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Living in the Slow Lane

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Sound Advice by Ruth Bernstein

Ruth Bernstein, Hearing Access Ambassador
Ruth Bernstein, Hearing Access Ambassador

At the end of January, I found myself living in the slow lane after I fell on my back in my parking garage. Since then I've had limited mobility, but that hasn't stopped me from enjoying a wide range of hearing accessible experiences.

It Began with a Fall

My great-granddaughter Ryan and Isaac, her Daddy, came to celebrate Isaac’s 32nd birthday at my house on Thursday, January 26th. After lots of cuddling and a yummy chocolate cupcake for the grownups, it was time to go home.

I went down to the garage to say goodbye and get one last kiss. Isaac’s car was parked over the speed bump in the garage. I stepped on the yellow rubber strip to wave goodbye to Ryan, who was safely buckled into her car seat, lost my balance and fell backwards.

A picture of Isaac, the father of Ruth's great-granddaughter Ryan, holding Ryan.
Isaac and Ryan

Isaac was standing next to me and heard my Apple Watch respond to my fall, as I did. I assured the watch I did not need help getting up and it did not need to call 911. Fortunately, my head was protected from hitting the concrete floor by my Med El Rondo 2 Audio Processor.

(If you are not familiar with the SOS features of the Apple Watch, here's a helpful resource. And for more safety tips, check out Hearing Loss and Safety, a recorded webinar presented by HLAA-NYC, with CHC tech experts Carolyn Stern and Terrence Williams. Begin the video at 6 minutes and 23 seconds to go directly to the start of the presentation.)

Although I was wearing a down vest, which cushioned the fall a bit, I banged my back up badly along my waistline. My back hurt when I walked or got in and out of bed. After the doctor checked me out and announced nothing was broken (lucky me!), I went into healing gear—physical therapy, acupuncture, lots of rest—and began using a four-wheel walker to get around. I learned to do household chores, prepare food and fold laundry sitting down instead of standing, which is not my usual way of functioning.

Return to Online Classes and Lectures

When I realized I was not going anywhere for a while, I explored events that I could take part in remotely—a skill I learned during COVID—signing up for online classes and lectures. I joined a weekly NCJW art class, and discovered DOROT, which offers a wide array of free activities. My choices included a history of Seneca Village, located in Central Park before it became the park; a visit to the New York Historical Society to see “I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish Deli; a three-part series about Paul Robeson; and a weekly stretch and strengthen class.

The JCC presented a program about assistive technology for seniors which introduced me to a remarkable accessibility resource that I suggest you check out,, created by Mark Surabian. You can also learn about assistive listening and alerting devices by visiting the CHC website.

My Met Retirement "Party"

Ruth volunteering at the Met distributing headphones and neck loops to those who signed up for the Met's Hearing Accessible Gallery tours.
Ruth volunteering at the Met

I have had the privilege and honor of being a volunteer with the Metropolitan Museum’s Education Department for twenty two years. Before COVID and my retirement as a volunteer in February, 2023, the Met was my home away from home on a bi-weekly basis. My partner and I wired up the docents and distributed headphones, neck loops and receivers to visitors who signed up for the Met’s Hearing Accessible Gallery tours.

My biggest pleasure, in addition to learning about the art, was to watch the faces of people light up when they turned on their receivers and could hear the docents clearly for the very first time. Hearing Accessible Gallery tours are still on COVID hiatus. Hopefully, they will begin again soon.

For my retirement “party,” HLAA-NYC and the Met organized an online tour of the museum on May 16, 2023, at 6PM EST. If you would like to join this captioned program, click here to register. After registering, you will receive an email with the Zoom link. You can also sign up at the HLAA-NYC website.

If you miss the program, visit the Met in person or online. You can also take captioned tours of the Met and many other museums, by downloading the Bloomberg Connects app at the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Maintaining a Rich and Accessible Life

It is heartwarming to see how rich and accessible our lives can be, even if we are not mobile. I’m happy to report my back is improving, I’m getting around town with my trusty walker, and I'm steadily moving back into my regular life. Onward!

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