Sign language interpreters are sharing lifesaving information and becoming part of a visible pantheon of essential workers

Francine Stieglitz writes on

How Do You Sign ‘Don’t Drink Bleach’?   Today’s New York Times has an important article on the need for ASL interpreters at

HLAA Boston Chapter Newsletter: Virtual Meetings

Betty Hauck writes on

We are happy to welcome Kevin Franck, head of Mass Eye and Ear audiology department who will be speaking about Hearing in the Time of Covid-19 and answering questions. For this virtual meeting the platform will be  Google Meet (formerly Hangouts). The big advantage of Google Meet over Zoom is that it has very good captions. Anyone who would like help in getting set up to participate, please email Andrea Kaneb. Andrea is a volunteer and graduate of the HLAA N-CHATT training program, and she is happy to assist you.

First Boston Chapter Virtual Meeting

After a hiatus in chapter meetings because of COVID-19, Sue Schy of the Boston Chapter steering committee got us up and running again with a Zoom meeting on Saturday, April 11, 2020. Thirteen people participated and we each had an opportunity to talk about how we’re coping with the virus, including both positive aspects and challenges. In addition to regular chapter members we welcomed Sandy Spekman who is head of the Plymouth Chapter and Margaret Myatt who is new to our chapter and is looking forward to pitching in and helping us out with her areas of expertise. Regular member Bob Broker who is a tireless volunteer in encouraging senior centers to sponsor hearing loss support groups shared his Gestures in Need aka GinN card to help communicate in hospital settings.

Face Masks and Hearing Aids

One topic that came up was the difficulty of wearing face masks with hearing aids. Masks with ties seem to work better than the elastic ones. Here is a link to additional helpful suggestions:

Optimal Meetings

Another topic was lighting during Zoom calls. For those of us with hearing loss it is especially important to be able to see each other’s faces so lighting is critical. The best lighting combines a light source in front of your face with overhead lighting. Facing an outdoor light source like a window works well also. Backlighting does not work well because it puts your face in shadow.

For good sound, sit as close as possible to your computer or device’s microphone.

HLAA National: Don’t forget that the National HLAA website is a terrifIc resource for those of us with learning loss, especially now that we’re dealing with Covid-19. Recent past webinars are accessible as well as information about upcoming virtual meetings and the opportunity to sign up. Saturday, April 25th, Gail Hannan will be presenting at  2 pm.

Hearing Loss and Adaptive Skills

I wonder if hearing loss gives us a special advantage in coping with difficult conditions because it is what we do every day?

We hope you and yours are doing as well as can be expected during these trying times and that you will join us for the virtual chapter meeting on May 9th.

HLAA Boston Chapter Zoom Meeting Saturday, April 18, 2020

Betty Hauck writes on

We hope you are all well and managing these current extraordinary circumstances as well as possible.

This is to remind you that there will be a virtual online HLAA Boston chapter meeting on Saturday, April 18, 2-4 pm.

If you have no experience with Zoom and need help getting set up, please contact Sue Schy who will be hosting the meeting. This will be an experiment as we’re all more or less new to this.

Here is a link to join the meeting:

Meeting ID: (suppressed)
Password: (suppressed)

This is also a reminder that there are lots of great resources on the HLAA National website:

HLAA has been hosting webinars and Zoom meetings relevant to the pandemic with lots of useful information. If you haven’t been getting the emails you can go to the website and sign up for upcoming webinars and access past ones.

Best wishes to all.

Ways to Navigate a Hospital During COVID-19 With a Hearing Loss

Thanks to Terri Charles for alerting us to the following article that was published in The Hearing Journal on April 10.  I know that some of you were able to watch the webinar.

By Alexis Guerra

As hospitals accommodate the increasing number of patients with COVID-19, people who are hard of hearing or deaf are faced with critical challenges in properly communicating with doctors and nurses amid protective masks and physical distancing guidelines. To address this and other related concerns, Chad Ruffin, MD, and Tina Childress, AuD, CCC-A, organized a webinar on April 6.

One of the challenges Ruffin spoke about is the increased restrictions on visitors, making it likely that people who are hard of hearing or deaf will be on their own while at the hospital. Making matters more severe, nurses and doctors will also be wearing masks, eliminating visual cues. Clear masks, according to Ruffin, do not protect health care workers against COVID-19 since they are not comparable to N95 masks.

