacturers that participated in AudioFest Northwest included:
Over the course of the day we welcomed over 100 participants from the AV industry. Area consultants BRC Acoustics, Greenbush and Michael R. Yantis Associates were in attendance as well as local contractors, integrators, dealers and end users from the house of worship market. Activities included hands on demonstrations, prize giveaways, and educational keynote presentations.
My role was to deliver one of the educational keynote presentations. Dave and Anne wanted to be sure that the presentations delivered valuable information to AudioFest participants. They asked that I consider delivering a presentation on the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for assistive listening. Listen Technologies is certainly known for its assistive listening solutions but I felt like there was a real opportunity to get participants thinking about “accommodation” more broadly.
My goal for my presentation was to get participants thinking beyond the obvious “accommodation” of assistive listening when they are designing audio systems for public venues.  I feel that full accommodation can be achieved by the simple willingness to ask questions and/or provide education about elements that need to be considered beyond the obvious components of a sound system.  What’s really cool to me is that the same technology for assistive listening can also “accommodate” those who need audio description and language interpretation!! And, it’s easy to provide and it’s inexpensive to add into a system – making the venue more fully accommodating to those who need it.
I felt that in order to help the participants wrap their thinking around considering “accommodation” beyond assistive listening required that I review baseline information about assistive listening and ADA guidelines. The presentation also focused on audio description and language interpretation. Here is an overview of the presentation.
Assistive Listening
What is it?
Any method to get sound system or voice audio directly to the ear of an individual.
Who needs it?
Hearing impaired individuals.
Anyone who needs to improve their ability to hear the desired sound despite common problems like distance, background noise, or poor room acoustics.
Signed into law July 26, 1990.
No person shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation (Title III) – this includes the hard of hearing.
Who needs to be compliant under Title III?
Public Places
Commercial Facilities
Accessibility Requirements
New construction of public facilities must have 4% of seating or people capacity accessible to the hard of hearing.
Existing public facilities seating more than 50 people, 4% of the seats must be accessible.
Existing public facilities seating less than 50 people, 4% of seats but not less than two seats must be accessible to hard or hearing people.
Existing public facilities under renovation require full 4% accessibility if the cost of making it accessible does not exceed 20% of the renovation cost, otherwise, full accessibility is not required.
ADA Tax benefits
When used to accommodate ADA guidelines, and assistive listening system can be partially paid for with a tax credit.
Up to $5,000 for small businesses.
Any size business may qualify for a tax deduction up to $15,000.
Full details outlined in ADA Compliance Materials – Fact Sheet Series – Fact Sheet 4 – Tax Incentives for Improving Accessibility
Audio Description
What is audio description?
Narration which explains what’s happening visually in television, movies, DVDs or live performances. Delivered during gaps in the dialogue, this includes scenes, settings, costumes, body language and ‘sight gags’ – anything that is important to understanding. With AD you can share entertainment experiences with family and friends, without having to ask “What happened?”
Who does audio description help?
Anyone can use audio description (AD), and different people may find it useful in different situations. These people will particularly benefit:
People with vision impairments – enables them to understand subtle action they would otherwise miss.
People who are blind -conveys all visual elements of every scene.
People with print, learning or physical disabilities -enables people with print disabilities such as dyslexia, color blindness, and others with both learning difficulties and physical disabilities to interact with print and visual media.
Language Interpretation
What is language interpretation?
Procedure by which people that speak different languages can communicate with each other with only momentary time delay, using professional interpreters and specialized equipment
Interpretation vs. translation
Translation refers to the written word and is usually a literal translation (this word in this language means that word in that language). Language interpretation refers to the spoken word, and is easier described as “this is how we would communicate that message in our culture”, often using a completely different set of words.
How language interpretation works

Understanding Audio Description

Early in my audio career I was helping a company set up a large assistive listening system for Audio Description for the movie Forrest Gump.  Several hundred receivers were needed so the audience could experience what it was like to only hear and not ‘see’ a movie – the way visually impaired people experience a movie. Vince Scully did the voice narration that played along with the regular audio sound track –to listen to a movie with descriptive narration was an amazing experience and reminds me of the importance of audio in our lives.  In fact, I learned more about this movie with the narrative and it enhanced the experience greatly.  I had already “seen” the movie but the enhancement I received through the narration left a much stronger impression on me.

