Volume 36 Issue #4 Fall
Association of Late Deafened Adults
FALL 2020 Newsletter
Volume 36 Issue 4
In His Own Words…
President’s Letter – Oct. 2020
This is my last column as President of ALDA. To say that it was two years of unexpected events would be an understatement. Who could have predicted that a virus would scour the earth, leaving physical, social, and economic devastation in its wake? As you know, we in ALDA did not escape its wrath. Our ALDACon had to be postponed until October of 2021. We were able to get the same place and at about the same time of the year, at the same price. But we also found out something about us—something I think all of us already knew. We are resilient. We found ways to stay in touch, ways to have virtual meetings and ways to move forward. I don’t know about you, but I predict that we are going to be so grateful to be together next October. We will never take our meeting together for granted. And we are going to have a wonderful ALDACon 2021 because of it—the best ever! I hope you can join us.
When I decided to run for ALDA President two years ago, I had several goals in mind: increase membership, expand our volunteer base, discover new leaders with bold ideas, find new ways to raise funds for our endeavors, and cement our footprint in hearing loss advocacy. I’m happy to say that we have made inroads on all of our goals. Our membership is growing, ALDAN’s are volunteering for committees and running for office, and we have more funding to work with. The ALDA name is also becoming familiar to our regulatory agencies, our consumer advocacy groups, and our courts of law.
Our new Social Media Committee has raised awareness of ALDA which has resulted in new members. We have all kinds of people becoming involved. I would name names, but there are so many and I fear I would leave someone out if I did. So, just take it from me that they are out there and involved, and I thank them for their time and effort. ALDA continues to raise funds which enables the organization to spend and offer captioning and ASL interpretation of virtual get togethers as we have been having. We are becoming a fixture before the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and federal and state agencies. We are very aware that Zoom is not offering anything close to captioning—no Automatic Speech Recognition software, for example. We are hoping to do something about it soon. So, yes, ALDA is very much alive and very much involved, but our work is an ongoing challenge.
I hope that the next board continues to work on growing membership. There are initiatives to raise revenues for outreach projects that we want to explore, and we must continue to fight for our rights under the law, even if people would rather we just remain quiet and stay in our cocoon. If you aren’t already volunteering, please consider doing so! Our election for our next board is ongoing right now. Become informed and vote!
Also, our annual meeting is set for November 17th. It will be virtual of course, and we want you to attend! We will be sending you an email blast so that you have all the information you will need.
Until then I bid you adieu and if I don’t see you at the meeting on November 17, I hope to see you in Niagara Falls in 2021!
ALDA 2020 Board of Directors
President: Rick Brown
Past President: Sharaine Rawlinson Roberts
Vice President: Cynthia Moynihan
Secretary: Tina Childress
Treasurer: Matt Ferrara
Region 1: Laura Sinclair
Region 2: Diane McDonagh
Region 3: Debbe Hagner
Region 4: Michelle Yook
John Waldo, Esq
ALDA Advocacy –
In the last newsletter, I reported on exciting cases in Seattle in which the plaintiffs argue that the almost universal exclusion in health insurance policies for hearing aids and examinations violates the non-discrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA aka Obamacare). Here’s an update.
The trial courts initially dismissed those cases ruling that because the exclusion applies to everybody, not just to people whose hearing loss would qualify as a disability, there is no discrimination. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with that ruling based on the information in the original complaints, but directed the trial courts to give the plaintiffs another chance to show that excluding coverage for hearing aids mostly impacts people with a disability. Check out the link here: https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2020/07/14/18-35846.pdf
I’m pleased to report that the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Eleanor (Ele) Hamburger and Rick Spoonemore, have added me to the team, essentially as a subject-matter specialist on hearing loss. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working on amended complaints aimed at following the directives of the Court of Appeals.
