Arizona Makes Legislative Meetings Accessible to People with Hearing Loss

Arizona Makes Legislative Meetings Accessible to People with Hearing Loss

In Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, News by Bary E. Williams Au.D.

Arizona legislature is starting the year off on the right foot by introducing a new live captioning service at the capitol to accommodate people with hearing loss. In addition to existing assistive technology, the live captioning represents a stride forward in making government accessible to everyone.

What Is Live Captioning?

Most people have seen assistive captioning on television as Closed Captioning is commonly used to help convey speech and sound to viewers with hearing impairment.  Introduced to the public in 1971, for many years closed captioning relied on human transcription. Closed captioning for live televised events was provided by stenographers with typing speeds of over 200 words per minute that provided the least possible delay between the spoken word and the subtitling.

Captioning has been an assistive tool in other arenas as well. In places where access to verbal information is especially important –venues like classrooms or office meetings- assistive captioning devices have been increasingly used. CART captioning, which stands for Communications Access Real-time Translation, is a service provided by trained captioners who use a court stenography machine in addition to a computer to live-translate speech, word-for-word.

In the past few years with the acceleration of mobile technology and voice recognition, live captioning technology has developed in leaps and bounds.  Now, more than ever, captioning is relying on computer automation for all or part of its captioning services. Many contemporary live caption devices use a combination of speech recognition and human editing to produce captioning as efficiently and immediately as possible. In the near future, the potential of fully responsive computerized captioning may come to pass.

Accessibility in Arizona’s Legislature

With the introduction of live captioning this year, Arizona has become the first state government to make this accessibility service available at all of the committee and floor meetings in both the Arizona State Senate and House of Representatives. The service is available to anyone attending a meeting and requires 24-hour advance notice. When requested, the live captioning will be provided as a text stream to an attendee’s mobile device or laptop computer.

The introduction of live captioning in the Arizona state government expands upon existing accessibility measures for the hearing impaired. Last year the capitol introduced a telecoil loop system where the audio from microphones could be directly streamed to those wearing telecoil-equipped hearing aids.

Telecoil loops make sound more available to those with hearing loss by delivering speech directly into the ear. Looping services are becoming increasingly available in large public spaces where noise from the environment can often make comprehending speech difficult. Big, noisy locations like airports, train stations and even many large churches will make looping systems available to their visitors.

A Promise of Participation

In Arizona, the improvements in hearing services have been orchestrated by the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, an agency funded by taxes on telephone services. The telecoil installation was funded by the Commission while the new captioning service is being provided in partnership with the federal government.

The new options open the doors to better participation in government processes. In Arizona alone over a million citizens are affected by some form of hearing loss. To take advantage of the live captioning for government meetings, a request can be easily submitted via the Legislature’s website 24 hours (or more) in advance of the meeting time. The technology will help elected officials with hearing disabilities participate in government decisions and proceedings and will offer the public a way to have more transparent ways of accessing the democratic process and participating in their government.

Exceptional Hearing Care

At Exceptional Hearing Care, we are dedicated to helping Arizonians get the most from their hearing. Conveniently located for the Phoenix area, our facilities offer exceptional customer care, comprehensive testing capabilities and a fantastic selection of hearing aids and assistive devices from trustworthy, industry-leading brands. We consult with you at every phase of your care to make sure we’re helping you find hearing options that are the perfect fit for your needs. If you have a question about your hearing- or if it’s just time for your annual exam- drop us a line and set up your next appointment today!

Bary E. Williams Au.D.
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