Sound Advice by Ruth D. Bernstein
On Sunday, June 17, 2018, I attended Lincoln Square Synagogue’s (LSS) 54th Annual Dinner. For the very first time, the event had CART and an audio loop, proof that a squeaky wheel gets greased – or in this case hearing accommodations!
Getting the process rolling
A dear friend and her daughter were amongst the honorees. I decided I would not attend and pay what I consider a large amount of money for a dinner ticket unless the event was accessible. With the support and advice of my honoree friend, I introduced the dinner Chair to Lauren Schechter of Total Caption. Lauren supplied a CART operator. I hand delivered the portable audio loop HLAA-NYC was kind enough to lend LSS a few weeks before the event.
The dinner was a hearing accessible success! Six large screens were set up, three evenly spaced on either side of the ballroom, so the 500-plus attendees could see the presentations, the captioned videos of the honorees, the CART transcription and Journal ads.
Art of persistence
The audio loop was a bit of a challenge, but it finally worked.
It’s a six-block walk from my building to the synagogue. I arrived at the ballroom at 12:15 p.m. to meet the AV staff as the synagogue’s Executive Director requested. When they came 15 minutes later, John, the person in charge, told me they had a lot of work to do. He would text me in about an hour. I had a manicure across the street, went home and ate lunch.
The dinner was scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. When I hadn’t heard from John by 3:30 p.m. I sent him a text. He didn’t answer. I walked back to the synagogue and down the three flights to the ballroom. After I waited a bit, entertaining myself by reading a chapter in The President is Missing by President Clinton and John Patterson (a good read!), John and I went to get the loop from the Executive Director’s office on the first floor. We returned to the ballroom and John tried setting up the loop. By 4:30 p.m. it still wasn’t working.
John wanted to know which table I was sitting at. There was no one available to answer the question. I finally figured it out when I went upstairs and got the number from the place cards set up on a table in the lobby on the first floor. When I returned to the ballroom, I discovered that, despite my request the table be near a wall so the loop could be put down easily, table 23 was one row of tables away from the wall. I switched table numbers with the adjacent table (22 and 23) and left John to do his work.
I rushed home, put my makeup on, changed into party clothes and arranged to meet and walk with an elderly friend, who appreciates an escort, at 5:45 p.m. instead of 5:15 p.m., as we had originally planned. When we arrived at the synagogue, my friend went upstairs to enjoy the cocktail hour on the outdoor terrace. I headed back downstairs to the ballroom to try the loop. John had set it up so it ran along the wall.
The only way I could hear is if I stood with my ear against the wall. I suggested they lay the loop around the periphery of the table. While they were doing that, I took the elevator to the terrace buffet and had a hot dog, one of my favorite summer treats.
My friend and I went down to the ballroom early to beat the crowds on the elevator. When we were settled in our seats at table 23, I tested the loop. I could hear! Although no one else used the loop because the dinner committee chose not to publicize it, I had made my point. CART and an audio loop are necessary when you have a major event. I’m hopeful, after this, the synagogue will become a more hearing-friendly and accessible community.
Advocacy is good for your health!
In addition to greasing the squeaky wheel by successfully arranging for hearing access at the LSS dinner, there was an unexpected bonus. My iWatch, which tracks my daily physical activity, reported I walked 5.5 miles and did my exercise for the day on the stairs of the synagogue.
Have you had any access successes? Please share them with us. And check out my related post Speak Up, Please on the importance of asking for the accommodations we need.
Ruth D. Bernstein