There are actually two separate cases, one involving Regence and one involving Kaiser. What we’re asking for in both cases is an order that Regence and Kaiser provide coverage in the future for hearing aids and exams and that they reimburse people insured by those companies for the costs they have personally incurred.
The ACA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, and defines disability by referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA, in turn, defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individuals. I think the italicized language is really important, because it places the focus specifically on how the individuals in question live their lives. “Major life activities” include hearing, communicating and working. Also, the existence of a disability is to be assessed without regard to “mitigating measures,” including hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Our principal plaintiffs unquestionably qualify as people with disabilities. One is a bilingual attorney who states that she could not practice law, hear over the telephone, speak Spanish or hear her children without her hearing aids. Another is an adoption counselor who does most of her work over the telephone and encounters the same obstacles. One is a nine-year-old girl who needs her hearing aid to succeed in school, and another is that girl’s mother, who needs a hearing aid to communicate with her daughter. We’re seeking class-action status, and we believe the experiences of our named plaintiffs are very common.
We are arguing that almost nobody gets a hearing aid, and probably not even a hearing test from an audiologist, until they personally encounter some limitations on their own abilities to hear, to communicate or to work. Whether or not the hearing aids adequately address those obstacles is not the issue. What is important is not what people are able to do with their hearing aids, but what they are unable to do without them.
On the other hand, we also know that quite a few people with hearing loss believe that their hearing is adequate for the lives they live, and do nothing about their losses. Under the relevant definitions, they would not be people with disabilities despite their hearing loss because they are not experiencing obstacles to their lives that they find meaningful.
I found some interesting data to support our argument. As many of us know, doctors at Johns Hopkins University looked at the actual audiograms of a large sample of randomly selected people and determined that an estimated 48 million Americans 18 and over have a hearing loss of a degree that interferes with their ability to understand speech.
When people are asked about their own hearing, the results are quite a bit different. Based on detailed questionnaires, the Census Bureau found that only 18.5 million people admit to any degree of hearing loss, and fewer than half of those people wear hearing aids. (Not surprisingly, hearing aid usage is much greater by people 65 and over than by younger people).
The Ninth Circuit also noted that the insurers in question do provide coverage for cochlear implants. The court said that if coverage for CIs meets most of the needs of most people with hearing impairments, then the exclusion for hearing aids might be acceptable. Again, it gave us the opportunity to address that question. While the numbers are somewhat dated, it appears that as of 2012, fewer than 100,000 Americans had Cis, a negligible proportion of people who acknowledge their hearing loss.
The attorneys for the insurance companies – same attorneys in both cases – have indicated that they will file a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Those motions are the legal equivalent of saying “so what.” They argue that even if everything we say is true, the law does not require them to do what we are seeking. We’ve tentatively stipulated that the motion to dismiss will be filed the second week in December. We’ll respond in mid-January, they have the “last word” at the end of January, and then the court will decide.
My guess is that the motions to dismiss will be the main event in these cases. The facts really aren’t all that much in dispute. I wish the insurance companies luck in finding people who say “my hearing is really not a problem, but I wear a hearing aid because they are sort of cool looking.”
Once motions to dismiss are resolved, serious settlement discussions often begin. They could prove productive. I think it’s possible that the insurance companies have dramatically overestimated the potential cost of covering hearing aids when they see data like the 48 million people with meaningful hearing loss. The relevant population for ACA insurers is only those people under 65, which cuts the numbers way down, and the proportion of them that actually acknowledge a hearing loss and get hearing aids is much lower still.
I think there is reason for hope that these cases might result in meaningful insurance coverage for hearing aids. That would remove a significant impediment to people doing something about their hearing loss.
Nurse On Call
Anne Marie Killilea,
MSN, RN, EdDc
Chocolate chip cookies & mental health
By Anne Marie Killilea, MSN, RN, EdDc
I have just put the last batch of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. OMG! The warm smell of chocolate floats through the kitchen putting a smile on my face and another inch around my waist! The scent of chocolate produces thoughts of days gone by; as a child eating chocolate chip cookies while hiding under a blanket, watching my son steal a chocolate chip cookie before going to bed, making tons of cookies for friends and neighbors during the holidays….. oh! What great reminders of a happier time in life that start with smelling chocolate chip cookies baking!
