by Chelle George
In February I went on a advocating frenzy, tired of feeling left out and feeling for anyone else who felt left out. I requested CART for a writers workshop I want to attend in May, requested an ALD at the downtown library for a reading from local authors and left comments on news sites in regards to hearing loss. There’s a Paulo Coelho quote: “Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.” Right after I posted about my advocating adventures, life erupted and picked up speed. I had a hard time keeping track of what all I had to do, where I had to be and when. This is why I haven’t posted much in the last month. I think things are slowing down again and today I have time to update everyone.
I haven’t heard anything in a while from the writers workshop and they warned me it might take time. I marked the February reading down on my calendar wrong at the library missing it last month. I was so upset with myself because the library was so accommodating with my request. I contacted them as soon as I figured it out, asked them to forgive me and told them I’d like to try again in March. This time I made sure I got the right day on my calendar (in a red Sharpie) hanging in the kitchen and set two alarms on my phone to make sure I made it.
Last Thursday, I went to work a little early so I could leave early with plenty of time to get there. Right after leaving work, I grabbed a quick burger and drove to the train (light rail) station. I could have driven downtown but I do not like messing with parking. I just missed the train by a few minutes so I had to wait 15 minutes for the next one. Once on the train I realized I’m running behind and will just make it on time in spite of leaving work early. Dang. The train lets us off right in front of the library so I dash out, jog across the street and into the library. Instead of waiting for the elevator I ran up the four flights of stairs which left me winded and barely able to ask for directions to the meeting room at the information desk. My biggest fear is the tech guy is going to give up on me and I do not want to mess this up a second time.
By the time I arrived at the meeting room, I nearly had my breath back. I looked around and couldn’t tell who it is I’m supposed to meet. There’s a cluster of people talking and no one pays much attention to me. I had a moment of panic, am I too late? As I scan the room once more a nice looking man sitting on a table says, “Chell?” I tell him “ChellE” and we shake hands. Whew! I made it.
He takes me to a table set up in front of the room with a portable FM system (I think that’s what it was) and hands me a receiver. Everything there looks brand new. As he takes out a “hanging on the ear” model earphone.
“You can put that back,” I tell him. “That won’t do me any good with my hearing aids. I need my hearing aids to hear better. We’ll use my neckloop instead.” Thank goodness I remembered to put my amplified neckloop in my purse, just in case, before leaving the house that morning. That thing wouldn’t have helped me at all. One ear, seriously? I need everything I got from both my ears.
“Will that work with this,” he asks.
“It should,” I said. I plug it in, hoping neither my neckloop or his receiver goes up in a puff of smoke. It fit the jack so I assumed it was safe.
“Let’s test it,” he said walking to the microphone. “By the way, I’ll tell everyone to make sure they use this tonight.”
I switch to the t-coil program and he starts talking into the microphone. The sound is good. In fact the sound is way better than I ever expected it to be. I’ve been to places with bad FM systems where voices come and go or the batteries aren’t charged or the sound still seems distant to my ears. Even my personal FM system doesn’t give me that good of a sound. I give him a thumbs up and tell him that it sounds wonderful.
Back in front of the table he tells me he’s aware of the new ADA requirements for assistive listening devices to meet the needs of people who wear hearing aids. He heard of the neckloops but wasn’t sure what to make of them. After seeing mine, he said he’d probably go ahead and order some now.
“I get better sound quality out of neckloops than I do headphones,” I tell him. “I get even better sound through permanent loops. It would be awesome if you could install one here somewhere.” He’s heard of hearing loops and said something about funding.
“I heard of a grant you can apply for, especially for libraries. I don’t have the information on me but I can email it to you tomorrow.”
“That would be great for the auditorium,” he said. “I’m interested.”
“You would be the first public venue to have a loop and I’d sure advertise that in the hard of hearing community. We’d love it.” Conversation continued for a few minutes, he left and I sat down. Great! I made a good contact at the library in spite of last months screw up. I’m happy.
Soon the readings started and without too much effort, I could hear very well. I’m so used to lip reading it’s a habit so I turned my head to see if I could still hear and I could follow along mostly (I’ll never hear every word). At this point I notice there’s a great sunset going on as I stare out the glass walls from the fourth floor. The sky is going baby blue and the scattered clouds are lighting up silver. The sun is reflecting off some of the building windows and the city takes on a whole new look. I watch as the colors of the sky change to a darker blue with pink clouds and totally forget I’m listening to a reading. I wondered if it would be rude to get up and take a picture. Probably. I look back to the reader to put my mind back on the Nintendo murder story again. My mission tonight wasn’t the visual but auditory and even with my mind a million miles away for a few minutes, I don’t think I missed anything crucial as the story was still intact for me.
The readings went on for an hour and a half all together. I understand each story without notes and even if I miss a few words I easily fill in the blanks. After all, I’m used to missing a lot more than that. I’m not exhausted at the end of it so I know I wasn’t clinging to noise but hearing words. I’m smiling, pleased with myself for asking for an ALD. I feel like the world has suddenly opened up a little more. As I put my neckloop away and return the receiver to the table up front another library employee approaches me.
I forget how the conversation starts but I get to talk to her about the ALD system and thank her for having it available and I’m glad to know it’s there. I ask her if it would work in any of the rooms at the library and she says it will. This is wonderful I tell her and I’ll be sure to share it with the hard of hearing community and where I work, at the Sanderson Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She gives me her email because she’s interested in networking with us at the Sanderson. How we will work together, I’m not sure yet but I’ll find a way.
Usually when I leave an event like this, I feel drained of energy if not exhausted or flat out depressed from trying so hard to hear. This time I left smiling and full of energy. Options exist and I’m not as limited as I thought. All the library activities are open to me now, not just their books. What an awesome feeling!
Now if I’d hear something as uplifting from the writers workshop people.