He also warns that the environment will most likely be noisy and overwhelmed by the sound of the medical equipment and the surplus of patients. However, those who are deaf or hard of hearing should still feel free to request a different nurse or ask to see the accessibility coordinator by speaking to the charge nurse. If care has been rationed or denied altogether, the patient should request an ethics consult and the nursing supervisor.

“A lot of the misconception is that when you go to a hospital for COVID-19, you’re going into a normal hospital setting and that the hospitals will have all the normal equipment and accommodations to provide you the communication tools that you need, and I don’t think this is the right assumption,” said Ruffin. “You are going to be entering a medical disaster scene at some hospitals.”

Despite the challenges that hard of hearing or deaf patients will face during COVID-19, Ruffin points out that a positive effect of the pandemic is the broadening of care with the use of telemedicine. Those who could not be reached prior can now have the opportunity to make appointments with doctors across the country.

If you are someone who is hard of hearing or deaf, Ruffin and Childress suggest doing the following:

  • Talk to your Primary Doctor. If you need to go to the Emergency Department (ED), call your primary doctor first so they may help facilitate the process and also give the ED notice of your needs. They may also be able to solve any issues you may have through a telehealth appointment if it isn’t an issue needing immediate attention.
  • Prepare with your Family. Develop a communication strategy with friends and family before going to the hospital. Coordinate who will be the point of contact while you are at the hospital.
  • Create a Hospital Kit. When preparing to go to the hospital, create your own hospital kit with signage to hang above your hospital bed so others can be made aware of your disability.
  • Use Smartphone Apps. Practice using Speech-to-Text apps, such as Live Transcribe, Otter and Ava at home before going to the hospital. Apps such as InnoCaption and Hamilton CapTel are useful for creating captions for telephone or video calls. Make sure to write down login information if an app requires a password.
  • Keep a Record. Bring a complete list of medications, medical history, contact numbers to the hospital.  A smartphone, chargers, hearing equipment and headbands should also be brought to the hospital with you.
  • Low-tech Solutions. A pad of paper and a pen or a boogie board are also useful communication tools. Bring these to the hospital as a backup tool to your smartphone or hearing device. It’s also important to sanitize any tools that you are bringing with you to the hospital.
  • Prepare for Rounds. Learn what time rounds occur during the daily routine of the hospital so your advocate can phone in. This is so they can assist with coordinating your care while in the hospital and after.

A recording of the webinar is available onlineA similar webinar recording geared toward people who primarily communicate in ASL can also be viewed online.

Video Captions Benefit Everyone

computer/remote teaching station in NYThis is from Jonathan Taylor, Vice President of the NYC HLAA Chapter. An abbreviated version appeared in the New York Times a couple of days ago in response to a piece in adapting to online learning.

Video Captions Benefit Everyone

“In 2015, Dr. Morton Ann Gernsbacher, a professor at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, published an article in the journal Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences entitled, “Video captions benefit everyone.”

 In it, she reviewed more than one hundred studies on the benefits of video captioning and found that captioning “improves comprehension of, attention to, and memory for the video” for people of all ages and hearing ability. 

Those of us with hearing loss have long understood the benefits of captioning. What may come as a surprise to people without hearing loss is that they would also be helped. For example, Gernsbacher cited a 1983 study in which children with and without hearing loss were randomly assigned to watch a video in different conditions- with audio only, captions only, or with both. On a test of comprehension of the video, the children with normal hearing outperformed those with hearing loss in all conditions. But the most interesting result is that the children without hearing loss demonstrated better comprehension after seeing the video with captions than with audio, and still better with both. Similar results were reported in a study of second and third graders learning to read, and among second language learners. With schools closed due to the coronavirus, education at all levels is primarily online with videos and lectures. This might be an opportune time for educators to consider adding captions to these presentations.

 The benefits of captions are not limited to children. Adults also benefit from captioned videos. Whether viewing commercials or college course lectures, adults with and without hearing loss were better able to remember content when videos were captioned.

Opponents of open captioning in venues such as movie theaters have sometimes claimed that only a small number of people benefit from open captions, while the large majority object to their presence. For those of us who advocate for open captioning, these empirical results provide important evidence in support.”