• Chapter Fundraising: The Garage Sale

    by  • January 23, 2012

    1. Find a good location. Hopefully, you can find someone in your group (or a friend of a friend) who is willing to donate their home as the site of the sale. You don’t really need a garage — the front lawn and driveway are usually enough. The key is finding a house on a high-traffic street. We’ve used Danny and Katherine’s house in Glendale, which is a corner house on two VERY high-traffic streets.

    2. Garage sale basics. The more merchandise, the better. The more “prime” merchandise the better. What’s prime? Antiques, usable furniture, tools, car parts, kids toys, usable furniture, new books and DVDs. Interestingly, framed artwork does not sell very well. Give your members plenty of advance warning, and have them search their houses for items that will get a lot of interest. Let them know this is NOT a consignment sale — all of the proceeds go to the group, and any unsold items will be donated to charity at the end of the garage sale (see #9 below). Have a cash box on hand, about at least $50 in change: singles and fives. Maybe a couple of bucks in quarters, but don’t go crazy on having change ready. Most sales come in multiples of $.25 or $1. Have plenty of tables and display racks. The more the better. (see item #8 below). Have a table set up just for the cash, and have it at the very back of the sale. DO NOT SELL MERCHANDISE BEHIND THE CASH BOX. PROTECT THE CASH BOX AT ALL TIMES. It’s not like the world is full of thieves, but the world is full of folks who’ll grab a loose stack of cash if they spot an opportunity.

    3. Get a crew of volunteers to work the event, which means getting to the site by 6:30 or 7am at the latest. The serious garage sale buyers are out at dawn, literally, looking for bargains that can be resold. These people will make or break your sale. If they come by at 7am and you have nothing to sell, you’ve lost a big opportunity. We generally make half our money by 9am, and 80 percent of our money by noon. (Make sure you have a reliable cashier who knows how to bargain with customers. It’s also a good idea to have bags on hand for purchased items.)

    4. Try to make it a fun event. We usually have doughnuts and coffee for our volunteers, and Danny grills hot dogs around noon. We sell the hot dogs to the public, but we give them to the chapter members who are on hand. It’s a cheap morale booster (and a bonding experience). We’ve also tried having homemade goodies for sale. It’s not a big moneymaker, but it gets all of us involved.

    5. Market appropriately. Like all garage sales, you want to put signs up in the neighborhood a few days in advance. And you can place garage sale listings on sites like Craigslist, Recycler.com and the Penny Saver. Make sure to list it as a non-profit fundraiser. Have a large banner or sign at the garage sale itself promoting this as a non-profit fundraiser, and offer receipts staying that HLAA is a 501c3 non-profit organization.

    6. Pick a date in the spring or fall (not too hot, not too cold), and if you want to make it an annual event, keep it around the same time period. It’s surprising how many people have shown up at our garage sale year after year.

    7. Put your most people-friendly out front. Not everyone is a born salesperson, or a born schmoozer. Our group has a couple of each, and they tend to take a large role, encouraging people to stop, shop and spend. Have one or two people handle the cash and negotiate with shoppers. The others can keep the displays neat and fully stocked.

    8. Neatness counts. Don’t throw a pile of clothes on the ground and expect people to buy lots of them. Organize the sale by type of merchandise as much as possible. Electronics on one table. Books on another. Kids toys in one section, artwork in another. It’s almost impossible to do this 100 percent, but it helps people find the merchandise they’re most interested in.

    9. Plan for the end of the sale before the sale begins. We advertise a sale from 8am to 3pm, and one of the smartest things Danny and Katherine ever did was arrange to have a charity come by at exactly 3pm to pick up EVERYTHING that wasn’t sold—even the crappiest items. Some charities will want to pick through and select what they will or won’t take, which could leave the homeowners with a huge cleanup problem. Find a group willing to take everything, and have a crew of volunteers to help pack up the leftovers in boxes and load the truck. Do NOT expect the same group that set-up at 6am to have the strength to clean-up at 3pm.

    10. The big one: Plan to have fun but work really really hard. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth it, no matter how much or how little you make. Working with your fellow chapter members is a great bonding experience, and a great team-building exercise. You will be closer when the day is over than when it begins.

    This post was written by Alicia Fernandez and her husband Michael Caplan, who are members of the HLA-Los Angeles Chapter.

