|Thursday, May 31, 2001 |
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DEPARTMENT INTRODUCES ASSISTIVE LISTENING SYSTEM
FOR THE HEARING IMPAIRED
MADISON – In recognition of Better Speech and Hearing Month, the state agency that oversees helping people with disabilities become employed has activated an Assistive Listening System to improve communications for hearing impaired staff and visitors.
The Department of Workforce Development (DWD), as an important part of its mission to promote workplace accessibility and diversity, was the first state agency to install special Assistive Listening equipment in main presentation and training rooms in the GEF-1 building in Madison.
"The department is proud to be able to demonstrate the use of Assistive Listening Devices and Sound Field Systems equipment sensitive to the needs of people with hearing impairments," said secretary Jennifer Reinert. "Bringing sound closer to the individual enhances communication and better enables participation by hard of hearing staff and the public."
In consideration of guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, requiring workplace accommodations for people with disabilities, DWD installed audio amplification aids in several acoustically balanced rooms during renovations of the GEF-1 building.
A speaker uses or wears a portable or lavaliere microphone, and through an FM transmitter, sound waves are sent to twenty specially placed speakers (Sound Field Systems). Used alone, this equipment amplifies sound evenly for all listeners; however, upon special accommodation requests, meeting attendees can also use Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) to bring sound sources closer.
Examples of ALDs are ear buds worn in the outer ear canal or neck loops that work with hearing aid telecoils (or "t-coils") to pick up electronic flux sound waves. By providing a direct link between the listener and the audio source, the aids reduce background noise, provide sound clarity, and amplify only the sounds the listener wants to hear.
The devices were recommended by the department’s health and safety officer who received an award from the Wisconsin chapter of SHHH (Self Help for Hard of Hearing People), for recognizing that energy-conserving sonic light sensors should not interfere with hearing aids. The department worked with a contractor to install the extremely low-cost equipment for less than a few thousand dollars.
Approximately eleven percent of the U.S. population is hearing impaired. Assistive Listening Systems (ALS) help those individuals hear speech and other sounds better in theaters, lecture halls, stadiums, and other large enclosures.
The Department of Workforce Development also revamped its TTY (Teletypewriter) system five months ago, to provide the deaf community with telecommunications services equivalent to those of the hearing population, and to make handling of TTY calls by DWD staff much easier. With DWD’s new TTY system, employees answer calls coming in through a central modem connected to personal computer screens.
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