There is a relationship between memory and the sense of smell. Think of the last time you bought something that did not smell right. You can almost remember where you were and what the item was. The sense of smell does bring back memories or help someone feel better. But chocolate has by far more uses to creating memories than any other scent.
Creating good memories has become a challenge with this pandemic. The necessary social isolation has people who might normally mingle with others or go to dinner with friends thinking twice. People have put off engaging in social communication which is so vitally important to humans. In addition, wearing masks is not helping us. Masks, as we know, distract and obscure speech and make lip reading next to impossible. Those with other medical conditions like asthma may not be able to wear a mask as it reduces the amount of oxygen inhaled. Shaking hands and giving hugs are now a taboo. So here we are. We cannot socialize, communicate, breathe, or appropriately touch one another. As human beings, this pandemic has stripped us of the basic human routines of contact we need to survive. In response to this change, the numbers of people with mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and suicide, has skyrocketed. But, do we need to suffer in this manner as a response to the impact of the pandemic?
We do not. We have, or can, learn how to understand our type of hearing loss, learn the different types of technology we can use and find ways to meet our goals of hearing as well as we can. We have learned, or can help others to understand, how to adapt and cope. And through these difficult lessons in living with hearing loss, we can apply them to the present situation in which we all live in.
There are two basic manners to cope and we can use the combination of both while staying safe.
1. Plan to do things. Clean up the homestead and organize things you have placed on hold all all these years! Take a nice short trip and explore the beauty within your own state. Maybe contact old friends who might be just as excited to connect with you! Jot down memoirs or teach others how you learned to live with your hearing loss to help those who are struggling. Planning on doing things does not have to be costly. It does involve digging in to find things you wanted to do and never had the time before. Being creative can spark new things and ideas in your life.
2. Learn something new. Did you ever want to read a Harry Potter book? Why was this type of book the rage for kids during the ‘90s? Find out! Try learning a new language. Gaining knowledge through a new language can open the doors to new places to visit in the future. Websites are there to offer classes on things from how to crochet, cook, paint, write among many other options. Learning something new does not have to be expensive. There must be things around your home that you have been wanting to learn, just give them a try!
3. Confront a fear. Is there something in your life you should be taking care of? When was the last time you had your teeth cleaned? Some people are very afraid of going to the dentist. But, not going can lead to all sorts of dental, speech and even cardiac problems down the road. Have you contacted the city/town you are living in and asked for help during this winter? Asking for help can be fearful to many people because they do not like to rely on others for any type of assistance. Again, while this is not an expensive way to cope, it can also lead to a calmer and more controlled life when confronting a fear but use the necessary precaution and wear your mask.
Other options are addressing the needs of our inner selves.
1. Meditate. Getting in touch with your inner being can help to relax you in many ways. Sitting in a chair, on the floor, at the edge of a bed and closing your eyes can help you drift into the central core of your being. Within all of us is the ability to find calm, peace. Sometimes serene music or sounds like falling rain or splashing of waves, or use of scents we like, can help us find our inner peace. There are online meditation programs. Try out a few and see what helps.
2. Laugh each day. Laughter is the best medicine! How often have you heard that? It is true. One way to find laughter is to review old movies or old TV shows. Maybe try a different decade of TV. The old shows were simple at one time and with an abundance of humor. Take a look outside and watch the silliness of nature and/or animals. Finding something to laugh about each day may be difficult to do in the beginning. Looking beyond ourselves and finding that little flicker of joy or laughter can mean all the difference to coping with our current world.