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    The Power of Ed Roberts

    by  • December 14, 2011

    Why should young people care about Ed Roberts?

    First of all, do you even know who he is? You probably have a neighbor named Ed Roberts. Even if you do not, I don’t need to wonder why you have never heard his name before.

    Two years ago, I gave a presentation in several college classrooms that included a slide of three images set next to one another: Martin Luther King Jr, Harvey Milk, and Ed Roberts. I asked them to name the people in the images. I think only one person recognized Ed Roberts. One.

    Ed Roberts was a disability rights activist. He went to UC Berkeley and helped launch the Physically Disabled Students Program run by students with disabilities. He changed the way that architecture could be accessed by people with disabilities. He was a pioneer in the independent living movement. He served on various boards, was a vital part of the emergence of the Center for Independent Living, and co-founded the World Institute on Disability. He did this all before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)…because he spoke up. And he didn’t do it alone. His actions were part of a nationwide movement that affirmed the dignity and potential of all people with disabilities to make their own decisions about the lives they wanted to live.

    Why should students know about Ed Roberts? The same reason why you should know about Rosa Parks and Susan B. Anthony. They represent movements. Minority groups. You.

    In the past year, the newly redesigned Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley opened. It’s a model of universal design – design that is accessible for all. Ed, who died in 1995, would have liked that.

    The California Museum recently inducted him into their Hall of Fame.

    But is he in your textbooks? On the walls of your classroom? A part of the curriculum? In classroom discussions? If he isn’t, he should be – along with countless others who were a vital part of the disability rights movement before and after the ADA, including Justin Dart Jr, Laura Hershey, Paul Longmore, Harriet McBryde Johnson, Leroy Moore, and Kate Gainer. As a young person, you have the power to organize in your hands. You can demand to have disability history in the curriculum. Justin Dart Jr once said “Get into empowerment.” Go for it!…

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    My 25th High School Reunion

    by  • November 2, 2011

    I’m not sure what brave soul inhabited my body last Saturday, but suddenly I found myself driving to my 25th high school reunion, a fresh battery in my hearing aid and a pad and pen in my purse. I haven’t attended a reunion since my hearing loss began about 20 years ago. Social events are stressful enough, but something about seeing people who knew me when I had normal hearing has always seemed extra scary.  I could never get used to the thought of being seen as the girl who once had all that potential and now had a major disability. I’ve dreaded the discomfort that would inevitably ensue when people would realize they couldn’t communicate with me the way they used to. Or maybe it’s been my own discomfort that’s scared me most, and the thought of being so blatantly reminded of what my life was then, and what it is now.

    My first act of nerviness happened weeks earlier, when I emailed Jenny, the reunion coordinator (our former homecoming queen), and confided to her about my hearing loss. I wanted to know if there would be loud music playing at the event, and if there would be any quieter outdoor areas more conducive to conversation. Her warm response was more than I expected. She suggested I show up, scope out the environment and if I decided not to stay, she’d refund my ticket. She said if necessary, she would turn the music down (or off), and emphasized that this was meant to be an all-inclusive event.

    It wasn’t until an hour before the reunion began that I finally committed myself to going. When I arrived, Jenny greeted me with a mini dry-erase board to use for the night. I was so touched by her thoughtful gesture. Since she had made the effort to bring it, I felt compelled to actually use it, even though the packed room was making me want to run. There’s always that panic that sets in at social events, that desperate hope that somehow a miracle will occur, that my hearing aid (and non-functioning cochlear implant) will somehow allow me to interact and converse like everyone else.  But who was I kidding? Even without music on, the background noise level was so high from all the loud chattering. I couldn’t hear a thing.

    The dry-erase board was a great idea, much easier to use than a notepad. And once I had it in hand, I had no choice but to use it. Even if I wanted to, it wasn’t something I could just tuck away in my purse. People would ask why I had it, which forced me to disclose my condition right away.

    Some people were hesitant about writing on the board, and just didn’t want to be bothered with it. They seemed to think they could make me hear if they yelled in my ear loudly enough. (By the way, to anyone out there who thinks that yelling in a hard-of-hearing person’s ear is helping them, you’re wrong. Most likely, it’s still going to sound like mumbo jumbo, just really loud mumbo jumbo. In fact, you’ve probably just caused a little more damage to our already-damaged hearing cells. The best thing to do is to look at us head-on so we can see your mouth as you speak.)

