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E-Michigan Deaf and Hard of Hearing People.

News 2004

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Video Phone Booth for Deaf Callers in Traverse City

Traverse City– Sometimes it takes a little longer for innovations to reach Northern Michigan. On the other hand, rural community members are strong on collaboration, working together to make a difference! Because of this strong collaboration, Traverse City now has a Video Relay Call Booth that allows deaf and hard of hearing people to make telephone calls using American Sign Language!

Video Relay Service (VRS) uses Internet video conferencing, with an interpreter/relay operator at another location, to assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing with making telephone calls. It works like this:

A deaf person uses a video call booth, or a high–speed Internet connection with video input from home, to contact an interpreter at the VRS center. The interpreter sees the deaf person’s signing, calls the specified telephone number, and interprets for the deaf person to the hearing person on the other end of the line. Everything the hearing person speaks is signed to the deaf caller. Everything the caller signs, is spoken to the hearing caller. The process is more natural and significantly faster than TTY relay services. And the best news is, the service is free!

NW Michigan Works! is the First One–stop Center in Michigan to Offer VRS

The Video Relay call booth in Traverse City is located at the Michigan Works! office at 1209 S. Garfield Avenue. Michigan Works! is co–located with the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth - Rehabilitation Services (Michigan Rehabilitation Services) another collaborator on this project. VRS and the call booth are provided by Communication Access Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CACDHH), a state–wide agency headquartered in Flint, Michigan. Other collaborators who were instrumental in bringing VRS to Northern Michigan include MDLEG’s Division on Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the GTP Industries, Inc.’s Deaf Services Clearinghouse, and the Northern Michigan Alliance for Independent Living.

An Open House, held on November 5, introduced the new call booth to deaf and hard of hearing people from the region. The thirty–five Open House participants had the opportunity to make Video Relay calls to friends and relatives!

Community members learn about about VRS at the Traverse City Open House.

Community members learn about about VRS at the Traverse City Open House.
(click on image to view larger one)
Photo by Julie Eckhardt


Lion’s Develop Hearing Aid for Low–Income People

Responding to a worldwide problem, the Lions Affordable Hearing Project (AHAP) has developed a low cost, high quality hearing aid. Approximately 150 Million people have a serious hearing loss that interferes with basic communication, education and employment. The cost of quality hearing aids (frequently over $2,000 in US dollars) has made hearing improvement out of reach for low–income people in countries like the United States, but even more so in poorer, developing countries.

Lions Club International Fund (LCIF) teamed with Project Impact to develop and produce a low cost and high quality hearing aid. The aid, which costs about US$100, is assessed to perform at least as well as aids that sell for US$2000. The behind–the–ear, digitally programmable aid has successfully passed clinical trials and FDA approval as well as European certification.

The low cost hearing aid is only available through Lions Clubs in partnership with audiologists. As of October 2004, more than 600 people in Mexico, India, Michigan and Washington have been fitted with the AHAP hearing aid.

For more information contact your local Lions Club or see Lions Club International Fact Sheet.


Volunteer Service Provides Help with Tax Preparation

The Volunteer Accounting Service Team of Michigan (VASTMI) will provide tax preparation assistance to low–income families in Michigan. Free Tax Assistance Service for Low–Income Households will be available at more than 20 locations in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Sites include community centers, libraries, social service and public service agencies. The service is offered January through April of each year.

The Tax Assistance Program offers low–income individuals, and those for whom English is a second language, free income tax and tax credit preparation services, counseling on tax rights and responsibilities, and aid in resolving tax disputes.

Income tax preparation includes filling out federal, state and city income tax forms, and informing and educating clients of their rights and responsibilities under the tax laws. Tax preparation also includes filling out forms for those qualifying for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and child credits, the Michigan Property Tax (or Renters) and Home Heating credits. English as a second language services are available.

Eligibility
For individuals, annual household income up to $20,000 (regardless of age) For families, annual income up to $38,000 (Families = married couples, or a person with at least one dependent.)

Household Income
Household income includes taxable and nontaxable items such as wages, social security, unemployment, disability, pension, interest, chore services, and daycare.

Homebound Tax Program — A free mail-in income tax and tax credit preparation service for low-income senior citizens and physically challenged taxpayers who cannot personally visit one of the tax preparation sites during the January-April tax season. (Must meet eligibility requirements.)

Adopt–A–Site Opportunities — Corporations and other groups can “adopt” a specific location and enroll their employees/group members as tax volunteers. Many have found this to be fun as well as rewarding, and a great way to build leadership and team skills.

