Acknowledged that it is almost 2009! But last weekend I began to wonder just what year it really is. Last weekend I went to a conference. I have a physical disability, (No, we are not going into the possibility of a mental one as well!) But you can't see it. It is shared by an increasing number of people. You can't tell by looking at any of us. But it is nonetheless real. Ok
give up? I am hearing impaired. I have a 70% hearing loss.
Now I am willing to concede that during the time I was raising children, driving a van load of them someplace, and teaching them, it was hard to remember that it was not a good thing! But there are distinct disadvantages to a lack of hearing ability.
Now the response of the uninformed is "Just get a hearing aid." Well, now, you see it is not quite that easy. A good set of hearing aids can run to $5000.00 which medical insurance, even the good ones that cover prescriptions, glasses, and dental does not cover, not at all, not any of it. So tell me can you just pull that kind of money out of your budget?
I attended a conference put on by the same international group, (not organized by the same people) in 87-88 and when I registered there was a long list of disabilities, and one was ask to check off if they applied. So I did. When I checked in for the conference I was given a name tag which had a picture of an ear, with the slashed circle over it. And when we entered the convention hall for the first session, the usher apologized quite profusely, that they had not set aside enough seating for the hearing impaired person and
their other family members and would we mind if the accompanying family members were seated in the regular seating for that session and that they would fix it by the next session. They did, moving the dignitaries
further away from the front of the stage. There were large screens with a video feed so that everyone could see the stage, but the screen in front of us, (the hearing impaired) had a special feed which was fixed and focused on the podium, so that anyone who could read lips had no trouble doing so. The other feeds, which we could see, and watch if we wished, were manned constantly and the video operators would do the "art" shots of the background, the flowers, etc. But ours did not. There was also a sign interpreter
at every session. It was a lovely experience which I could experience fully.
Now fast forward 20 or so years. And at the conference, no special seating, and the front was reserved, (I am not sure for whom), There were headsets available for translation for people who did not speak English, but none for people who would have been able to hear if they had headsets plugged into the sound system.
The meeting was held in a ballroom (a room which was very "hot" acoustically) and part way into the morning they rearranged the seating into long ovals by taking every other row and turning it around to face the row behind. Now, I know some of the history of this and know that there has been quite a lot of emphasis put on different learning styles, and the benefits of breaking into small groups to study and discuss things, but 50 groups cheek-by-jowl in a "hot" room, just does not work. My 25 year old son who hears just fine, could not hear the other people in his group.
Other disabilities were accommodated because the conference was held in a public conference center and they are taken care of by the conference center. But there are no federally mandated accommodations for the hearing impaired.
Once home I shot off a letter explaining my total unhappiness with the experience, but, I wonder what else I could do (other than winning the lottery so that I could find hearing aides that worked as well as the first one I had(and that is a rant for a whole 'nother time)).