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Improved access for New Yorkers with disabilities

Bill requires hearing loops at City meetings

I was proud to play a role in Council member Helen Rosenthal’s  press conference August 13th at City Hall in New York. The Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC) was one of 18 nonprofits wholeheartedly supporting the announcement of new legislation that promotes improved access to City meetings for people with disabilities.

As CHC’s Executive Director, I spoke on the topic of accessibility, specifically as it relates to people with hearing loss. Below are my comments. Please use the reply box below to let us know what you think.

Accessibility for people with hearing loss

“I am Laurie Hanin, the Executive Director of the Center for Hearing and Communication, a nonprofit center providing state of the art hearing health care services to people of all ages and degrees of hearing loss. One of our core values is striving to assure a world without limits for all those who are hard of hearing or deaf. Accessibility is a key element necessary in order to achieve this.

It is a great pleasure to be here, and I commend Council Member Rosenthal for introducing legislation that will require all government meetings open to the public to be held in a facility equipped with hearing loops by 2020. A hearing loop electromagnetically sends sound signals directly to hearing aids and cochlear implants that have a telecoil receiver inside, which most hearing aids do. Although hearing aids and cochlear implants are very sophisticated devices today, when people are speaking at a distance or when there is background noise, speech can become very difficult to hear. By directly connecting to the hearing device, loops greatly improve the audibility of the speech.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act was legislated almost 25 years ago, achieving full accessibility is still an uphill battle for many, especially for people with hearing loss. It is an invisible disability, often misunderstood, underestimated and neglected. This was made very clear in a recent press release put out by the CDC. The CDC collected data on disability across the country and completely disregarded hearing loss. People with hearing loss were not included in the survey, intentionally, because they said, and I quote, “the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System may not be accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and use electronic telephone devices. Therefore, data on the number of people who have hearing difficulties was not collected.”

It is reprehensible to exclude the millions of people with hearing loss in this country and, additionally, showed a considerable lack of knowledge on the part of the federal government about how people with hearing loss can and do communicate.

I am proud to be a New Yorker since NYC is clearly ahead of the game in this arena, and I look forward to working with Council Member Rosenthal and Victor Calise and his staff to create accessibility for all!

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