Low–Income Tax Clinic — VASTMI partners with the Legal Aid and Defender Association of Detroit to provide additional resources for low-income taxpayers who have disputes with the IRS.

In a few weeks, the tax site information should be finalized, Check the VASTMI Web Site to find the closest location for free tax assistance


Relay Services a Priority in an Emergency

Washington, DC – The goal of a new FCC initiative is to ensure and encourage all Telecommunications Relay Service providers to participate in the Telecommunications Service Priority (TSP) Program. Relay services are required for reliable and effective communications between persons with hearing and speech disabilities and emergency services and other persons. In the event of a disaster, all appropriate steps should be taken to make certain that service to Relay facilities is available.

As a result of hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and other natural or man-made disasters, telecommunications service providers (relay and others) may become overwhelmed with requests for new services and requests to repair existing services. The TSP Program provides service providers with an FCC mandate for prioritizing service requests. Those services that are critical in an emergency will receive highest priority. Relay companies must enroll with the TSP to receive a priority ranking. According to the FCC priority system, Relay Services will be repaired first in times of emergency if they are enrolled in the TSP.

Click here to view the FCC Press Release.


National Theatre of the Deaf to Perform on Sesame Street

HARTFORD, CT, – The National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD) recently announced that they will be filming scenes for the ever–popular children’s show, Sesame Street, in December, 2004.

This isn’t the first time that the National Theatre of the Deaf has appeared on Sesame Street. Former company member, Linda Bove, first appeared on the show in 1975.

Actors Colleen Foy, Ian Sanborn, Greg Anderson and Little Theatre of the Deaf (LTD) director Shanny Mow, and of our current LTD cast will be among the cast that will appear in four separate segments introducing the “Sign language Moment of the Day.” The scenes feature our cast with some well–known muppet friends like Elmo, Big Bird, Telly, and Zoe.

Founded in Connecticut in 1967, the National Theatre of the Deaf is the oldest continually producing and touring Deaf Theatre Company in the United States. It was the first theatre company to perform in all 50 states, has toured to all seven continents and in 32 countries. NTD’s professional acting company is made up of both Deaf and Hearing Artists working together as an ensemble. The audience sees and hears every word through the NTD’s signature performance style, which combines American Sign Language (ASL) and the spoken word. The unique double–sensory experience has expanded the boundaries of theatrical expression and is considered to be the only new art form to be developed in the 20th century.

Sesame Workshop was founded in 1968 as the Children’s Television Workshop. Identifying a specific need to help children from low–income families be prepared for school, the Workshop’s founders shared a common goal: to use television as a tool to help children learn. This group of visionary educators, researchers, psychologists, child development experts, artists, writers and musicians pioneered the concept of entertaining, enriching television that could measurably enhance the lives of millions of educationally disadvantaged youngsters. From this collaboration came Sesame Street – now one of the greatest educators of young children in the world.

Dr. Paul L. Winters, Executive Director of the NTD, is thrilled that the organization will be collaborating with such a well renown children’s show.

“The National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD) is most excited about working with Sesame Street in celebration of their 36th anniversary. NTD is celebrating its 37th year anniversary and what a perfect time for two “national treasures” to work together for one common mission – to entertain and educate children through the wonderful medium of theatre.”

The episode will be airing some time in April 2005.


Recycled TV Captions for Web streaming

Boston, MA. WGBH’s National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) Announces the availability of software which enables closed captions created for broadcast and video to migrate to the Web.

CaptionKeeper (TM) software automatically converts line–21 captions Created for television or video into Web-streaming formats. The software, now available for purchase, uses existing closed-caption data to create caption text suitable for live and/or archived multimedia presentations via RealPlayer, Windows Media Player and QuickTime Player formats.

Click here to see more...


President Signs Assistive Technology Act

Victory for Millions of People with Disabilities Who Strive for Independence

Click here to read the Press Release


Protein that Enables Hearing

According to an article on WebMD, researchers have discovered a protein that is involved in the process of hearing. This protein, named TRPA1, turns sound into nerve impulses the brain can understand. Researchers have been seeking such a protein for years. This recent discovery, by collaborators at several major universities, may lead to advances in hearing and deafness research.

See the entire article at MDWeb: http://content.health.msn.com/ content/article/95/103247.htm


New Study– Deaf/HH Patients & Medical Care

For health care to be effective, communication between clinicians and patients must be fluent and clear. Unfortunately, according to a new study, this presents a challenge to doctors and their patients who are deaf or hard of hearing.

In a Harvard study of 26 deaf or hard of hearing patients, a number of common themes were identified. The study participants reported insurance problems with audiology services, hearing aids, and prescription drugs. However, most of their complaints related to communication.