3. Stay in the present through writing. Each morning try to find something that makes you smile. Up here in the North, leaves are turning beautiful yellows, reds, and orange colors. When the sun shines on these trees, the colors come alive and illuminate the area. This makes me smile each morning. Go for a walk and see if there is anything different in your area that makes you smile. Write it down. Then, note if there is something you did to make you smile. Did you find a $5 bill in your back pocket after washing those pants? Were you able to finally find the right combination of ingredients to make your morning coffee taste great? Write it down. Finding the not-so-hidden joys in life and really taking note of them can help you to discover a whole outlook towards our world that is not so bleak, but just waiting for you to discover the beauty.
Lots of things to think about and lots more to do.
During this pandemic, I have worked on perfecting my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I learned that microwaving the butter to soften it changes the creaminess of the batter. I found out that adding more vanilla enhances that basic flavor of the cookie itself. I increase the cooking temperature and reduce the baking time to make a cookie that is crispy on the edges and soft and gooey in the center. So, I have planned on doing something (making my cookies better). I have learned how to make something different (I can take a recipe and change it). And, I have confronted my fear (I have become a better baker!).
The timer is buzzing off. I pull out my cookies and wait for them to cool. One batch will go to my neighbor recovering from heart surgery and others to friends. The last batch will go to my son. I can make others feel better in this trying time by making chocolate chip cookies. Helen Keller is quoted to saying that while she could not do everything, she could do some things. It is time for me to do the same when baking chocolate chip cookies. I cannot make people well, but hopefully I can make them smile.
Again, stay safe during this pandemic. You are particularly important to ALDA and the people around you!
Social Media Committee Summary
by Jim Laffer, Social Media Chair
Over the last quarter, the ALDA Social Media Committee, SMC, has been working to improve many aspects of our communication and outreach with the members and subscribers who receive our emails as well as continuing to support all the other platforms that ALDA uses.
During the past few months, the SMC has sent out emails about nominations for the upcoming ALDA board elections allowing people to nominate themselves or others for future board positions. In addition, there have been e-blasts promoting the new Sign Language class and a major push to identify volunteers to help with the various aspects of running a major organization like ALDA. This last email led to several new volunteers taking on various aspects of helping keep ALDA relevant and moving forward.
In addition, the SMC has supported ALDA board’s initiative to support social justice and made changes to the Facebook pages to make them more inclusive for all.
Of course the SMC also assists to send reminders about membership renewals and oversees the ALDA website which has had several articles on numerous topics over the last several months including articles on communicating at a time when everyone is wearing masks, the aforementioned volunteer initiative and information about staying safe during hurricane season.
Recent efforts are to expand our image database to give us more options for newsletters, e-blasts and the website. Look for these fun and relevant graphics and feel free to tell us what you think or submit original artwork of your own if you would like to see it featured.
In the coming months the SMC expects to have a more lively and robust presence on Twitter and other social media platforms as new volunteers take on increasing roles.
We welcome any and all feedback. Please send comments or questions to me directly at email@example.com. My door is always open.
MATT’S MONEY MATTERS
By Matt Ferrara
2020 has been a difficult, strange and somewhat frightening year with COVID-19, natural disasters, social discord and politics. Under normal circumstances, I would be sharing all about our ALDA Convention, ALDAcon, activities as the Business Manager. But the ALDACon has been rescheduled for 2021. Our Operating Account has increased by $6,400 since my last report at the end of June. This is due to donations and membership renewals. The ALDACon account has remained steady as we look forward to the Con next year.
The Balance Sheet for the ALDA Bank accounts as of the end of, September 2020 is as follows:
ALDA Operating Expenses: $71,897
ALDACon 2021 Account: $11,439
ALDACon 2022 Account: -$2758
ALDACon 2023 Account: -$680
Scholarship Funds: $28,828
As of September 30, 2020, the total cash in the ALDA Bank accounts is $108,726.
