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As Arizonians, we should be proud of our state Legislature for their new inclusive practices. Participating in state governmental processes just got easier for the 1.1 million Arizonians living with some degree of hearing loss. At the beginning of this year, Arizona state Legislature has officially become the first in the nation to offer live-captioning services for the state Senate and House of Representatives. This is an exciting accomplishment that will help more people be engaged in the democratic process in Arizona. In the words of Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, “inclusiveness is essential to democracy”. At Lifestyle Hearing Solutions, we couldn’t agree more.
What supports for those with hearing loss preceded the live-captioning?
Prior to unveiling their progressive live-captioning services, the Arizona Legislature had a hearing loop system installed in their buildings. Buildings equipped with hearing loop systems allow sounds to be amplified directly into hearing aids and cochlear implants of those who have hearing loop capabilities enabled on their devices. Most hearing aids or cochlear implants, including very old models have settings that allow for streaming through hearing loop systems. Arizona has always been on the ground floor for its practices in including those who are deaf or have hearing loss. When hearing loops were installed in our Legislative buildings in January of last year, Arizona was only the second state in the country to offer advanced audio loop services at our Capitol.
Representative Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, who has a hearing loss highly praised the installation of the hearing loops last year. She said of the system, “I was hesitating to speak out often because I could not hear what my colleagues were saying… having this looping system has allowed me, as a member of the Legislature, to fully participate.”
How will live-captioning help those with hearing loss?
The newly developed live-captioning text streaming service is available for all committee and floor meetings in either the state House or state Senate. The only caveat of the captioning service is that it must be requested via the Legislature website at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing or meeting. Either members of the Legislature or citizens may request the service be available.
Elected officials from both the House and the Senate have shown bipartisan support of the new services and the accessibility they will improve. Advocates for the hearing-impaired community are also showing their support for the new technology. Sherry Collins, the director of the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing says of the technology and the hearing-impaired community, “They can fully participate in the process if they want to know what’s going on… we are the state of the art on accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing.” ().
Arizona should be proud. This is a lot of progress in inclusiveness for people with hearing impairments over the course of just one year. If you would like to request live-captioning for an upcoming Legislative meeting, visit the Legislative website here.
Have you had your hearing checked this year?
2018 is in full swing and while more inclusive practices for those with hearing impairments are on the rise, it is still important to get your hearing assessed at least annually. With the support of hearing aids, those with hearing loss can more fully participate in conversations at work, at home, and in the community. If you think you may be experiencing some of the early signs of hearing loss such as hearing but not understanding conversations, constantly asking friends and family to repeat themselves or more frequent requests from loved ones to turn the volume down, reach out to us to schedule your comprehensive hearing exam. We look forward to working with you as you journey towards better hearing.