  • Doctors do not seem to understand hearing loss. Deaf people feel that doctors consider them less intelligent and unwilling to cooperate. Patients who are hard of hearing say doctors talk loudly, but show no sympathy or compassion.


  • A doctor’s idea of what makes for good communication is often not effective for deaf patients (ie. speech reading, a family translator, or hand written notes). Hard of hearing patients feel doctors talk too fast and hurry through check lists.


  • Patients reported specific problems of poor communication including misunderstood diagnosis, instructions, and information about drug side effects. When it is impossible to hear instructions during a medical test or procedure, there may be a need for it to be repeated, which can be costly (ie, holding one’s breath during an x–ray).


  • Problems related to communication with office staff, both in person and on the telephone were also reported.


The article stressed the high cost of these mistakes, both to the patient and the medical practitioner.

For a more complete summary of the research article Click Here.

To read suggestions for health care practitioners resulting from this study Click Here.


Americans with Disabilities Act Revised

The Access Board recently issued the revised design guidelines that cover access for people with disabilities under the ADA. According to Jan Tuck, Vice Chair of the Board, “These guidelines are our guarantee that when a building is built or renovated anywhere in the nation, its doors are wide open to our citizens with disabilities.” The revised ADA guidelines are the culmination of a comprehensive, ten–year–long review of the original ADAAG first published in 1991.

The goal of updating the guidelines was to make them more consistent with model building codes, to make them easier to comply with through a new format, and to keep pace with technological innovations.

The updates were based largely on recommendations from the ADAAG Review Advisory Committee and over 2,500 comments received from the public, including many from SHHH members, during an open comment period.

Click here to read more...


Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Emergency Preparedness

The first meeting of the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities took place on September 20, at the Department of Homeland Security. At the meeting, several senior government officials shared reports regarding significant new policy initiatives that will better integrate people with disabilities in the emergency preparedness effort.

President Bush established the Council by an Executive Order issued on July 22, 2004. The President expanded on his New Freedom Initiative, a series of policies designed to advance the interests of people with disabilities, by directing the federal government to address the safety and security needs of people with disabilities.

Click here to read more...


Michael Moore Meets Hearing Assistive Technology

Cindy Shapiro talking with Michael Moore. Photo by Gloria Ellis

Cindy Shapiro talking with Michael Moore.
Photo by Gloria Ellis

Traverse City: In a recent visit to Michigan, Michael Moore was encouraged to make his movies and public appearances more accessible to people with hearing loss. Cindy Shapiro, advocate and user of assistive technology, encouraged Moore to reach out to audiences who are deaf or hard of hearing by publicizing and providing hearing assistive technology, captionists, and interpreters. Shapiro’s directional noise–reducing microphone and FM system, shown in the photograph, made it possible to have the conversation, amidst the noisy crowd and traffic sounds.

At a recent speech by President Bush, an official staff person told Shapiro: “You should have come earlier if you wanted to get to the area where the interpreter is.” Shapiro did not hear the comment and was told of it by her husband. As is the case with many hard of hearing and late deafened adults, Shapiro prefers communication in her first language, English, thus assistive technology and captioning of spoken language are preferred. Shapiro was told that no assistive listening equipment was available for the President’s speech. Shapiro has found assistive listening equipment to be consistently lacking at political events, regardless of party. Some events provide a sign language interpreter.


Legislative Advocacy Success for Michigan’s 2005 Budget

Legislative advocacy does make a difference! While all the details are not yet finalized, it appears that two programs of concern to advocates for hearing loss related programs will receive funding in Michigan for the coming fiscal year. Michigan’s Community Health budget has been approved by the appropriations committees, and it appears likely that hearing aids for adults and the EDHI program will be funded.

EHDI Program Continues
Michigan’s Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program (EDHI) promotes testing of infants for hearing loss. This program saves thousands of dollars over the life of a child with hearing loss. Children with hearing loss, identified early, can receive support services during critical language development years. This program has been funded by Federal grants due to expire during 2005. Michigan’s legislature and governor, in recognizing the value of early detection and intervention, have chosen to continue funding the program through the “Healthy Michigan fund.”

Medicaid Hearing Aid Coverage
During this past fiscal year, working age adults and senior citizens were not eligible to obtain hearing aids under Michigan’s Medicaid program. The Federal government considers hearing aids for adults one of a group of “optional services.” Because of Michigan’s budget crisis, this group of optional services was discontinued. Michigan’s House and Senate have restored adult hearing aid services, for the fiscal year beginning October 1, with some restrictions. These restrictions, related to degree of hearing loss and frequency of replacements, will be determined shortly.