The IRS 990 Report for 2019, IRS 1099 and 1098 forms and the State of Illinois Secretary Forms were completed and filed on time
FINANCE COMMITTEE – SHARE THOUGHTS AND VOLUNTEER!
Now is the time to volunteer to help ALDA and me with the Finance Committee. If you are interested in serving on the Finance Committee or have any suggestions, please contact me at Treasurer@ALDA.org
ALDA, Inc. is a non-profit corporation and any donations may be tax deductible. Some employers also provide matching donations plans – be certain to check with your organization! If you have any questions regarding donations or our ALDA finances, please contact me at Treasurer@ALDA.org
RD1 REPORT – Quarter 3
Laura Sinclair, Resident Director 1
Another summer in the can (the trash can, that is). I hope you all eked out some productive projects and a bit of get-away from the stay-cations. It certainly was hot and dry enough in the northern areas of RD1! Too hot, in fact. Yet the fall colors don’t disappoint against the blue sky. It’s the simple things in life that make one feel “normal” these COVID-19 days. Working from home, taking care of the kids more than usual…more togetherness must have some silver-lining, though. Perhaps we will be better prepared for the coming holidays, especially with having smaller gatherings due to safety precautions. More people will get experience roasting the good ol’ bird! We certainly have banana bread down pat! I know you’ll get your pantries bolstered to hunker down as the snow begins to fly.
We have a new Board freshly elected at ALDA Boston Chapter. Congratulations and best wishes for emerging from COVID-19 with high hopes for physically gathering someday, some way! They throw marvelous parties at the holidays. Having dual membership helps me do my part to help eat the treats! Alas, I will have to find a different way to maintain my COVID-weight in the coming months if our separation doesn’t end soon. I understand some plans are already underway for virtual speakers. I hope to see my fellow ALDAn’s from Boston soon and see articles submitted by their Media Strategist so you can learn more about what is happening in this active chapter!
Both members and friends of ALDA Seacoast NH Group had some fun. What started as a two-hour affair ended up being five (but who’s counting?)! We mask up (clear mouth masks generously made and donated by NH ASL interpreters have been handed out to those who don’t have one) and do “whatever works” to communicate with the disadvantage of distancing and hindered lipreading. I walked around my local farmer’s market wearing one and as folks commented on them, I would hand out free wrapped ones with a dab of anti-fog treatment. Great sense of community building! Who doesn’t love something free that will help someone else?!
At our first in-person activity since February, we braved an August lakeside picnic hosted by a member. In September, I hosted a fire tower hike. We had some new masked faces and a few up from Massachusetts, too. We are hoping for an equally beautiful day for an upcoming beach walk now that tourist season is over.
Under my RD hat I fielded ALDA Contacts from PA, NJ, NH & CT and jumped in on some ALDA Official Discussion Group forums on Facebook. Our Facebook ALDACon page has even had some action despite the postponement due to the pandemic. Photos of Niagara Falls are a beacon of hope for us in 2021! For now, we hope to “see” each other during the virtual Annual Membership Business meeting slated for November so learn how to use that webcam and we’ll soon be reunited, if just for a few hours!
I hope to soon virtually connect with the rest of our RD1 membership who are not connected to a local chapter or group. We have actually closed the “distance” between MA and NH friends with a few virtual offerings this summer to learn the ropes. Familiar names appear in the Zoom here and Google Meet there from further away, too. The process will soon be sorted so stay tuned for announcements! It is an opportunity to connect in accessible ways never before possible. A “Group” is an easy start to becoming a “Chapter” in the future. All it takes is two people who wish to stay connected & watch it grow! Details to start a group on the ALDA.org website.
