by Laura Sinclair, Regional Director 1
One step back, two steps forward! Little by little, we are wrapping our heads around just what to think of this summer of ‘21. Do we “stay or do we go,?” as the song says. In the northern reaches of New England where I live, it’s the norm to have a lot of tourist influx due to the cooler summer options, beaches, and general “grab summer while you can” attitude. This second pandemic summer with high percentages of vaccinated folks up here doesn’t look much different than pre-pandemic. In many ways, it is more active with nearby state license plates clogging the highways, but there is an obvious reduction of tourists from Canada and abroad. Some restaurants are closed or have shorter hours, more due to the lack of staffing than anything else, but I am loving all the outside seating that sprung up out of necessity! I hear so much better than the indoor acoustical nightmare of hard glass windows and tile floors. A chill in the night air is par for the course up here so I also don’t miss freezing in A/C … silver-linings. I don’t need white tablecloths, just give me the open sky for dining al fresco. I’ll even dine in full down coat and boots as the year progresses just to dine outside and hear better.
The Region 1 Chapter and Group that I keep tabs on are meeting in person once more. Because it is summer, events would typically be outside anyway. The Ice Cream Social here, ball-game there, art festival, amusement park, or music venue always draws an enthusiastic crowd but with more fervor now that we know what life is like without these events. I don’t think we even care if it rains! Just being together once more is reason enough to brave the elements. Some vote to leave the informative meetings to Google Meets when the days become shorter and people tend to hibernate more or are just “done” with virtual meetings altogether, yet others are searching for more offerings online. Regular meeting places are slow to open for various reasons. However, I have been informed of a local retirement community that has looped all their community rooms so that will be my next move since the library is taking the opportunity to renovate where I am and our loop isn’t installed there yet.
Through the ALDA website contacts in the region, this quarter I have responded to VT, CT, MA, VA, NY & NJ new members and friends looking to connect or address a specific need. The ever-present common thread is a deep desire to “see” others & share exactly what ALDA is all about: making communication work with whatever means possible. The virtual socials slowed down proportionally to the ramping up of businesses, jobs and summer school break as our volunteer staff got busier, and tasks turned to putting on the coming convention. Confidence to meet in person is a deeply personal choice. We all have to give others a “break” if they choose not to shed the mask or come to an event but keep donning your paper and pen, transcribing App or Mini-Mic that we all have become more adept at using for our and others’ benefit. Even the clear mouth masks have maintained a drive to disperse despite the hot seasons though have not caught on as universally as I believe a lot of us with hearing loss had hoped. At least a lot of awareness has been raised of ASL interpreters in the news arena.
I did outreach to the National Association of State Agencies of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. It is comprised of administrators of the state agencies serving deaf and hard of hearing. Check it out for your state and see if the information is current. You may also discover a few more agencies in your own state you never knew about as I did in NH.
I also was contacted by several college students with studies, projects and surveys surrounding issues in the technological pipeline to make the world safer and more equally accessible to people with hearing loss. This is exciting! The youngest minds are critical to bring these initiatives to fruition in their lifetime. This is where making noise (aka raising awareness) about our conundrum is so important. Some groundwork is already in cell phones that we have seen take off with personal hearing aids and cochlear implants. Now expand this to using the GPS to label places with induction loops, alert us while driving of approaching sirens, or simply identify a sound in our environment. And a recent resurgence of interest in Google Glasses that could provide live caption/transcribe as we navigate our lives is something I’d invest in!
As individuals, we have more power than we think we do. Here are three issues that come to mind:
- Consider chiming in your opinion on Medicare to cover hearing aids where you are a constituent. Your opinion matters, one way or another.
- Were you aware that FEMA, with the FCC, performed a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system on Wednesday, August 11? It missed me.
- And if you recall my fighting for open caption at Planet Fitness pre-COVID, you will be happy to know that upon return to the gym in June, all the TVs had caption on!
These are just examples of where your advocacy efforts could have a profound impact. Take for example the issue of getting a COVID vaccine … our NH advocate and employee of NH HHS was instrumental in arranging an event specifically for the Deaf, Deaf/Blind and Hard of Hearing community in May! If I hadn’t already gotten jabbed, I’d have been there.
I have my plans shaping up for the ALDAcon in October. Side trips are a given, and ALDAcon is in my Region this year, so a number of us will be attending. That doesn’t mean it is close by…It’s a 10 hour drive, at least, but on familiar highways. I hope you can come! Upstate NY has so much to offer and our Canadian friends are hopeful of keeping an open border. Passport in hand and proof of vaccine in pocket…let’s do this thing!! Our convention team and ALDA Board are working hard to pull off Niagara Falls in difficult circumstances. Let’s give them a round of applause!! Be safe & feel a hug across the miles. And remember, your ALDA friends are just a contact or social media of choice away.
If you get a chance to view CODA, a 2021 movie release, feel free to share your feelings about it. I hope to get a chance to see it or talk to you about it soon, in person or otherwise. And I apologize for going AWOL in the Spring….elder affairs…’nuf said!