The Michigan Coalition for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People, Michigan Association for Deaf, Hearing and Speech Services, Michigan Academy of Audiologists and other advocacy groups have worked hard to inform legislatures and the Governor of the importance of these programs. This is a huge success and their efforts are greatly appreciated!


National Organizations Collaborate with TDI to File

Joint Petition for Rulemaking to FCC on Captioning Quality Issues

SILVER SPRING, MD: Responding to chronic problems with captioning on broadcast and cable television, a petition was filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Association of Late–Deafened Adults (ALDA), Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network (DHHCAN), National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Self–Help for the Hard of Hearing People (SHHH) have joined forces with TDI (Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc) to file the petition, asking that the FCC address long–standing quality issues in closed captioning of all broadcast, cable and satellite television programming for viewers who are deaf, hard of hearing or late–deafened.

On the heels of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990 was enacted fourteen years ago. This Act has inserted decoders into virtually every home in the country with TV sets 13” or larger. In addition, Section 713 of the Telecommunication Act of 1996 currently requires that 75% of all new programming be captioned, which will go up to 100% of all new programming in 2006.

Closed captioning is critical to deaf and hard of hearing individuals, both for personal safety, education, and with respect to quality of life. Individuals who rely on closed captioning in order to have access to video programming continue to experience numerous problems with the captioning quality. This has resulted in a lack of access to video programming that is contrary to the mandates of the Telecommunications Act. The FCC’s adoption of the captioning rules was the first step towards increasing the availability of captioned programming. However, it has become clear that additional enforcement mechanisms are required in order to ensure full implementation of the rules and to increase accountability for noncompliance with the rules. In addition, measures are needed to ensure that the occurrence of technical problems is minimized and to ensure that technical problems that do occur are remedied efficiently and expeditiously. The FCC also must adopt quality of service standards in order to ensure that video programming is fully accessible to all viewers who rely on captioning.

“When the FCC implemented the original captioning regulations, the purpose was to get captions on the TV screen. We now ask that the FCC expand on its commitment to monitor and enforce acceptable quality TV captioning”, says Claude Stout, Executive Director of TDI. Stout adds, “We also ask that the FCC ensure that timely communication and resolution on captioning issues occur by quickly working in concert with consumers, captioning providers, and program producers and distributors.”

“Deviation of accuracy and synchronization between the spoken word and captions presented on the screen is especially noticeable to people who once enjoyed sound”, comments Lois Maroney, President of the Association of Late–Deafened Adults, Inc. “It is frustrating to misinterpret important parts of television programs because captions are lacking in quality.”

“A TV program where the captioning is too riddled with errors to understand the action, or the captions are cut off in the final minutes so you never know what the ending was, shouldn’t be considered acceptable for meeting the captioning requirements,” said Cheryl Heppner, Vice Chair of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network. She adds, “We have seen programs that are virtually unreadable. Other programs have captioning dropped several minutes before the end of the show, leaving us hanging high and dry, wondering what happened at the end.”

“Captioning must be treated with the same respect as sound”, emphasized Nancy Bloch, CEO of National Association of the Deaf. She adds, “A viewer who can hear would never accept spoken words that are regularly unintelligible or missing and sound that suddenly stops. Nor would their attempts to call and inform the station of a problem be treated as having no sense of urgency.”

“As we approach the 100% benchmark, captioning quality issues are becoming more apparent”, says Brenda Battat, Senior Director of Policy and Development at Self Help for Hard of Hearing People. Ms. Battat also points out, “Some programs have been listed as being captioned in the newspaper, but this often turns out not to be the case. The petition aims to address those issues and more.”

On July 23, 2004, TDI filed a Petition for Rulemaking. We strongly encourage everyone who uses captioning when watching television to file comments in support of this petition with the FCC and ask them to improve captioning quality for all.

As part of the organizations’ ongoing efforts to promote more consumer involvement with the FCC and other government agencies, we encourage every television viewer who uses closed captioning to share their own personal experiences with the FCC. Since a docket number has not yet been assigned to our petition, you may either email your comments to fccinfo@fcc.gov or fax them to 1–866–418–0232. Be sure you tell the FCC you are talking about the Captioning Petition filed on July 23, 2004. When citing problems with quality of a program, be sure to include the following information: program, date(s) and times, channel (Use names like HBO, USA Network, not numbers.), city and state.

Please send a copy of your comments to your organization or to TDI at info@tdi-online.org or FAX 301–589–3797. When our petition receives a docket number, we will announce it as soon as it becomes available.

