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The Accessible Meeting Hearing Health Magazine By Elizabeth Stump Job interviews. Performance evaluations. Client meetings.

These situations can be nervewracking for anyone, but hearing-impaired and deaf people have additional reasons to worry: whether or not they’ll hear and understand the other party. But it’s not just faceto-face interaction that is challenging. In today’s business world, as more employees are working from home and travel budgets are being slashed, conference calls, videoconferencing, and Webcast presentations are becoming increasingly common. And the technology that enables such widespread and sophisticated communication does not always adequately address the needs of the hearing-impaired/deaf population. Fortunately, hearing accommodations appropriate for your career duties do exist. Read on for solutions that will transform your ability to hear and function in the workplace. Speak Up! In Person When in a face-to-face interview or conference, inform the other party about your hearing needs as appropriate to the situation. For example, you may be able to hear well in a oneon-one meeting in a quiet, well-lighted room, but have great difficulty understanding during a group meeting, when several people are talking simultaneously, and where there is poor lighting. Explain what changes will improve your visibility and proximity to the speaker and reduce distracting noises. Ask for written materials in advance, and/or the minutes afterward. Portable amplification devices with directional microphones, note-takers, or sign language/oral interpreters may prove beneficial. You can also utilize assistive listening devices like magnetic induction loops, FM systems, and infrared systems. An induction loop circles a meeting room, and the wire is connected to an amplifier and the speaker's microphone. With an FM system, a person’s headset or hearing aid picks up the sound directly from the system’s transmitter. An infrared system uses an emitter and a special receiver headset that picks up infrared light; the sound signals in the light are then directed into the ear. The CART (Computer Assisted Real-Time Transcription) system provides verbatim, real-time access to a spoken conversation for an individual or a group. A CART-trained court reporter uses a stenotype machine connected to a laptop computer and a projector. CART and real-time captioning are the most frequently requested services at Caption First, says Sharaine Rawlinson Roberts, MSW, Marketing & Account Manager at the company. Caption First ( provides these services both on-site and remotely throughout the U.S. Caption IT (, Caption Solutions


(, and NCI ( also provide an array of captioning services, including CART, videoconference captioning, and webcast captioning. For communicating one-on-one, you could also try speech recognition software, which is programmed to translate a person’s spoken word into text displayed on a computer screen. An example is the iCommunicator™ ( program, which converts speech into both text and video sign language on a laptop. Alternatives to face-to-face communication that you can fall back on include sending email, Instant Messaging, text messages, or written notes. On the Phone If you can’t hear over a standard office telephone, you may need a phone with amplification or clarification technology. Amplification increases the volume on telephones. Try using an amplified noise-canceling headset or cochlear patch cords that connect a cochlear implant speech processor and a phone jack. Clarity technology digitally alters tones and removes distortions to enhance sound quality for those with high frequency hearing loss, enabling them to hear the difference between high frequency sounds like "ch" and "st," for example. Other phone accommodations include hearing-aid-compatible phones (use the “telecoil” or “t-switch” on your hearing aid for these phones) and text telephones (or TTY equipment). TTY allows a telephone user to send typed messages to another caller and to receive typewritten messages from the caller directly or through a relay service operator. A captioned phone works like a standard telephone with the bonus of displaying captions of the conversation. The phone connects to a captioning service, where an operator uses voice recognition technology to transcribe the conversation. CapTel phones, for example, are offered by relay providers Sprint and Hamilton ( and While these phones work well for one-on-one conversations, they are less beneficial for calls involving multiple people. Alternatives to using a standard work phone include using e-mail or instant messaging on the computer or using text messaging or Bluetooth technology on a cellular phone. Roberts recommends the iPhone for one-on-one conversations, because when running on the AT&T platform, the iPhone “allows for simultaneous voice and data transfer. Thus, an individual could have a one-on-one conversation with their boss or colleague in the same room and could use their iPhone to both send the audio of the colleague’s speech to the writer and receive the real-time CART text simultaneously.” Although AT&T is the only provider that has this simultaneous capability as of August 2011, Roberts expects Verizon to develop this feature for their iPhones in the near future. With the IP Relay system, the relay operator becomes your "voice” in that everything you type is spoken to the other person, but everything that person says to you is typed for


you to read. It’s more beneficial for one-on-one conversations than conference calls. Access the IP Relay system at,, or Keep in mind that relay services cannot always keep up with the conversation when several people are on the call. When the captioning is lagging behind the speaker’s voice, it’s extremely difficult for a HOH person to contribute to the conversation. If you do use this service for a conference call, remind callers to speak slowly and one at a time. You may also wish to check out the “hand raising” tool that places people into a queue to speak so that everyone on the conference call has a chance to talk. Go to GUID=F26399932657184788D8B91BEE48156F. For multiple-people/conference calls, the most effective tools are CART, Relay Conference Captioning (in which captioners deliver real-time text streamed to an Internet-connected computer so that participants can follow the dialogue), or telecoils that cut out background noise and feedback. Videotapes, Videophones, & Videoconferences If video tapes are used for training or other employment purposes, contact captioning service providers that can add captions to the videos, ask for a transcript of the presentation, or hire a sign language or oral interpreter. Videophones are telephones with a video screen and the capability of real-time video and audio communication for one-on-one calling. Deaf callers can see and talk to a person on the other end using sign language. For group videoconferencing situations, CART or real-time captioning are effective accommodations. Webcasts/Online videos If your employer uses a webcast (a media presentation distributed over the Internet), ask for a transcript, CART services, real-time Internet captioning, or an interpreter. For accessing a video that is already posted on the Web, you may need to add subtitles, says Tole Khesin, VP of Marketing at 3Play Media (, a Cambridge, MA, company that provides transcription and captioning tools for the Web. Although public institutions must provide accessible content, “most private organizations are not required to provide accessible content, unless that content has previously been aired on broadcast television,” he says. 3Play Media will caption video files for you and provide transcripts, or you can add subtitles yourself with the help of sites like,, and

3 What does the future hold for captioning accessibility online? “Captions should and must be provided for all video and television content on the Web, regardless of whether it is archived or live. The recent passing of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act will eventually make this a reality,” Roberts says. “With the advent of more and more higher education taking place on the Internet, and classes requiring review of many videos, all content should be captioned. The ADA and the 21st Century Communications Act are causing postsecondary education institutions to scramble to make sure their materials are accessible.” Be Your Own Advocate Remember that it’s up to you to communicate your need for accommodations in your workplace. While there is no one-size-fits-all accommodation solution, it is possible to make improvements and adjustments that will aid your ability to hear while on the job! END SIDEBAR: * The Job Accommodation Network (JAN)’s Searchable Online Accommodation Resource at provides information on numerous accommodations. Submit your own specific accommodation questions to JAN at *For more on the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, see and ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Stump is a writer and editor living in San Diego, California. For two years, she served as editor-in-chief of the Hearing Loss Association of America-Manhattan chapter’s newsletter.