    Besides those few who disregarded the board, most people seemed genuinely okay with using it. I would try conversing normally first, with lip reading and whatever my hearing aid could pick up, but would usually end up having to politely gesture to the board. Gradually, I became more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, if that makes any sense. It was people’s willingness to communicate with me that helped fuel my confidence throughout the night. Heck, there were guys I never talked to in high school who were now writing on a dry-erase board to me! And while I often felt embarrassed and awkward, I also felt a sense of empowerment that I’m not used to feeling. There was something very freeing about exposing my deafness. After years and years of hiding my condition, I was finally showing people, this is who I am now.

    It’s funny how life never goes as expected. In high school, I imagined myself at my 25-year reunion with a fabulous career, maybe a PhD, and enough worldly success to make people envy me. I never dreamt that the accomplishment I’d feel most proud of would be simply showing up and communicating as best I could. For me, it was a huge step, a monumental feat. When I think about what constitutes “success” for me now, I feel twinges of melancholy and disappointment. But more than that, I feel a deep inspiration forming, an inner pride that makes me want to keep going. Twenty-five years ago, I’m sure I wouldn’t have signed up for the journey I’ve been on. But maybe real success lies in embracing whatever journey’s been handed to you as best you can, and realizing that a dry-erase board can mean just as much as a PhD, sometimes more.

    A week later.  There was one guy who spent a lot of time “conversing” with me by writing on the board, and I connected with him on Facebook after the reunion to thank him. I thought I’d share his meaningful response with you……“I have to admit, I don’t like loud places so much and the reunion was loud! The only real and meaningful conversation I had was with you and your dry-erase board. I thought that was so ironic! It took your situation to enable a conversation worth having! I thank you for being patient and letting me into your world for a moment.”

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    Welcome to the HEARD: Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

    by  • November 2, 2011

    A year ago, if you had told me that a trio of horses would change my entire outlook on life, I most likely would have looked at you with quizzical eyes, which I would have proceeded to roll and added, “Yeah, right!”

    But last Spring, a group of three horses actually DID manage to change my whole outlook on life.  This is how it went…

    I am a psychotherapist, and in order to maintain my license I must complete a certain number of CEUs (Continuing Education Units) every year.  This year, I decided to collect my hours by doing something out of the ordinary. I signed up for a three-day workshop on Equine Assisted PsychotherapySo that is how I happened to take a plane to Colorado one Wednesday evening in early May, following my day of work.

    It was sunny and comfortable in L.A. when I left.  I was wearing a pair of paddock boots, jeans, a t-shirt and a fleece sweatshirt.  I had packed a raincoat just to be safe.  I arrived in Denver at 9:30 pm, smack in the middle of a snowstorm!!  It was 30 degrees and the visibility was terrible.  I rented a compact car and in the middle of the night, drove an hour to a little hotel near the training site.  I checked in, got my key and carefully entered my room.

    I had planned to share a room with two other training attendees I’d never met.  They were asleep.  I quietly put my suitcase down, undressed and settled into bed, exhausted from the stressful drive.  Boy, did I feel proud!  Look at me, I’d travelled all this way, in a storm, going to sleep next to people I don’t even know, and I’m not even scared or anxious!  What a tough chick I am!!!

    The next morning, I awoke to meet Susan, an Equine Specialist, and Sheri, a psychotherapist.  We had an instant connection, the kind where you wonder if you had met this person before, maybe in a previous life?

    We proceeded to the training.  It was a cold, cold day.  There were about forty of us in a big covered riding arena, sitting on little plastic chairs and covered with extra blankets.  The ranch was gorgeous, but it was freezing cold!  In attendance were three horses roaming about.

    We proceeded with the general introductions and I, of course, was the first to stand and share with all those in attendance that I was hard of hearing and that I needed them to look at me when they spoke and raise their hand so that I could see who was speaking.  Deaf Assertiveness 101.  For sure, that earned me the love of the entire audience… NOT! This room was nearly all psychotherapists, but soon enough, my roommates began hearing snide comments such as, “Well, I’d like to sit at the front, too!”  Of course, I was oblivious to their words, not being able to hear!