About TDI
Also known as Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc., TDI is a non–profit advocacy organization that promotes equal access to telecommunications and media for individuals who are deaf, late deafened, hard–of–hearing or deaf–blind. Since 1968, TDI has successfully advocated for federal legislation such as the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Television Decoder Circuitry Act, both of 1990, as well as other legislation and policies mandating greater access to wireless technology, captioning as well as other telecommunication and media technologies. TDI publishes annually, a National Directory & Resource Guide, commonly known as The Blue Book, a popular resource book for people with hearing loss, as well as The GA–SK quarterly news magazine. For more information about TDI, go to http://www.tdi-online.org


Maintaining Michigan’s Early Hearing Detection Program Needs

On August 25, John Berchtold, Director of Michigan Association for Deaf, Hearing, and Speech Services (MADHS), met with Representative Gary Newell to stress the importance of maintaining the Early Hearing Detection program in Michigan. Because of Michigan's current budget crisis all state funded programs are being considered for deep cuts. The Early Hearing Detection program strives to identify babies born with hearing loss before they even leave the hospital. The program is currently funded by grants. A major Federal grant expires in March. To continue the program, Michigan will need to replace these grant funds with $92,000.

After their meeting, Mr. Berchtold faxed Rep. Newell the following letter:

August 26, 2004

Representative Gary Newell N1191 House Office Building P.O. Box 30014 Lansing, MI 48909-7514


Dear Representative Newell:

Thank you for meeting with me yesterday. After our meeting, we met with representatives of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as part of the their review of the grant to the Michigan.

The CDC shared an interesting statistic: For every child that receives a early hearing intervention, where necessary, the cost of dollars saved to the government is approximately $35,000 per child. Assuming that a State program costs $400,000 (fully funded without grants), the payback is enormous. Only twelve babies with hearing loss would need to be detected each year to make up for the costs of this program.

I hope that the dollars can be found to maintain the full program components for fiscal year 05 ($92,000).

I will be pleased to provide additional information at your request.

Respectfully,

John D. Berchtold
Executive Director
Michigan Association for Deaf, Hearing, and Speech Services


Founder of SHHH is Mourned

Howard E. "Rocky" Stone, the founder of Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, died on August 13, after a brief illness. Rocky was 79 years old and is survived by his wife Ahme, four children, and ten grandchildren. For more about Rocky, his contributions to SHHH, his life and his funeral, please see the SHHH website at http://www.hearingloss.org.


Deaf Parents Received Extreme Home Makeover

Deaf parents and 2 sons (one blind and autistic) of Oak Park, Michigan received a surprise win to ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover. The Extreme Home Makeover completed the entire house renovations complete with high technology for safety and accessibility. Marlee Matlin was the surprise movie star guest showing up on the Vardons property for the last two days. Read all about them at the following links including a photo gallery.

Deaf CAN!'s Photo Gallery on Extreme Home Makeover Edition

City of Oak Park's Photo Gallery on Extreme Home Makeover Edition

MIKE WENDLAND: Oak Park home's TV makeover a gizmo-fest

Oak Parkers' home gets 'Extreme Makeover'

TV's 'Extreme Makeover' revamps Oak Park home

TV design team comes knocking in Oak Park


Emergency Systems Must include People with Hearing Loss

In honor of the fourteenth anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, President Bush met with people with disabilities, federal workers involved with homeland security, and Secretary Tom Ridge in the Oval Office. The President signed an executive order regarding emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.

The President realizes that individuals with disabilities, including people who are deaf or hard of hearing, may require special plans during times of emergency. This Executive Order emphasizes the importance of implementing emergency preparedness plans that accommodate individuals with disabilities. The Executive Order also establishes the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities. This council will help agencies, private individuals and organizations prepare for the unique needs of individuals with disabilities in their emergency preparedness planning.

For more information on the President’s New Freedom Initiative and a 2004 New Freedom Initiative progress report, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/newfreedom/.


Voters have Right to Assistance at Polls

Voters who are unable to vote independently may request assistance when voting. For example, if a person is deafblind and unable to read the ballot, another person may read the ballot and mark according to the voter’s wishes.

The following are guidelines poll workers must follow. If you need help at the polls or will assist someone else, this is important to know.

  • Voters may ask for assistance from poll workers without stating the reason why they need assistance.


  • If the voter requests assistance from the poll workers, the needed help must be provided by two poll workers who have expressed an affiliation with different political parties.


  • Voters who are blind, disabled, or unable to read or write may be assisted by any person designated by the voter––except that the person providing the assistance may not be the voter’s employer or an agent of the employer, nor the representative of a union to which the voter belongs.


