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Speak up, please!

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

Sound Advice by Ruth D. Bernstein

Ruth Bernstein , Consumer Advocate

Recently, I attended a New York Philharmonic Town Hall with real-time captioning (i.e., Communication Access Realtime Translation or CART), introducing Jaap Van Zweden, the orchestra’s new Music Director, in conversation with President and CEO Deborah Borda. If you are surprised by the availability of CART at the Philharmonic, I’ll tell you how that happened and why the Hearing Loss Association of America, NYC Chapter (HLAA-NYC) and I need your help to make it happen again. In three words – speak up, please!

Together we can make a difference

Please ask for the hearing accommodations you need whenever you attend an event at the Philharmonic or anywhere else. The only way we can get CART, audio loops, signers and other assistive help included in all programs, is to ask, ask again and keep asking.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, explains how our collective voice can make a difference:

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a (fashion) trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate…

CART and the Philharmonic

I have a concert subscription at David Geffen Hall. Despite the fact I’m deaf according to my audiogram, I’ve been very fortunate with my hearing loss, because I can still hear enough music to enjoy it.

At the beginning of February, 2018, I received an invitation to the Town Hall on Monday, February 26, 2018. In my memory, there has never been a free event like this, inviting subscribers to meet the new Music Director. Maestro Van Zweden is Dutch, which gave me another reason to want to attend. I was born in the Scheveningen, the beach resort of the Hague, and am proud to have a Dutchman leading the orchestra!

Although I can hear enough music to enjoy a concert, I knew I needed CART if I was going to be able to understand the conversation between the Maestro and Ms. Boda. I contacted Miranda Hoffner, the Senior Manager for Accessibility and Visitor Services at Lincoln Center, and asked how to proceed. She suggested I get in touch with Visitors Services and follow up with them. I had the good fortune of exchanging a flurry of emails with John Sherer, the NY Philharmonic’s Customer Relations Supervisor. He and his staff understood my needs and arranged with Lauren Schechter of Total Captions for Mirabai Knight to be the CART operator.   Ms. Knight has a strong background in music and was delighted to provide CART at this very special and exciting event.

I found out 24 hours before the event that CART was only for me.  When I reminded Mr. Sherer the ADA required access for all, his response was: “You are the only one who asked.” I’m very grateful for all the help I received from the  Philharmonic’s Customer Relations staff. They made it possible for me to understand every word of the fascinating discussion.

Getting to the tipping point

As my 25-year-old grandson Aaron, who accompanied me remarked: “Grandma, at least a third of this audience could benefit from CART!”  I need your help to make that happen. Become a member of HLAA-NYC or the chapter in your area. Help start a trend and advocate for access everywhere. If each of us speaks up and asks for access as often as possible, we will get to the tipping point. When you ask, you are not only asking for yourself. You are asking for all the people who need these accommodations and may not even know they exist. Only good can come from speaking up. Even if you are turned down, your request will be noted and future requests will bring action.

Contact me at and let me know if you need help advocating and/or, the results when you make a request for access. I will be pleased to respond.

Warm wishes,

Ruth Bernstein Consumer Advocate

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