What an awesome win for Arizona! Besides it being the state’s birthday this month, we have quite a bit to celebrate. We are proud to announce that our legislature has officially become the first in the nation to offer closed captioning services for all of it’s committee and floor meetings in either chamber. This is great news for the 1.1 million Arizonians currently living with a hearing loss, as governmental processes in our state just got a whole lot more inclusive.
The Arizona Legislature has a pretty good reputation when it comes to accommodating those who are deaf or have a hearing impairment. Last year, the legislature installed hearing loop technology throughout the Capitol. At the time, Arizona was only the second state legislature in the nation to make this upgrade to their buildings. Hearing loop technology allows hearing aid and cochlear implant users to receive sounds directly into their hearing aids, rather than trying to hear through the echo of a large room. Representative Lela Alston has a hearing loss and reportedly almost cried when the hearing loop technology was unveiled last year. She says of time before the loops, “I was hesitate to speak out often because I could not hear what my colleagues were saying… Having this looping system has allowed me, as a member of the Legislature, to fully participate.” Because of the hearing loops, an elective representative was able to better serve her constituents. How great is that?
While beneficial, hearing loops don’t solve the problem for all people with hearing loss, for example, those who do not wear hearing aids, or are deaf.
Unlike hearing loops that transmit sounds to hearing devices, closed captioning allows listeners to read the conversations, in real time, as they are happening. It’s easy to see how this support would benefit everyone with a hearing loss, but especially those who cannot hear at all and rely on sign language or lip reading, or those who have very minimal hearing. Implementing the closed captioning services had almost unanimous and bipartisan support from members of both the House and the Senate.
The new service is also getting support from local advocates of hearing impaired rights. Sherri Collins, the director of the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing said of the new systems, “We are the state of the art on accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing.” She also noted that people with hearing loss can now be a more active part of the democratic processes happening in our state.
As mentioned earlier, the live captioning assistance will be available for all committee and floor meeting in both the state House and the state Senate. If you or someone you love would be interested in using this service, you must simply request it on the legislative website here: https://www.azleg.gov/emailazcdhh/. Please note, the legislature does currently require at least 24 hours advance notice in order to provide the service.
No matter your political views, it’s easy to agree that our state legislature is doing pretty well when it comes to the rights of those in the deaf and hearing-impaired community. In just one year, we have been the second in the nation to provide hearing loops and the first in the nation to provide live text streaming! Nice work, Arizona!
Although things are getting better and practices throughout the country are becoming more inclusive, it is still important to check your hearing at least once a year. Even if you haven’t noticed any changes in your hearing, annual checks are advised after the age of 55. This way, you and your audiologist can track your baseline, and will be able to quickly see if there has been any loss in your hearing from year to year. This will be extremely handy, since most people who don’t get regular checks wait an average of seven years from the time they notice changes in their hearing to the time they seek treatment. Reach out to our friendly team today. We look forward to working with you.