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Hearing access: how do deaf or hard of hearing visitors experience South African Museums?

Janice Schacter Lintz, a hearing loss advocate from the USA visited several South African museums recently and was appalled to find that all were not accessible to people with hearing loss.
Commenting on her visits to the District Six Museum, Hector Pietersen Museum, the Apartheid Museum, the Kliptown Open Air Museum and Robben Island Museum, Shachter noted that:

• Video and films were generally not hearing aid compatible and only a few were captioned;
• People with hearing loss are unable to hear multiple speaking at the same time. Mechanisms such as hearing aid compatible Soundstix, which bring the sound directly to the ear, were not available in any of the museums visited;
• Sound domes were generally not hearing aid compatible;
• Transcripts of audio information were not generally available;
• The availability of Sign language interpretation was not postec in any of the museums visited;
• Spoken commentary by guides was generally inaudible and assistive listening systems such as induction loops or personal FM system with head sets or neck loops were not available;
• Devices such as induction loops, which are compatible with most hearing aids, and may be used in public spaces such as ticket offices, to amplify sound unobtrusively, are not generally fitted in South African museums.
• Museum staff members were sometimes ill-informed and insensitive to the challenges faced by those with hearing loss.

It is clear that South African museums need to take more proactive measures to offer full and consistent access to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Such measures should include the installation of assistive listening systems such as induction loops to improve the auditory experience; the provision of captioning on videosand transcripts so that visitors can read information which they cannot hear and; access to qualified and experienced guides who could interpret information in sign language.

For more information about Janice Schacter Lintz and her activities; providing effective access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and; misconceptions about people with hearing loss and; a very usefull hearing access checklist, download the documents below.


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  • Are you aware of any person or group compiling lists of “looped,” or otherwise hearing-improved, facilities in cities around the US?  I have no idea on how to find any such in my area (Jackson County, Oregon), short of phoning ahead before visiting such facilities.

    By Carl Finch on 24/10/2011
  • As a person using T-Coils in conjunction with induction loops, I can attest to their effectiveness, and I agree wholeheartedly with Janice Schacter Lintz that this accessiblity is in very short supply throughout museums and other places for people using T-Coils. The loops/T-Coils are the equivalent of “ramps” for our ears enabling us to access information. Carol Granaldi, New Jersey

    By Carol Granaldi on 26/10/2011