Friday, January 27, 2012

I Just Learned Sign Language!

I was flipping through channels on the television the other day when I saw a channel showing reruns of Full House. I grew up in the 1990s, and Full House was one of my very favorite shows. (In fact I remember always being frustrated it was rarely captioned... of course, now the reruns are captioned so I can capture that bit of nostalgia and see - or "hear" - what I was missing!)

It reminded me of a funny moment from elementary school when a little boy ran up to me, excitedly telling me, "I just learned sign language! I know it now!"

And he demonstrated with this:



Ah, kids :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

How To Contact Businesses Executives About Your ADA Concerns

I think one of the best things people can do to ensure their complaints and comments are heard is to contact the people at the top. This is especially true if there are accessibility or equality requirements that need to be met. Today I want to show you how you can use a library database as a way to contact the people high in the chain of command about your concerns. For example, you could use this to contact people about closed captioning, loop systems, TTY and relay concerns, etc.

(Click on any of the images in this post to enlarge them.)

The particular database I'm using is called ReferenceUSA. It's intended to be used for reference and research and contains information about millions of businesses and also individuals - it's very useful as a yellow/white pages directory. You can contact your local public library system to find out if they subscribe to ReferenceUSA. (And urge them to subscribe if they do not.)

I decided to look up Harkins Theatres. This movie chain has recently been under legal fire for not accommodating deaf people and actually has plans to install captioning systems in all of their theaters by the end of this year as a result of a lawsuit. When I went to their website, I saw that, as usual, there are no open captioned films available at any of their 30 locations in 5 states.



I found this very disappointing. Let's say I wanted to find out who is in charge of Harkins to ask them to show more open captioned movies. It is fairly easy to see from their site that Dan Harkins is in charge, but what about other executives in the company?

I went to ReferenceUSA following the directions from my library (it may be different for yours).


 I clicked on "U.S. Businesses" near the bottom left.


I then filled in the information I knew about Harkins. You only need to fill in one field at a time. In this case I thought Harkins was in Phoenix, so I put that information in.


The results, however, didn't help me much. I got results for several theater locations and one person named Harkins (information blurred out). However, you can click on the "Corp. Tree" icon next to any branch of a business to see the entire corporate tree.


The top result is the location I want, actually in Scottsdale. I clicked on it.


Here is the resulting information on Harkins Theatres, Inc. Scroll down.

There's a lot of information here, but in this case, I wanted "Management Directory."


And there it is... a list of managing employees at Harkins Theatres, Inc. I can now choose to send a letter to any of these employees at the address listed in the result.

I was hoping to be able to email these employees using the guidelines at Consumerist.com, but I can't find any way to tell what Harkins Theatre's email structure is. However, now that I've seen how to research companies using this database, I can definitely use it in the future to find contact information.

I hope this is helpful for you when contacting companies!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Top 3 Moments When It's Hardest For Me to Hear

A recent experience at work prompted me to think about the more difficult situations I have, when it is most difficult to hear other people. I thought of my top 3 "hardest to hear" situations and decided to list them here.

I'm curious to know what you would consider the top 3 moments it's hardest to hear. What do you think?

1) Trying to talk in a fast food restaurant that has seemingly random beeping, noises, and cleaning equipment running. Of course, the beeping and other noises are not random if you are working there, as I'm sure it's the equipment trying to get your attention. But from the customer's side, these noises sound random, overly loud, and really interfere with hearing. A local fast food place I enjoy going to has become less enjoyable because of the proximity of loud machines to the customer area. I can't have a conversation if it's going to be punctuated by beeping and other sounds that don't even affect me.

2) When I am at work, the most difficult situation for me to hear is when the other person is distracted. I always get a sinking feeling in my stomach when two patrons strike up a conversation while in line. What often seems to happen is that they continue their conversation as they are assisted by me or my coworkers. That means they aren't paying any attention to me trying to ask them questions, and when they do speak to me they are most often oriented to keep speaking to their newfound friend, meaning I can't read their lips. Not only that, but I can't break in smoothly to ask what I need to ask.

The specific situation at work had to do with a particularly chatty patron who was talking to everyone in line or nearby - except me. As he finished picking up his items, he looked at me and said, "Well, you're not very talkative, are you?"

I just informed him there was a line forming behind him and moved to the next patron. But what I would have liked to have done is pointed out the multiple ways he had made it impossible to speak to him during our transaction - and how he had managed to make it nearly impossible for me to figure out if he was addressing me or someone else.

3)
A windy day. The wind really interferes with my hearing aids and it easily snatches sound away. I particularly hate trying to walk in a parking lot and talk to someone else when it is windy. Walking side by side, plus the wind, makes it very difficult.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stop SOPA and PIPA

You've probably seen that sites like Wikipedia and Reddit are down today to show that they oppose SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (the Protect IP Act). For more information on why these acts should not be allowed to pass, and what would happen if they do, please check out Google's explanation here. On Google's site you can also sign their petition and share the information with others using Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

According to Wikipedia:

SOPA and PIPA would put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. Small sites won't have sufficient resources to defend themselves. Big media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if copyright isn't being infringed. Foreign sites will be blacklisted, which means they won't show up in major search engines. SOPA and PIPA would build a framework for future restrictions and suppression.