Despite running into issues with the shortage of key devices we D/HOH use because of many schooling and working from home now, we can always rely on Harris Communications as a source mainstream folks don’t know about. They had to postpone publication of a 2020 catalogue due to hiccups this year, but we look forward to a 2021 issue chock full of the latest technology to make our lives safer and more connected. New items and pricing are readily available online, however, and friendly service is just a phone call away. This isn’t an endorsement by ALDA, just to put that out there, but many of us have had decades of experience trying to find just the right device for a need and they’ve always been there…at ALDA conventions, too, where you can sometimes handle an item and ask questions about it. There are also state agencies that have devices to show.
The reason I know about the catalogue delay is because I received a grant from Tufts Health Plan Foundation in MA to help the underrepresented in NH and border states suffering uniquely during COVID-19. I’d say we D/HOH qualify in droves! My drive to promote clear mouth masks is still a piece of this action-plan, but I have a few other ideas for the cache of goodies I hope to source and disperse. State offices, of which we are lucky to have some ALDA members, are also guiding me in suggestions and resources for consideration in how to use the grant.
I’ve put feelers out to different sectors such as: education, medical, public facilities, and retail so we might raise awareness of the need for us to lipread. In getting these masks out in small supplies, I hope to have a trickle-down effect where someone sees and tells another about it, who tells yet another (and another) until we see these available everywhere like the solid masks. It was great to see the masks the ALDA Board trialed this summer are now available in a chain store in both adult and child sizes! An order to two manufacturers of FDA approved clear mouth masks is in motion but the shipping backlog is staggering.
Clearly (no pun intended), these masks are not a solution; their downfall is decibel degradation and condensation in humid settings, but “helpful” in combination with other communication devices. I have supplies to make a version somewhere between the face shield with drape that was shared by MOOG Center for Deaf Education this summer and the “Badger” style developed at Univ. of Wisconsin Engineering (with others) that allows a mic to be placed inside the mask. This is especially helpful for teachers of the deaf (TOD) but also anywhere an FM system is used. Think museums & tour guides as places wrestle with staying open safely! These are not medical-grade but do allow cleaning for single users.
The Visual Communication flyer NH coronavirus-visual-tool healthcare.pdf is another item that will be mass-produced. Massachusetts has a version, as well as Wisconsin, where it was first copied from. I learned that it has been shared 78,000 times from their Facebook page! Twelve other states have produced their own. Ambulance services will be targeted for distribution, as well as Senior Centers, right on down to individuals who can pack in an emergency “go” bag.
Perhaps Pockettalkers, Counter InfoLoops, Neckloops, Remote mics, personal amplifiers, tablets, Otoclips and other items will be on hand but some can be costly. I am searching for that illusive Voice-To-Text (VTT) device that can work without WIFI for those who don’t have a cell phone with this ASR(automatic speech recognition) capability. If you know of one, give me a shout at RD1@ALDA.org. Amazon Fire or Google tablet, perhaps?
I met with a director of a non-profit developing a concept of “villages” which brings folks aging-in-place together to share volunteer resources. I love their motto: ”Listening deeply, developing options, helping you move forward”. Being one of the “sandwich generation”, I can appreciate the goal for a piece of mind to help with what is needed, knowing we cannot always be there for a task to be done. It isn’t a new concept. In fact, their literature states 200 “villages” across the USA with 150 in development, of which this local contact is a founder. It is a nominal fee, membership-based organization…no surprise as we all know there are expenses associated with any organization… website management, marketing materials, events, technology, and incidentals. Much like ALDA!
So, as we enter the last quarter of 2020, I wish you strong villages, healthy families and deep listening! We may not have our 2020 convention, but your ongoing support as a member of ALDA national makes the difference as our work continues behind the scene! Don’t forget your local ALDA membership renewals! If you don’t have one, or your local Chapter or Group is struggling to maintain momentum, please contact your RD! We will help you build it. Visit our website often for more news and updates at alda.org
ALDA SAN JOSE UPDATE
BY JIM LAFFER – ALDA SAN JOSE LEAD
Like most chapters and groups, ALDA San Jose suspended all in person meetings early this year. I made it a point to cancel social events in Febaruary and March as the news was coming out. We were lucky because the Bay Area locked down early and after that it was academic, but we all felt the lack of social contact and so this summer we resumed events online.