At Listen Technologies many customers contact us about assistive listening products and a growing number are now also calling about products for audio description.  Audio Description (AD) is a term for descriptive narration which is often used to describe the visual elements of a performance or presentation.  Audio description is intended for persons who have a visual impairment and is intended to complement the performance around the dialog and music  This addition of audio description conveys the settings, costumes and body language in a visual performance or presentation.  We “see” many performing art centers adding audio description to enhance their live performances.

It’s easy to add audio description to a sound system.  The descriptive track of the movie is delivered to an assistive listening transmitter.  This transmitter transmits to receivers that the audience uses.  You can use the same receivers used for assistive listening for the people who need audio description by simply choosing a different channel on the receiver before handing out the receiver.    This allows the venue to deliver audio description at a very low cost.

Look for this symbol at theaters that have Audio Description

Using An ALD Is Easy

Many of us have been a part of the evolution of listening to music via boom boxes, walkmans, MP3 players, iPods and cell phones. What’s cool about these kinds of devices is that we hear the music up close and personal. Using an assistive listening device is just as simple as using these devices. But, where an ALD differs from such devices is that it can be the reason you fully experience the moment in a theater, house of worship, classroom, board room, or stadium.
Assistive listening devices have a strong reputation as a readily available solution to individuals who have a hearing disability. This solid reputation comes from the mandate of the the American with Disabilites Act (ADA) which includes a provision that public venues provide accommodation to the hard of hearing.
If you’re not hard of hearing you might be thinking, what does this have to do with me? It wasn’t long ago that I was of this mindset too. What I’ve discovered by asking for and using an ALD at the movies and at concerts is that I am more immersed in the experience . In fact, when I am in a situation where an ALD is not available, I find that I really miss the pleasure of hearing the experience directly in my ear.
Public venues that provide ALD devices make it very easy for us to request and use. There is no fee to use one, but you may be asked to provide something like car keys or a driver’s license that will be returned to you when you return the device. ALD devices are typically managed by guest services. At Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City the staff member that manages the coat check room also handles the ALD devices.
So, next time you go to the movies or to a concert or theater performance ask for an ALD device and experience for yourself how easy it is. But, most importantly hear what a difference it makes to fully be engaged in what is going on around you!
Watch this short video on what your experience might be like requesting an ALD device at the Hale Center Theater.


I’m Going To Hear My Mother’s Voice For The First Time

Louise Sattler is a nationally certified school psychologist with specializations in linguistics and multi-cultural education. She has been teaching American Sign Language for more than 20 years to families with hearing and non-hearing children, college students, the staff at public and private school systems and businesses. Louise is the owner of Signing Families and is also an adjunct faculty member at Howard Community College (HCC) in Maryland.

Louise was the organizer of an ASL symposium sponsored by HCC to share with students and the community topics regarding deafness, American Sign Language (ASL) and new technologies available for individuals who are deaf. The goal of the symposium was to help hearing and deaf students and staff be able to communicate through ASL and to enhance students’ understanding regarding the deaf community.

Several presenters and vendors joined this event, including Denise Perdue and Lisa Kornberg of the Maryland Governor’s Office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Ms. Perdue gave a presentation to the students regarding the latest technologies and assistive listening devices (ALDs) that are now available, including AVATAR and Video Relay Systems. The presentation also included a Listen Technologies FM system that was made available through Harris Communications.

One of the attendees of the conference was a deaf international student who attends HCC full-time. Evgeny Bogolyubov, who is from Moscow, was fascinated by the Listen system and asked for Ms. Perdue to help him with a demonstration. He was simply amazed when he was able to hear speech in English. Even more amazing, an HCC Russian teacher volunteered to speak/voice with him in Russian—his native language.

