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Assistive Listening Systems (ALS) Help You Communicate Effectively

Unit pictured consists of small portable receiver with cord to go around the neck attached to dual earphones. I'm a person with a hearing loss who uses a cochlear implant, which allows me to function as someone with a mild to moderate hearing loss (hard of hearing). Like most people with a hearing loss, I don't use sign language but rely on assistive listening devices (ALDs) and captioning to understand dialogue in museum exhibits, theaters and tours. For films, lectures and live-theater events, an assistive listening system - such as infrared or FM - enables me to understand the dialogue. For guided tours, I find that personal FM systems (where the tour guide uses a microphone and transmitter, and I wear the receiver and headset) allows me to understand the speaker without looking, so my eyes can watch the exhibits. Captioned videos and films, and real-time captioning of lectures are also helpful. I've found it most helpful when information about what is provided in a museum is explained clearly in promotional brochures and web sites. Signs at the museum are also essential, so I know where to go to pick up the ALDs and where captioning is being offered. A, New Jersey

As for marketing strategies for museums to reach the hearing impaired population, information should be in brochures, in public service announcements, and on radio talk shows. Signage at ticket and information desks and marquees that assistive listening devices and captioning are available is also important. Volunteer orientation should include the information about ALDs and captioning. It would be great if a hard of hearing/cochlear implant volunteer could be trained and be available at certain times at the museum. When I volunteer at the Fox Theater, I pass out the ALDs. I also answer questions and assist the manager with some other general duties. Linda, St. Louis

Be sure to test the battery of the receiver before loaning it out. Turn a unit on and even if it isn't receiving a signal, it will hiss at you. If you turn it on and you don't hear a hiss, it probably means the battery isn't charged, or it can mean that the connectors aren't touching the battery or that there is some more serious problem with the receiver. If this is the case, put the receiver aside and provide the patron with a receiver that works. B, Washington

In general, locate public phones in quiet areas where there is enough light to see the controls; also, instructions and numbers on the key pad should be easy to read and angled for best viewing. At least one public phone should be equipped with a volume control switch and a receiver that generates a magnetic field as many wearers of hearing aids rely on this feature to amplify the sound. People who are deaf rely on a TTY or TDD installed in conjunction with the standard pay phone. The user dials the number and places the handset in a holder. If the answering party responds via TDD, a drawer containing the TDD keyboard opens and both people can begin conversing. If a pay phone TDD is not installed, a shelf just below a phone allows someone to use their portable TDD. S, Maryland

Once I saw a sign on a receptionist's desk that said "Director of First Impressions." It's stayed with me. The staff and volunteers at the desk or counter where assistive listening devices are distributed are a museum's Directors of First Impressions. Their ability to answer my questions, to explain how to use the equipment, and to have checked it out beforehand so that it works, make a big, if not a lasting impression.
M, St. Paul

"Disney has been providing assistive listening systems (ALSs) to permit hard-of-hearing guests to increase the volume of sound at many attractions. Disney has also provided written transcripts for most of its attractions for some time and will continue to provide those transcripts at Guest Services upon request. On rides such as Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Carribbean, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Space Ship Earth, and others, guests who are deaf or hard of hearing will have the opportunity to promptly ride a second time in order to better understand the text." From the Disney Agreement Fact Sheet. "WDW is expanding the scope and depth of employee training in disability awareness, etiquette, and services available, consistent with the employee's responsibilities. Such training includes, as applicable, treatment of guests with disabilities, the availability of services and auxiliary aids, and procedures and policies regarding guests with disabilities. WDW will continue to improve upon the training and training techniques and consider new and better ways of informing its' cast members in this area whenever possible. WDW shall provide training materials to the Department for periodic review, upon request from the Department." From Agreement with the U.S. Government and Walt Disney World Co.

The profile of Bridget Shea, formerly with the National Air and Space Museum, on the ASTC web pages provides a first-person account of choosing technologies to make large format theaters and planetariums accessible to a wider audience.
SM, Washington, DC

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