Long time member and former group leader Carrie Levin figured out how to use Google Meet to organize events. She found speakers and organized meetings. Starting monthly in July, we have gathered online, and it has been very successful. Carrie has since then provided guidelines for hosting a Google Meet on the alda website at alda.org under Resources/Videoconferencing.
Our first meeting included 25 people. The meeting focused on reconnecting and allowing everyone to reintroduce themselves followed by open chat time. Everyone really enjoyed it and many stayed after the allotted time to talk.
Neil Kran presented at our August meeting. Neil was one of many forced to quarantine on the Princess Cruise Ship which docked in Oakland this past March. He has cochlear implants and spoke about his experiences with hearing loss and being forced into very unusual circumstances. He gave advice on how to prepare for emergencies and shared about he and his wife’s experiences with COVID-19. It was informative and provided everyone good advice on preparing for a potential emergency (not just COVID-19, but other natural disasters that might strike).
In September, we invited long time ALDA Board member, Tina Childress, to present on captioning apps. Tina spoke at length about various options which she has researched through the years. Everyone came away with a stronger knowledge base of better ways to help with communication in this time of universal masks when lipreading is often impossible to do.
Our October meeting was with CaptionCall and CapTel captioned telephone services. It was a great outreach and transitioned into discussions about other assistive technology members use.
Our November meeting will be with presenter, Shari Eberts, about living with hearing loss. And in December we are looking for a social online event to play a trivia game and chat for a few hours. It may not be our annual holiday party, but we look forward to connecting and enjoying each other’s company for a few hours.
ALDA San Jose is working hard to stay active for our members and our future as we all are forced to reduce our contact with the outside world. Hopefully this will start to improve early in 2021. Either way, we will continue to serve our community and stay connected and as socially active as we can.
Meandering Through a Hearing World:
Proud to be an American voting with hearing loss
By Linda Bilodeau
The presidential election is upon us. It’s that time of year when we stop what we are doing for an hour or two, drive to the polls, and cast our vote. However, this year is different. Not only do we have to contend with waiting in line and the usual hearing issues inside our assigned polling spots, we have to think about coronavirus safety and the difficulties of hearing, masked poll workers.
When voting this year, consider the rules of your state and voting districts. Decide if voting by mail is right for you. (If you vote by mail, make sure to get your ballot in on time and according to rules set up by your state.). Keep in mind that we have a voice. We, the people of this great country, determine the kind of government and country we want. It does not matter how you vote, the important thing is to vote. I plan to vote in person.
My parents were from immigrant families. They came to this country for opportunities. My father grew up on a farm and had little education and few prospects. He served in the American military and after World War II, he and my grandfather started a business, which flourished. My father always said there was no other country in which he would have had the chance to support a family the way he did in America. My dad believed in voting and encouraged his children to exercise their right to vote.
When I think about the people who gave their lives in the American Revolution, and the wars that followed, the people who worked, educated themselves, and built business from almost nothing, my hearing problems, and the issues we have with COVID-19, seem small.
When in line at the polling place, I will wear my mask and have my alcohol wipes available. I will carry my mighty mini mic in order to hear poll workers’ instructions. Prior to going to the polls, I will go online and review the voting procedures of my district. I will review a sample ballot and have it with me.
As the voting line winds its way inside, I will think of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other legislation that has helped those suffering from hearing loss to work and function in society. I will take pride in the hearing technology developed by our free enterprise system and the ongoing research that might one day cure hearing loss. My heart will be filled with hope that no matter who is elected, we can come together as Americans, continuing our traditions.
Find out how to vote in your community, make a plan, study the ballot, research the candidates and issues. Decide if you should vote by mail or in person. Should you choose to go to the polls, be sure to have the masks, the gel or wipes and whatever helps you hear when dealing with people wearing masks. As you meander through the hearing world, take the time to execute the wonderful right to vote that was bestowed on us.
