The next day at the convention started out with a Town Hall Meeting. Lorne gave us an overview of the SayWhatClub, our goals and where we would like to go. Volunteers were introduced. He talked about the new Gen-Y group on FaceBook and showed us how to access the archives for the individual lists (a message board format instead of individual emails).
Let me introduce CART (real time captioning) before we go further. All our workshops and the banquet had CART available. Her is Kathy, our CART person this year and the screen. Plus, we had an induction or hearing loop in there also so we had options of how to ‘listen.’
Donna gave a short talk on next years convention. The location is undecided but they are thinking either Texas or Milwaukee. She also stressed more volunteers are needed for the convention committee. The workload on the few volunteers exhausted them and they too would like to enjoy more of the convention.
The town hall meeting was turned to the floor where members were allowed to ask questions and voice concerns. Questions and concerns came about the email lists and were answered. Guidelines were given for posting, bios, and and rules between committees. People seemed satisfied with the meeting.
After a short break, Cynthia Amerman gave a presentation called “Self-advocacy For a Better Life.
She talked about how hearing loss threatens us and makes us vulnerable. She suggested we start making hearing loss visible by wearing buttons so that others may ask questions and we can further explain hearing loss. She gave us real examples of problems people run up against in advocating for themselves and asked the audience to help solve the issues. Do one thing now (and you’re an advocate) she says. Her rules for self-advocacy:
- Be gentle
- Bring up the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) last, if at all
- Be persistent
- Know your hearing loss, how it works and what you need done because you are the expert
The next workshop had Gary Talley of the Virginia Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center presenting on assistive listening devices (ALDs).
Gary lost his hearing suddenly and completely in 2003. Prior to that, he worked in the Department of Emergency Management in Arkansas for many years and with FEMA in the beginning of the Bill Clinton years. He talked but used a sign language interpreter to get questions off the floor. He showed us a wide array of ALDs he now uses in his daily life and passed around some of the equipment for us to try. He was fun and upbeat.
After the workshops, we all split up into groups. Some people toured Williamsburg and the surrounding areas for history and some of us went to Bush Gardens. I was with the Busch Gardens group. (For those who have hearing loss, that’s counted as a disability and you can get into the park at a discounted rate if you ask.) I love roller coasters and so did a few others but the others wandered the park for its gardens and shows. I came home from this trip worn out so did not go out and socialize with the others afterward. I wanted to get some good sleep and save my energy to be able to enjoy my final, full day with all my friends.
I think that night, a game of baseball cards was played. This game is often played at the SWC Convention.
Saturday morning, Scott Bally and Bonnie O’Leary led a two hour workshop on “Strategies for Improving Speechreading that Really Work.”
I had a chance to see Scott at the HLAA convention last year so I knew we were in for a treat. He’s an entertaining speaker and a lot of fun. As we all know, speech reading isn’t just about reading lips. We use what hearing we have, as well as body language, tone, and certain things in our environment can affect our comprehension. That morning he gave us ten practical communication strategies that work by
- facilitating better communication
- using anticipation, maintenance and repair strategies (be more assertive, get the topic, rephrase)
- determining communication problems (acoustics, lighting, being over tired)
- learning to ask excellent (specific) questions to get simple answers
There was so much good information here it would require another blog piece. If you ever have the chance to see him speak, do it.
After the workshops, some of us stayed a bit to socialize and there was talk about the silent auction to be held that night. Some friendly competition going on here.
After the workshops, some of us meandered around Colonial Williamsburg and others explored surrounding areas. My little group guided me to The Peanut Shop, best store ever with lots of tasty samples. I almost didn’t need lunch. We sat in the Cheese Shop watching the rain getting to know each other better. We went back to our room when the rain stopped not wanting to get caught in a downpour later with our hearing aids on (one of our nightmares). A group of us chatted in the room waiting for the banquet. Personal hearing loss stories and problems were shared and later just a whole lot of laughter, socializing and altogether forgetting we were hard of hearing.
By the time we went to the banquet, the silent auction was in full swing. A lot of friendly competition goes on during this time. Watercolors done by Joyce were a big item, there were crocheted/knit items, a back massage device, jewelry, books and a whole lot more. It’s fun watching the serious bidders pop about vying for items.
There were colorful people at the banquet too, two of the guys wore their kilts and I wore my frilly square dance skirt. Everyone looked so nice.
Dinner was served, then desert and after came our keynote speaker, Cheryl Heppner, with her hearing dog Galaxy. She began her presentation with her history and why she’s become the advocate she is for hearing loss. She went on to explain why advocating is necessary and encouraged us to become our own advocate.
After her presentation, group pictures were taken, here’s the most of the group right here:
From there we gathered in the lobby to wait for others before going to (you guessed it) the College Delly to close the bar down. There was a little more goofing around before walking over to the bar.
Once at our favorite gathering place, our table kept getting bigger and bigger so we took up another booth and then put two or three more tables together so we could continue to socialize on our last night together. At one point, the bar dimmed the lights and several people were discouraged but Erica’s husband, Josh, went to the bar and asked them to turn the lights back on so we could continue to lip read and a few minutes later, the lights were all back up.
The sense of camaraderie and inclusion is unbelievable and this is one of the few times a year I feel totally free to be hard of hearing. People are talking, people are ‘hearing’ and people are laughing. It’s fun to visit the different parts of the country as the SayWhatClub club holds their conventions in different cities but honestly, I come for the people. They rock my world and I wish we could get together more often.