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Hunter College honors hearing loss advocate Ruth Bernstein

Ruth Bernstein writes the “Sound Advice” column for the CHC blog.

Alumni Hall of Fame Inductee

The Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC) congratulates advocate Ruth D. Bernstein who was recognized by the Alumni Association of Hunter College this spring as a distinguished alumnus and is now a member of their Hall of Fame. We’re thrilled that Ruth received this prestigious honor for her decades of advocacy for people with hearing loss and are grateful to have her as a longstanding CHC friend and supporter.

Below Ruth reflects on participating in the ceremony which took place April 26, 2013 at Hunter College in New York City.   

In Ruth’s Words

Chairlady Rudden, Ruth Bernstein, AAHC President Siefried and Ms. Raab, President of Hunter CollegeAdvocacy by and for people with hearing loss can be a challenge. It can also be soul satisfying, something I was reminded of when I was inducted into the Hunter College Alumni Association Hall of Fame, along with eleven other honorees.

At the ceremony, I was the fourth speaker after the President of the Alumni Association, the President of Hunter College, and the Chair of the Hall of Fame event. My speech, which you can read below, announced I succeeded in making the event hearing accessible for the first time by insisting on having an FM system and CART (computer assisted realtime translation). I got a nice round of applause for introducing this innovation. The fifth honoree started his speech by saying “I want to thank Ms. Bernstein for making this event hearing accessible. My father has a cochlear implant. He is using the FM system and is hearing clearly, for which I am very grateful.” That statement elicited another enthusiastic round of applause. Fortunately, I had my back to the audience so they could not see I was crying with joy and pride.

It took eight weeks of aggravation, frustration and perseverance to make the event hearing accessible for me, my friends, and members of the audience. I’m grateful to CHC staff for helping to make this happen and proud I accomplished my goal.

Ruth D. Bernstein

Ruth’s acceptance speech

Chairlady Rudden, Ruth Bernstein, AAHC President Siefried and Ms. Raab, President of Hunter CollegeGood evening President Rabb, President Siefried and Chair Person Rudden, family and friends of all the inductees. I have a profound hearing loss that has been part of my life for 45 years, transforming me into an advocate for people with hearing loss wherever I go. Recently, I participated in a workshop at the Bronx Zoo about making the New York Wildlife Conservation Society properties accessible to all disabilities. Robert Piccolo, First Deputy Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, noting an FM system in use, said this was one of the few events he’s attended that was hearing accessible. I requested that system and replied, “You haven’t met me before!”

The skills I learned at Hunter: patience, perseverance, planning, being firm and polite, serve me well in my life and advocacy work.

I write “Sound Advice” a blog for the Center for Hearing and Communication, am  a speaker for the Hearing Loss Association of America, Manhattan Chapter, and counsel people privately about coping with hearing loss and using assistive listening and alerting devices. That is how I met Hall of Fame member Mildred Speiser, who heard me talk at the NY Public Library. Learning I was a Hunter grad during our private meeting, she decided to nominate me to the Hall of Fame. Thank you, Mildred!

When I received the letter telling me I was to be a Hall of Famer, I answered Patricia Rudden, our extraordinary Chairperson, explaining I and several of my guests needed CART, computer assisted real time translation, providing visual access to speech for everyone, and an FM system, which allows people with hearing loss to hear amplified sound clearly. There are  48 million people in this country with hearing loss, a number that grows daily. As one of them, and a Hunter Hall of Fame member, I’m setting a new precedent, making this event hearing accessible to everyone, with the hope this becomes a permanent part of the AAHC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Many thanks to the Hall of Fame Board for selecting me and providing the necessary equipment and services, in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Thank you, Pat, for all your invaluable help. A special thank you to my family and friends for their loving, caring support. I’m fortunate to have such a devoted cheering squad!

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