Evgeny was overcome with excitement because it was the first time in his life he heard Russian. By this time, a rather large audience of students and faculty had gathered. The onlookers started clapping and shed more than a few tears upon Evgeny’s signing that he was so happy to be able to hear Russian. Many in the deaf community prefer to not have aids or FM systems, but in Evgeny’s case, he wanted to hear sound for so many reasons, including learning English to speak, read and write better as well as be able to communicate with loved ones.

Louise was so moved by Evgeny’s excitement that she knew she needed to find a way for Evgeny to have access to his own assistive listening device. Louise’s passion and Evgeny’s story made for a very compelling cause to support. Due to Evgeny’s international status, he is not eligible for free or reduced fee equipment through state or federal programs. This made it very easy to find a way to give him a “gently used” system free of charge.

Evgeny’s response was very emotional and rewarding for us at Listen. Upon hearing the news of his donated FM system, Evgeny was thrilled and was looking forward to hearing his mother’s voice for the first time. This is why we love what we do.

HCC Russian teacher speaking to Evgeny in Russian

HCC Russian teacher speaking to Evgeny in Russian
Evgeny hears Russian for the first time

Evgeny hears Russian for the first time
Evgeny receiving his personal ALS system

Evgeny receiving his personal ALS system
 Evgeny and friends

Evgeny and friends

Five Ways Conference Microphones Boost Productivity

So, you’re preparing to conduct a meeting involving about 15-20 people and are concerned about how the meeting is going to go with that many people all trying to communicate at once. You could be facing some serious challenges including:

  1. How is everyone going to hear one another?
  2. How do we keep certain people (and we know who you are!) from dominating the meeting?
  3. How do we decide who gets to talk and when?

Conference Microphones have a microphone and a speaker in one unitThere is a great solution for all your concerns – conference microphones! A conference microphone is a device with a boom microphone (so the mic is closer to your mouth) and a built-in speaker. Each person or every two people gets one of these handy dandy devices. You talk into the microphone and then listen through the speaker. When you want to talk, you push the button, and if it’s your turn to talk a red ring on the microphone goes on, and you’re talking. If it’s not your turn to talk, you’ll have to wait until the chairman gives you permission or someone else stops talking. This allows everyone to hear each other, and provides a protocol for the information (instead of chaos), and allows everyone to contribute.

Here are five ways conference microphones boost productivity:

  1. Hear and Be Heard – When people hear better, productivity soars. You’d be surprised how many people are hard of hearing. 10% of the population has a hearing impairment. Also, of this number, only a small percentage wears hearing aids. When you can hear, you’re much more productive. The sound reinforcement of a conference microphone system makes it so everyone can hear.
  2. Improved Decision Making – Protocol in a meeting allows everyone to contribute and therefore improves decision making. A conference microphone system requires each participant to push a button to talk. And if it’s not their turn, they have to wait until it is. This protocol levels the playing field for discussion and encourages diverse input.
  3. Shorter Meetings – When everyone can hear, and the meeting protocol is handled; it keeps everyone focused, on task, and reduces meeting time.
  4. Full Contribution – Interactions with a conferencing microphone system makes participants more relaxed and more willing to contribute. Without a conference microphone system, participants can be discouraged or unwilling to step up for their turn to talk. As a result, good ideas and valuable input are lost.
  5. Effective Leadership – Meeting leaders can focus on driving the meeting towards results rather than dealing with the stress of how to get input from everyone (not just forthright individuals).

Conference microphones come in several types of configurations from simple (Discussion Systems) to the most advanced (Digital Conferencing) that incorporate voting, language interpretation, agenda management, online streaming, etc.

Big Apple Tour Group

Last week Listen worked on a potential solution for New World Travel. They are a tour operator specializing in travel arrangements in the US and Canada.

Listen’s tour group solution might just be ideal for the tours they conduct around New York City. They move their guests around on boats, buses, and on foot and were trying to find a way to make sure all the tour participants would be able to hear the tour guides. They conduct multiple tours at a time and have the potential to guide as many as 150 guests at a time. New World Travel is going to take advantage of our free demo system, and we are excited about helping them figure out a solution. Their committed exceptional service for their guests and ensuring that ALL the guests hear what is being said will certainly be a way for them to deliver on that commitment.

Listen Tour Group Video Clip

Listen Technologies