  • When a voter designates an individual to provide assistance, poll workers must ask the voter why they are requesting assistance and must question the person providing the assistance about their qualifications to provide the assistance.


  • When voters ask for assistance, poll workers must make a complete record of the matter in the "remarks" section of the Poll Book.



Ruling Expands Movie Captioning

According to a May 7 article in the Chicago Tribune, deaf and hard of hearing movie goers will have access to more captioned movies in the near future.

John Stanton, a Washington attorney who is deaf, along with two other deaf moviegoers, filed a lawsuit against AMC Theaters and Loews Cineplex. In a settlement approved by a federal judge, the theater chains agreed to install captioning devices in many of the Washington D.C. area theaters. Captioning systems will be built into at least one screen in all new theaters built in the D.C. region.

According to U. S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, who approved the settlement, even though this ruling only applies to Washington D.C. it “will set the standard for what other communities, at a very minimum, should be offering.”

Going beyond the requirements of the settlement, AMC has agreed to install Rear Window Captioning equipment in all its new theater complexes and to install the equipment in at least one theater in each of its 210 complexes nationwide.

According to the Coalition for Move Captioning (CMC):

“Rear Window Captioning™ (RWC) - This process uses an LED text display mounted at the rear of the theater for display of captions timed to match the audio portion of the film. Only those viewers who have a transparent acrylic panel at their seats see these captions. This system also has the ability to provide video description for visually-impaired viewers.” (Coalition for Movie Captioning)

The Coalition for Movie Captioning has not been in favor of the settlement as proposed in February. Click here for press release regarding CMC's concerns.

For more information see:

Proposed Settlement discussion on National Association for the Deaf website.

Text of Proposed Settlement


Medicaid Payment for Hearing Aids Needs Under Debate

On Friday, May 7th, the Michigan House Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Health will consider Senate Bill 1063. This bill would restore Medicaid funding for hearing aids in Michigan.

As of October 1, 2003, hearings aids are no longer a benefit for Michigan's low income adults. (See previous article) It was hoped that the Governor's budget for 2005 would restore this vital benefit.

Earlier this month, the Health Committee of the House Appropriations Committee heard a presentation by the Community Health Director regarding the Governor's proposed Community Health Budget for 2005. This budget DOES NOT include hearing aid coverage for Medicaid recipients. The Senate, however, has voted to include funding for hearing aids.

For people with hearing loss, hearing aids may make the difference between work and unemployment. Communication is vital in today's employment sector. Poor hearing can interfere with accurate communication, jeopardizing employment. Many working people live below Michigan's poverty limits and qualify for Medicaid benefits. These workers, and the many unemployed people seeking employment, are unable to afford hearing aids without Medicaid support.

It's not too late, and you can help! Consider one of the following actions to voice your concerns. (Facts at the end of this article may be included in your statement.)

  • E-mail Representative Newell, Chair of the Health Committee of the Appropriations Committee of the State House to indicate that you favor restoration of funding for hearing aids. His email address is: repgarynewell@house.mi.gov


  • Write a letter or call Rep. Newell, House of Representatives, P.O.Box30014, Lansing, MI 48909-7514, or call him at 517-373-0842.


  • Attend and make public comment at the hearing on Friday, May 7, 2004, at 9:00 AM. The meeting is in the House Appropriations Committee Room on the 3rd floor at the Capital in Lansing.


If you need an accommodation to participate in the hearing contact the Community Health Committee clerk: Bill Fairgrieve (517) 373-8080.

Individuals providing written testimony must supply a minimum of 30 copies for distribution.

Along with personal testimony, you may also wish to include the following facts about hearing loss in your communication.

Facts about hearing loss

  • Michigan has approximately 1 million people who have a hearing loss. About 30% of those people cannot afford hearing aids. (Facts on Hearing Loss - 2003)


  • 60% of people with hearing loss are between the ages of 21 and 65 and thus, are still of working age. (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders web site)


  • There are more baby boomers aged 45-64 with a hearing loss (10 million) than there are people over the age of 65 with a hearing loss (9 million).


  • Persons experiencing severe to profound hearing loss before retirement are expected to earn only 50-70% of their hearing peers and lose between $220,000 and $440,000 in earnings over their working life. (Project HOPE - 2000)


  • People who have lower incomes and who have 12 or fewer years of education have a higher incidence of hearing loss. (National Center for Health Statistics - 1994)


  • Approximately one third of adults with hearing loss rely on some form of governmental assistance. (Siegel, 2000)



"Silence No More Rally" Supports Captioning

Silver Spring, MD --- The "Silence No More!" rally, led by the Gallaudet University Student Body Government (SBG), will protest the lack of captioning in the United States.