CHAPTER and GROUP Happenings
Thanks to our ALDA Chapter and Groups we are reaching more individuals dealing with hearing loss and late-deafness. Support your local Chapter or Group or start your own today!
Per the new submission guidelines provided, ALDA chapter and groups can now submit their reports directly to ALDA News Submissions firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please advise if your chapter/group are using other outlets to share your news and events.
One of Us
This issue’s interview is with Jim Laffer.
Jim Laffer is our esteemed colleague who is actively involved with the San Jose Chapter and who excels as the Social Media Chair for ALDA Inc. Jim was born in Columbus, Ohio, but his family moved shortly after he was born to Chicago, IL where they lived for almost 40 years. Jim had sudden onset, bi-lateral idiopathic overnight, normal to severe hearing loss six years apart. His left ear crashed in 1990 when he was 27, and his right ear crashed in 1996 when he was 33. Jim has been married to Michelle Yook, RD4 and all-around awesome person, for a year and a half. He has been a trainer/installer for Caption Call for the last 8 years. Here’s the nitty gritty on Jim.
KK: What book or books do you recommend others read?
JL: For fun, science fiction – anything by Neil Stephenson or Roger Zelazny. To expand your mind, I highly recommend Ta Nehisi Coates, “Between the World and Me”
KK: You simply cannot live without…..
JL: Michelle Yook and good food.
KK: Your little known talent is:
JL: I can cook a little bit and make deep dish Chicago style pizza from scratch. It’s not bad if I do say so myself.
KK: The hardest thing you’ve done is:
JL: Lose my hearing. It impacted my life so dramatically on so many levels, but it ended up being something that helped me change my path and get to where I am today.
KK: Your funniest hearing loss moment is:
JL: Too many to count and honestly, I don’t remember any specific incidents. I’ve unknowingly repeated so many things that someone else just said that you could fill a book.
KK: When and how did you learn about ALDA?
JL: In Chicago after the second ear crashed. I reached out to figure out what came next and found my way to the Chicago Hearing Society where the local counselor introduced us all to the group and invited some of us to a Xmas party in the Chicago suburbs. I didn’t know it was a famous gathering until a few years ago. Ironically, I met some people there at that time that I now know again through going to ALDAcon.
KK: Do you belong to an ALDA chapter or group?
JL: I am group leader for ALDA San Jose.
KK: Have you ever attended an ALDAcon? (If so, which ALDAcon was your first conference?)
JL: I’ve been to the last 5 starting in 2015 at Scottsdale, Arizona. It was my first.
KK: In what ways has ALDA enhanced your life?
JL: It is through ALDA that I met so many of my closest friends in the Bay Area, found my life calling, found my current job, learned about disability and cochlear implants and eventually met Michelle. All of those things happened due to connections I met through ALDA.
KK: Who or what inspires you the most?
JL: Everyone who keeps going in the face of adversity. Everyone who continues to fight for a better life. Everyone who believes in an inclusive world or uses their spare time to make the world a better place. Some of my personal idols include Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, and Elizabeth Warren, My father who taught me from an early age that it’s what’s inside that matters and Michelle who continues to set a standard I strive to meet every… single… day…
KK: People would be surprised to learn that you…..
JL: I am an Atheist, though I prefer the term Secular Humanist.
KK: Your biggest pet peeve is:
JL: Willful ignorance and adherence to ideology in the face of conflicting evidence.
KK: Your favorite childhood memory is:
JL: Going to sporting events with my father; Opening day and even some football games.
KK: Your favorite saying is:
JL: Life is too short to eat bad food or drink bad beer.
KK: The bottom line is:
JL: We’re all in this together. Never be afraid to lend a helping hand. You may not change the world, but you just might change the world for one person.