Accessibility

Posted by jennifer gibson on Thursday, January 12, 2012
I've been involved with various organizations and committees for many years.  I'm currently on the local Accessibility Committee, part of an amazing team of people, able and disabled, who are dedicated to finding solutions and breaking down barriers in our community.  We are constantly coming up with potential ideas, some of which are long term, to educate the public and increase the awareness of disabilities that exist in our town.  Not only do many businesses, stores and medical buildings actually block or prevent access to people in wheelchairs, many are not very welcoming towards those with other disabilities such as vision, mobility and hearing loss.  They often don't understand nor are willing to accommodate potential clients and patients into their services.  They just don't want to spend the necessary money to upgrade their building or are not comfortable in dealing with people with a disability.

I've been an advocate for people with a hearing loss and a public speaker since I was a teenager.  I've travelled throughout Ontario, Canada and the USA, discussing my experiences as a hard of hearing person.  Not only did the audience immediately relate to me as a fairly normal person when they met me face to face, they also realized the true consequences of my disability.  It's like dealing with two sides of the same coin - on some days, I seem like the average person, going about my daily routine such as shopping, playing sports, running hockey clinics or teaching a martial arts class.  On other days, it becomes acutely obvious that there are still many barriers out there preventing me from being completely incorporated into the society such as not being able to make an appointment with my doctor or dentist via email, not receiving any confirmation via email from the pharmacist that my prescription is ready, nor being able to hear the fire alarm in a hotel, etc...  And FYI, it does not help to knock on the door and slip a note under the door saying the hotel is on fire - Yes! The hotel staff have attempted to do that! If I can't even hear the fire alarm, how the heck do you expect me to hear someone knocking on the door?! 

I just love being ignored by the nurses at the hospital and medical centre when they barge into the waiting room, mumble the patients name and walk away partway through.  Even after they've being told that I'm hard of hearing and informed that they should face me or approach me to let me know it's my turn, they fail to do so.  Then they complain why I didn't say anything when in fact I did tell them in advance. Now days, I choose the chair closest to the door or if necessary, stand right beside it.  It's the only I can catch them since they are not always so forthcoming.

Airports are horrible, particularly with their announcements.  Due to the noise of hundreds of people all around me, sound of squeaking rolling suitcases, screaming children, and usual din of the environment, it's all but impossible for me to understand what is being spoken over the air.  As a result, I know pre-board all flights.  It may sound like a really snooty way of getting attention or being pampered, when in actual fact, it helps prevent me from missing my flight entirely. Train stations are pretty bad too, fortunately most of my trips have been with another co-worker or team member.  It really does help to have someone travel with you and by the way, first class is the best way to travel - they go out of their way to make sure you are taken care of, which includes being pre-boarded.

Remember, someone who wears hearing aids is getting virtually every sound in their surrounding environment amplified.  Voices tend to be drowned out by sounds all around them.  Restaurants and coffee places are the worst places to talk to someone like me.  Think about it...the loud clinking of plates and mugs, burst of steam, milk being frothed and coffee beans being ground down is extremely loud to my ears.  So be kind, find a quiet area, speak clearly face to face, rephrase if necessary or if all else fails, write it down.  It means the world to me if you go out of your way to make sure I understand you. Why? Because very few people do that.

Awesome links:

Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) - http://chha.ca/chha/

Nominations for Awards - http://chha.ca/chha/awards-national.php

Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) - http://www.chs.ca/

Trent Hills Accessibility - http://trenthills.ca/en/services/building_accessibility.asp


Tags: chha  chs  accessibility  airports  "train stations"  "be kind"  pre-boarding  committees  organizations  advocate  "public speaker" 
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