The rally slated for April 16, has gained the support of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). "This is a time for fellow deaf and hard of hearing Americans to gather and speak out on an issue dear to us, captioning as a form of communication access," said Andrew J. Lange, NAD president.

The rally will point to the absence of captioning in various areas such as emergency captioning, movie theatre captioning, airport visual captioning, in-flight movie captioning, train and transit captioning, television programming captioning, and more.

"It has been 14 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed and we have yet to see widespread adoption of captioning as the standard accessibility package provided by our nation's facilities" said Kelby Brick, Director of the NAD Law and Advocacy Center.

More information about the rally can be found at http://sbg.gallaudet.edu/news.htm
Please check the SBG website again later for more rally details.


Audio Descriptions and Open Captions– Making Movies more Accessible

New digital technology is expanding movie access for people who have vision or hearing disabilities.

Until recently, only a limited number of film copies were distributed with captioning printed on the film. As a result, only a few theatres were able to show captioned films. Captions provide a text description of the spoken dialogue and sound effects.

Digital Theatre Systems (DTS) has developed (and thoroughly tested) a new system (DTS–CSS) that not only captions but also provides audio descriptions of movies designed to work with the system. According to a DTS press release: ”In 2003, every major commercial release was made available with DTS–CSS, including Matrix Revolutions, Love Actually, Master and Commander, Finding Nemo, and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.„

According to another DTS press release:

”What the DTS–CSS system does is project the captions onto the screen, using a small video projector, which enables the cinema to use a standard release print for captioned shows. To run a showing with captions, a DTS–CSS equipped screen simply needs to turn the system on.„

Audio Description makes movies more accessible for people who are blind or partially–sighted. Narration describes the action and other visual aspects of the movie in between the dialogue and is relayed to the audience via infrared headsets. Characters and body language are described and visual jokes are explained. The open–back design of the headphones enables the user to hear the movie soundtrack without disturbing others in the theatre.

Emagine Entertainment in Novi, Michigan will be implementing this new technology in March. For more information see:

Digital Theatre Systems Press Releases

Emagine Entertainment website


Hearing Aid Compatibility For Mobile Phones– SHHH Urges FCC To Keep Rule

Bethesda, Maryland, March 22, 2004: SHHH submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today, together with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Telecommunications for the Deaf Inc. (TDI) in Response to the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association’s (CTIA) Request for Reconsideration of the Hearing Aid Compatibility Rule. CTIA is fighting regulations that would work, over a period of time, toward enabling six million hearing aid wearers to use digital wireless phones.

Brenda Battat, director of public policy for SHHH stated, “Digital wireless phones are mainstream devices and people who use hearing aids and cochlear implants must have full access to them.”

The FCC partially lifted the exemption for digital mobile phones from the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1989 in August 2003. The final rule requires that companies have two hearing–aid–compatible phones available in two years, and handsets accessible to telecoil users in three years.

SHHH has advocated, over a period of eight years, to revoke the exemption for mobile phones from the HAC Act. Their first petition was filed with the FCC in 1995 to request access to mobile phones for hearing aid and cochlear implant users. The handset manufacturers are seeking solutions to implement the rule and have said they are confident they will make the implementation deadline. CTIA’s request for reconsideration only delays those efforts.

There is still time for consumers to weigh in with the FCC. Let them know how important it is for you to be able to use mobile phones in your everyday lives. The deadline for commenting is March 29, 2004. Comments (Reference Docket number 01–309) may be filed electronically at http://gullfoss2.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/upload_v2.cgi. To view SHHH comments go to http://www.hearingloss.org/


ADA Notification Act May Limit ADA

According to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the ADA Notification Act (HB 728) endangers disability rights. This bill would complicate and limit legal action against places of public accommodation that discriminate against people with disabilities. (Public places of accommodation include hospitals, airports, restaurants, lawyer’s offices, sport events, etc.)

The bill states that a person who believes they have been discriminated against must first provide written notice to the public place of accommodation, allowing 90 days to resolve the situation before a formal complaint is filed. This notification must be in person or by registered mail.