You can also use Wikipedia's blackout page to find your representatives by zip code. Contact them and let them know your concerns.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Deaf, Hearing Impaired, Hard of Hearing...

Warning: overanalysis ahead. I tend to do this, just ask my husband!

I was at work yesterday and happened to mention to a patron that I am deaf. His response surprised me - "What?! You can't be deaf. You're talking to me, aren't you?"

In my time since writing this blog, I have considered how to explain my hearing loss to people. I grew up with everyone saying I was hearing impaired. It was only when I began taking ASL classes in high school that I learned of the controversy around the term "hearing impaired" and began to agree that, yes, impaired is not the best way to describe it. The problem is, "hearing impaired" seems to get it across correctly - I've never had anyone doubt me when I use the phrase, and people seem to understand that I do have residual hearing and I may wear a hearing device.

I prefer the term "deaf" because it is short, sweet and gets the point across. People understand what the term means right away and the phrase doesn't necessarily indicate I am 'impaired' in any way. But it also opens the door for people to misunderstand me like the gentleman I mentioned above. Many people in the general public seem to think deaf = cannot hear at all. Judging from the reactions I have gotten, people do not think that I fit the mold of 'deaf'.

From June 2010 - Me and my hearing aid
An old photo of me and my hearing aid.

There's also "I have a hearing loss," which is clunky, and tends to lead people to think I am just a little bit hard of hearing, plus, it makes me feel like I lost something. The same goes for that term, "hard of hearing." People I've spoken to think "hard of hearing" means "just has a little bit of difficulty." Yes, I get along well in an auditory world - but that doesn't mean I just have a little bit of trouble hearing. I have definite, actual challenges. I don't hear about 50% of your sentences unless I know you. I don't know where sounds are coming from. I can't identify sounds. I don't enjoy music to its fullest and I can't pick out individual instruments. I will probably not hear that car coming up behind me. I may not be able to hear you on the phone at all. So I can't give people the mistaken impression that I'm just a little bit hard of hearing, although that's what that term tends to do when I try to use it.

Of course I know other people might have other experiences. In some areas different terms for the same thing might be more familiar. In my particular area and at my job, I meet people from all over the country (they like to winter in my hometown). So I meet a lot of variety and I have encountered a lot of different reactions.

I think I will stick with "deaf" for now. Short, sweet and requires little explanation except when people doubt me. And if they're going to be rude about it, well, they don't deserve an explanation anyway, do they? :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

What Do You Do When You Can't Identify a Sound?

Although I love my hearing aids, one problem I often encounter is that a lot of sounds sound alike to me. Sometimes even a sound I am familiar with will sound very odd in a different situation than I'm used to.

Questions
From Flickr user Oberazzi.
Sometimes I ignore the sound... sometimes it freaks me out a little bit and I want to know what it is. My family, including my husband, are really good about identifying the sound. Although I know it can be funny when I overreact to a perfectly normal sound because it sounds "wrong" to me.

However, with other people, I'm less willing to ask around to figure out what a sound is. I usually surreptitiously look around to see how other people are reacting before I react myself. I am pretty good at not immediately reacting to sounds.

So I am curious, how do you react in these situations?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Looking Forward to 2012

Welcome to the new year! We are now in 2012 and I have to keep reminding myself to write a "12" where I would have written an "11."

2011 was a very exciting year for me. My husband and I bought a house this past year and also managed to acquire two cats, a dog, a tortoise, and two birds in addition to the bearded dragon we already own. I hope that 2012 is as good to us as the past year has been, but I have to admit we probably don't need six more pets this year.

As far as my deafness goes, I can safely say that my 20s have so far helped me make a lot of mental changes in the way I see my hearing loss. This blog has contributed to that, of course. In situations where I may not have even considered my hearing aids, now I am more aware of them and how my hearing loss affects me.

In reading others' blogs, I have become influenced to become more of an advocate for myself in public situations, especially at work. I can still be very shy in stores and other situations, but at work I have stopped blaming myself for what I can't do and focusing on what I can do - and how people can help me accomplish my goals. This includes working with the public. I don't consider the burden entirely on myself to understand someone anymore. The other person in the conversation also has a responsibility to communicate effectively.

I am happy to see shows like Switched at Birth on television highlighting the issues that deaf/Hard of Hearing people face and also seeing more advocacy about closed captions and other issues. A local theater chain (Harkins) has been dealing with legal issues stemming from the way they have chosen to do business as related to the ADA and it has been interesting to follow that as well as Eh? What? Huh?'s advocacy regarding censored captions on television.

I think 2012 is going to be a great year and I can't wait to see what happens.