In the popular Pixar animated film Finding Nemo, the young and stubborn clown fish, Nemo, proves to his overprotective father that“fin impairment” cannot prevent him from exploring the adventures of the ocean. With the same vigor and ambition, the staff at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is ensuring that their patrons can also savor the aquatic adventures regardless of hearing or language barriers.
The Aquarium is using a wireless audio system from Listen Technologies to assist patrons who are hard of hearing as well as offering tours and language interpretation. They acquired the LS-06 Portable FM System from Independence Audio for the job because of its simple operation, intuitive design, hearing aid compatibility, and versatility.
“Our patrons really like using the Listen system. They like being able to adjust the volume to suit their individual needs, and it’s so convenient to use with hearing aids,” Aquarium Educator Jackie Harris said. The LA-164 Ear Speaker they use slides around the back of the ear and can be worn over hearing aids or ear plugs. With most tours being populated by seniors, this is a very helpful feature.
The need for a Listen system originated with the Aquarium’s activities for Deaf Awareness Day, which occurs annually around early October. “On this day, everything is directed toward those who are deaf or hard of hearing,” Harris said. Among the activities are dive presentations, films, and guest lecturers. Additionally, organizations that offer products and services for the deaf and hearing impaired assemble at the Aquarium to inform these important patrons about their specialized services. With the help of the North Carolina Division for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, this proactive attraction identified ways to accommodate people with hearing impairments. With Listen’s Portable FM System and sign-language interpreters, both the deaf and hard of hearing can participate in the many informative and entertaining presentations at the Aquarium. “We also use the Listen system for tours,” Harris added. “Especially when it’s busy, the walls of our facility bounce a lot of noise. So the system helps people hear the tour guide better and helps them stay together as a group.”
Having the Listen Portable FM System also enables the Aquarium to make an impressive splash with its Hispanic community, overcoming language barriers for this growing segment of patrons. Harris explained, “We have a staff member who is bi-lingual and interprets tours and programs for our Spanish-speaking visitors.”
The interpreter listens to the presentation and simultaneously speaks the Spanish interpretation into the microphone attached to the portable transmitter that comes with the Listen system. The transmitter sends a signal out a distance of 150 feet, and patrons wearing the portable receivers can listen to the interpretation through their ear speakers.
Thanks to the perseverance of and listening technology made available by the dedicated staff at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, hearing impaired and Spanish speaking patrons no longer need to “fish” for the words and meaning of the presentations. And they’ll all “hear” the guide confirm that indeed they’ve found Nemo.