The NAD provides this example:

“Suppose you ended up in a hospital and required emergency surgery. The hospital would not have to provide you with an interpreter to explain why you needed surgery and give you options so you can make a decision. If you felt that an interpreter was necessary, you would have to send a letter to the hospital after the surgery explaining your situation. The hospital could then say “OOPS! Sorry! We won’t do it again.” Suppose your friend had a similar experience at the hospital six months later, the hospital can do the same thing all over again.
“Another example: Suppose you went on a vacation 3,000 miles away to visit a special museum and you needed assistive technology to help you understand the exhibits, perhaps an amplifier, loop system, or captioning. If they do not provide assistive technology, the only thing you could do is to write a letter to the museum and explain the situation. If the Museum decides to do the right thing and install appropriate equipment, that equipment would not help you because you have already returned back home and will probably not be flying out to that location again. You’ve missed a special exhibit, thanks to the ADA Notification Act.” (See the full article by Kelby N. Brick, Esq.)

This bill is based on the assumption that places of public accommodation do not know about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and deserve time to improve the situation after being notified by a citizen. This would create a rare instance were “I didn’t know it was against the law” becomes a valid legal defense. Considering the ADA has been a law for 14+ years, disability rights groups feel this is ridiculous. As Kelby Brick explains:

“Suppose you were caught stealing a car. Could you tell the Judge, ‘Your honor, I didn’t know that stealing a car was illegal, I’m sorry. I’ve learned something new. I promise I won’t do it again.?”

Of course, this would never be permitted, yet this thinking is the basis of the ADA Notification Act.

This bill was introduced to Congress in the past. Heavy pressure from consumer groups (disability rights activists and the NAD) was successful in getting the bill dropped. In 2003, Congressman Bill Foley of Florida reintroduced the bill. HR 728 is currently under consideration in the House Subcommittee on the Constitution. This is still an active bill that has recently gained support of the National Restaurants Association.

What can you do? (click these one of links below)

Read the bill House Bill 728

See what the NAD has to say about this act.

Visit ADA Watch and sign a petition.

Read who is supporting this bill. Is your representative listed?

Write to the your representative. Click here and complete the form.


Update on the Hearing Aid Tax Credit

The Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit Act is the Senate version of H.R. 3103 (See our previous article). The bills are very similar, both providing a tax credit for individuals over 55 and for dependent children. The credit will be for $500 per aid, every five years. Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH) is a strong supporter for these bills. They have prepared a document to fully explain the provisions of these bills. Click here to download a PDF file prepared by SHHH.
Click here to visit the SHHH website.


Caption TV Funding Cuts

February 24, 2004

According to an Associated Press article, “the U.S. Education Department has cut the money for captioning nearly 200 TV programs.” The government based this decision on a 1997 mandate from Congress that only requires the captioning of “educational, news and informational” programming.

The National Association of the Deaf website explains:

“For many years, the U.S. Department of Education has provided competitive grant awards for closed captioning of broadcast programming to captioning agencies. Those agencies were required to create Consumer Advisory Boards (CABs) and other feedback mechanisms that assist in selecting “educational, news or informational” programs for captioning. Those mechanisms were approved by the Department and were fair because it allowed consumers to decide what was appropriate.

Apparently the Department did not like some of those selections, which included numerous documentaries and certain other types of programming. Accordingly, the Department is overriding the CABs to censor access to certain television programs for 28 million deaf and hard of hearing people. To date, nobody outside the Department knows the criteria being used to reach those decisions-and the Department isn’t talking.”

Cable networks and PBS will see the most cuts. Major networks (such as ABC, CBS, and NBC) or the show’s producer, pay for captioning prime–time programs. It should be noted that the Telecommunication Reform Act of 1996 requires 100% of TV programming to be captioned by 2006 (with some exemptions), so these cuts may have a temporary effect.

For more information on the cuts to television captioning and what you can do about it, see the following:

NAD Update on Captioning Censorship

National Council on Disability Statement on Captioning for Television Programs

Reassurance from the FCC & Dept. of Education regarding Captioning Plans

FCC Consumer Fact Sheet on Closed Captions


Interpretype: A New Communication Solution?

Using the tag line, “The Conversation Piece”, Interpretype is described as, “an interactive communication device that provides a means of communicating without using speech.” The compact device includes two laptop–type keyboard units that communicate with each other via cable. The screen is small to permit visual communication between both users. The manufacturers suggest the use of Interpretype in any setting where there is need to communicate between deaf and hearing people. The manufacturers recommend the device as an auxillary aid in meeting ADA requirements. All the ads and materials focus on being ‘Deaf–friendly.’ In fact, Interpretype comes with a handbook entitled, “Creating a Deaf–friendly Workplace.”

Photo of Interpretype Devices

Photo of Interpretype devices

Will Interpretype be the wave of the future, used in restaurants, banks, and offices? Visit the Interpretype web site and see what you think?

Editor’s note: This article is provided for information only and is not intended as an endorsement of this product.

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