Sound Advice by Ruth D. Bernstein
The new year, an easier and healthier one I hope, has arrived. Despite the pandemic, I have been busy with many activities as part of my role as a Hearing Access Ambassador.
As an Ambassador, I know that asking for help is a good thing because I get access to the activities I enjoy. For many people, asking for help is very difficult because they are embarrassed and/or afraid to reveal their hearing loss. I have been fortunate because, in the early years of my hearing loss, I was part of a CHC support group for working people. There I learned how, when and why to ask for help, skills I continue to practice to this day.
Rabbi Brian Mayer of Portland, Oregon, recently wrote an article about asking for help. He says, ”Asking for help—contrary to how it might feel—is not a sign of weakness. Asking for help, in fact, is the opposite of weakness. Asking for help is a vulnerable thing to do; it is an admission that we are not enough. And we all need a little help from time to time.” Click here to read the complete article.
Advocating for the needs of people with hearing loss
Volunteering at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before the pandemic, I distributed and collected the assistive devices that make gallery tours hearing accessible. I look forward to the time when volunteers can return to the museum. Meanwhile, I participate in special programs at the Met, including gallery tours, which are captioned in response to my request. I participate in Zoom meetings, all of which have some form of captioning: as a Board member of the Hearing Loss Association of America NYC Chapter (HLAA NYC), the Museum Art and Culture Access Consortium Steering Committee (MAC) and the NY Public Library Outreach Committee, events which allow me to represent and advocate for the needs of people who need hearing access.
I enjoy following my own advice about being a Hearing Access Ambassador. A holiday column I wrote in 2018, Hearing Access Advocacy: The Gift That Keeps On Giving, gathers my pearls of wisdom on this subject. Recently, I persuaded the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., to provide CART for their Zoom talk “The Art of Looking,” which was a real treat. Since the pandemic began, I have been attending Zoom Sabbath Services with Rabbi Brian. I’ve been using the Otter app to transcribe the service because Zoom does not provide transcription as Google Meet does. Recently, Rev introduced AI transcription. When I shared that information with the Rabbi, he promptly installed the system, as did my own synagogue, for their Zoom presentations. This is a personal advocacy achievement for me because I have been asking for transcription of the talks at Lincoln Square Synagogue for years. It is also a positive move that grew out of the Covid-19 pandemic, when everyone switched from in-person gatherings to online meetings.
Join me in speaking up for access
Because I know how hard it is for people to speak up and ask for access, I’ve often thought about creating a courage/chutzpah pill that would allow them to request what they need to fully participate in the world. (Pill ingredient suggestions are gratefully accepted.) Although I haven’t found the right formula yet, I hope you will join me in becoming a Hearing Access Ambassador in 2021 by asking for the accommodations you need, whenever and wherever you need them. It is a soul-satisfying experience that helps you and the entire hearing loss community.
I’m available to answer your questions about how to do this and/or provide support. Contact me at email@example.com.
Best wishes for a healthy, happy and productive 2021!
Ruth D. Bernstein
Hearing Access Ambassador