Hearing Loss/Deaf Social, CARTS and hearing loops, St. Petersburg, Pinellas County

Below is an article written by John Prokop about his recent experience at the Hearing Loss/Deaf Social hosted by the Florida Chapter the Hearing Loss Association of America. Cynthia Moynihan, president and coordinator of this epic event, invited me. It was a fun meeting and I was inspired to see many groups get together to collaborate as advocates for people with hearing loss. I enjoyed my visit with local chapter presidents JoAnne Devries and Elaine Goddard.

I want to explain John’s references to CART and Loop in his second paragraph. CART is the abbreviation for Communications Access Real-time Translation. It is a service that transcribes voice into text and then project on a screen or other devices. Loop is an architectural feature that transmits a speaker’s voice to the telecoil of the listener’s hearing aid and therefore enables them to hear the dialog much more clearly.

The HLAA of Florida can be contacted at hlaa-fl.org
For more information about CART go to http://deafness.about.com/cs/cart/a/cart.htm
To research loops go to http://www.ask.com/wiki/Audio_induction_loop?lang=en

Hearing Loss / Deaf Social: February 27, 2015
By: John Prokop

I just wanted to share a few words and thoughts about the “Hearing Loss / Deaf Social” I attended on February 27, 2015, at the Safety Harbor Public Library. It was really one of the best events I have attended in the past few years. I was glad I didn’t miss it.

I arrived about 6:45pm and was warmly greeted by several attendees, when I walked into the room. I was led to a sign up table where name tags were available. I quickly recognized several people I knew from ALDA and HLAA and we met up to say hello. Everybody seemed happy and friendly and was engaged in conversations all around the room. Everyone from the hearing loss / deaf community was there, including the organization and groups, who represent and advocate for them.

The food buffet table was amazing with something for everyone. Sandwiches, meatballs, shrimp cocktails, cheese and crackers, humus, dips, chips, fruit, peanuts and cookies and brownies for desserts. Beverages were available (soft drinks and bottled water) and the wine bar provided many excellent social lubricants. There was ample space to move along the room and meet all the participants. The name tags made it especially easy to introduce yourself to anyone you came in contact with.

Although the room was “looped” for t-coil devices and interpreters were available, CART was not provided due an unforeseen emergency of the person who was to provide it. Of course I rely on CART to compensate for my hearing loss and that was sorely missed, but I understand things happen we can’t control. I did however, get to try my t-coil option on my hearing aids, but found them not too much better than my aids.

The program started off with an “Ice Breaker” exercise to encourage everyone to mingle and get to know each other better. Each participant was given a small piece of paper with a known celebrity on it when they arrived. The purpose of it was to find the “celebrity match” in the room. I was given “David Beckham” (yes, I know it was a perfect match for me) and I was to find my “Victoria Beckham” (the spice of my life). When found our match, we were to find out at least three things about each other, that we could share with others in the group. This was an excellent way to learn about other participants and gave the opportunity to share what you learned about them to others. Three of four of the matches, shared what they learned about the other person, with the whole group.

The program then began with each guest speaker spending about 5 minutes to present the organization they represented, followed by a short question and answer period. All the speakers were interesting educational and enthusiastic. It was a powerhouse of organizations, information and people all gathered together at one time under one roof. We had reps, leaders and members from ALDA, HLAA, NAD, FTRI, FLAA, FCCDHH, Deaf Literacy Coordinator, Alexander Graham Bell, Sertoma, and Cochlear America. Many of the speakers brought printed information about their organizations, which was greatly appreciated, since I didn’t bring anything to take notes with. Yes, I learned many things about these groups and organizations, which I didn’t know before. They certainly accomplished their goal of community and personal awareness. We have come a long way, but we still have much to do to make things better. It was most important to realize, we are not alone and we have all these support groups, service organizations and dedicated people, who will help lead the way to change, through advocacy. It was a great night for networking with the group.

Meeting the individuals who represent these groups and organizations was priceless. I definitely made some valuable and important contacts that I will be following up on in the near future. One of the best highlights of the evening was participating and listening to all the “sidebar conversations” going around the room. Listening to all those personal stories, experiences, challenges and successes was something I just don’t get many opportunities to hear. These stories can make us all feel like we belong to something bigger than ourselves and validate that we are not alone.

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