HLAA recognizes communication access advocates
Hearing access advocate and HLAA-NYC Board member, Ruth Bernstein, was among the honorees at the 2019 HLAA Convention, June 22 in Rochester. Ruth’s Spirit of HLAA Award was a well-deserved honor for a veteran advocate known not only for her fierce commitment to change, but her thoughtful manner and gentle voice.
Ruth taught so many of us at CHC what communication access truly means and the tireless work that still needs to be done to achieve our shared vision of communication without limits for people with hearing loss. We’re grateful for your friendship, Ruth, and look forward to all the lessons yet to come.
We applaud HLAA’s entire roster of honorees this year, including Jerry Bergman, recipient of the Marcia Dugan Advocacy Award. Jerry has been a driving force behind the growing availability of hearing loops and real-time captioning in diverse venues throughout New York City, New York State and across the country. As an advisor to cultural organizations, including the Metropolitan Opera, Jerry has helped make the arts in NYC accessible to people with hearing loss. We’re grateful for your incredible work and all the contributions of HLAA’s 2019 HLAA Award recipients.
HLAA’s Katherine Bouton presents Spirit of HLAA Award
HLAA-NYC President and a member of the national Board of Trustees of HLAA, Katherine Bouton, presented the Spirit of HLAA Award to Ruth, offering these comments:
Ruth Bernstein is the embodiment of the Spirit of HLAA Award—an advocate, an educator, and a mentor with a generous heart, a tireless spirit, and a wonderful sense of humor. “Don’t talk till you see the whites of my eyes,” she is fond of telling people.
Ruth is also a mother, a grandmother, an artist, a volunteer gardener, and can regularly be found handing out assistive-listening devices—and advice!—as a volunteer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Ruth has been the mentor to many of us in the New York City Chapter. She takes new members who want to become more active under her wing and shows them the advocacy ropes and the value of developing positive relationships when asking for accommodation. She teaches, encourages, and provides a welcoming presence for newcomers. She counsels people new to hearing loss about what to expect and encourages those further along in their journey to take advantage of all the technology available. She shares tips for handling awkward situations with humor and persuades by showing as well as telling.
Ruth is a gracious but persevering advocate who has accomplished much in New York City. She was on the original team that worked with the Theater Development Fund to get CART performances of Broadway shows in New York and London. She was on a panel to test out SONY’s captioned eyeglasses a few years ago, and more recently served on another panel to evaluate the Gala Pro iPhone technology for Broadway shows. People with hearing loss can enjoy the audio tours and gallery lectures in museums ranging from the Metropolitan Museum to the Intrepid, thanks to Ruth. She persuaded museums throughout the city to provide hearing assistive devices. Respect for her work led to her appointment to the New York City Museum Access Consortium.
Ruth is an educator to her core. She co-chairs our speakers’ Bureau and does outreach presentations at senior centers, admitting with a twinkle in her eye that she loves doing it because she is a bit of a ham. She also teaches informally, finding every mention of hearing loss an opportunity. She responds to or comments on every article about hearing loss she sees in print or on the web, using each one as an opening to add some important point not covered by the writer. Ruth always asks for CART, whether for a grandson’s graduation, an award for herself, or a lecture for subscribers to the New York Philharmonic. She knows that not only will she understand what is going on, but she will also be educating the administration about the possibilities for inclusion and showing the audience a technology that makes it possible for them to understand every word.
Ruth Bernstein lives the Spirit of HLAA every day. We can’t think of a worthier recipient of this award.
Ruth Bernstein’s acceptance speech
The following is Ruth Bernstein’s acceptance speech:
Thank you, Katherine Bouton, for your kind words and this award and thank YOU for everything you do for HLAA.
Congratulations to HLAA on its 40th Birthday. I’ve benefited from being a member since the beginning. Thank you to my family, friends, HLAA-NYC members and friends and the professionals who have supported me all these years for making this day possible.
I wrote a brief speech at home and realized I had a different story to tell when I was greeted on the Hyatt elevator the day I arrived by Art Wetstein and Catherine O’ Shea of Flemington, NJ, who said: “We know you! You gave a very interesting talk about traveling when you have a hearing loss to our HLAA Chapter.” I was happy they remembered my speech, which I gave several years ago, and delighted they found my suggestion to ask for the accommodations they need, in advance, helpful. That is when I decided to change what I was going to say.
In the Spirit of HLAA, I encourage everyone to follow the Jewish concept that informs my life, Tikun Olam, Repairing the World, by asking for hearing access as often as possible. You help yourselves and a lot of other people by doing that. Thank you!