    Life was all good…until I raised my hand to participate.  Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is experiential by nature: we focus on the emotions that emerge when doing an on-the-ground activity with the horses.  (The most common types of therapy are solution-focused or cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, which focus on your thought process; however, experiential-oriented therapy focuses on the emerging feelings in the moment.)  So, I get up and volunteer with 9 other participants, feeling nervous because I might not be able to hear or follow directions, but thinking, “What is the worst that can happen?  I could get trampled by a horse, I guess.”  In retrospect, I think it would actually have been less painful if I had ended up being trampled.

    Instead, I ended up crying. “When it rains, it pours,” goes the saying—but in my case, it was more like “when it rains, there is a typhoon.”  It turned out that the exercise with the horses raised so many feelings of inadequacy and hurt that I did not know what to do with myself.  I’d thought that over the years I had handled my late deafness, that I’d made it past the grief and found my place in the world.

    Twenty minutes of work with the horses proved I’d been kidding myself all these years.

    And it felt as if the horses knew it: like me, they were looking for an exit from the ring the entire time.  I realized that my life had always been about the destination, never about the journey.  If I get this job, then I will be worth it; if I get this degree, then I will be better; if I write a book then I will be someone, and on and on… but the bottom line is, no matter what I accomplish, no matter how many people validate me and no matter how much I am loved, it is obviously never enough, because deep inside I still feel broken and a misfit, forever unhappy.

    It also brought back many suppressed memories from my childhood.  I was totally overwhelmed.  I cried a whole night and half the following day.  I could neither stop nor verbalize my feelings.  I felt ravaged, dazed and disoriented.

    Then, on the afternoon of my last day in Colorado, when the tsunami seemed to be receding, leaving merely a storm to rage within me, this huge draft horse found me sitting on a chair in the big arena.  He was the only blind horse there, and he picked the only person in the group who had a disability.  He placed his muzzle on my shoulder, and stayed there for a few long minutes as if to say “I feel your hurt, I feel YOU, just bear with me, it is going to be ok.”  As people all around were watching me cry (most likely wondering what on earth was wrong with this deaf woman!) I felt my inner eye open.  I felt I...

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    New Toastmasters Club in Orange County

    by  • November 2, 2011

    HLAA member Robin Itzler is forming a new Toastmasters club in Cypress.  The Something Gained club is open to everyone who wants to improve their communication skills and gain new-found confidence when speaking. Whether someone is entering the job market, looking for a new position or has their sights on a promotion, gaining that something extra like good communication skills can make all the difference.

    The club will also benefit people with personal challenges. From shyness to hearing loss, to limited vision or stuttering, to English being a second language or just being frightened to speak in front of others, Itzler stresses not letting your ‘something’ hold you back from achieving success.

    “Everyone has a challenge they are dealing with that makes getting to the starting line harder,” explains Itzler. “The challenge could be physical, mental, financial or imagined. While that is important it is more important to make sure you don’t let it hold you back. My challenge is having a hearing loss.” She frequently reminds people that every time they talk, it’s public speaking–all that changes is the size of the audience.

    The Something Gained club will meet in the comfort of the Cypress Public Library’s meeting room at 5331 Orange Avenue, Cypress, CA on the third Saturday of the month from 10:15 to noon.  The next meetings are November 19 and December 17. Reserve your seat by emailing Robin Itzler at Robin@MotivateYourSomething.com.

    About Toastmasters: For nearly a century, Toastmasters International has been helping people of every background, education level and economic standing develop the competency they need to become effective communicators and inspired leaders. It is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Membership is affordable: $20 new member fee, then $27 for six months plus any nominal club expenses.

    About Robin Itzler: Robin, a bilateral hearing aid user, has worked in some facet of marketing/communications since 1976 and currently works full time in the pet health insurance field.  She and her husband own Royal Care Pet Sitting, where she also handles the marketing.  In 2010, Robin started Purrfect Bark, a public speaking program at her company.  She is an officer in the Toastmasters Bre’ahs club where she has broken club records earning various award levels.  

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    2011 Consumer’s Guide to Hearing Aids

    by  • October 19, 2011


    A 31-page color booklet that illustrates the different styles of hearing aids, compares different models and features, and shows the technology pyramid and hearing aid pricing.

    Available in the USA and CANADA ONLY
    Price: $4.99
    + shipping

    Reasons to buy the book:

    • Includes over 450 New Hearing Aids, Specs & Pricing.
    • Explains digital hearing aid technology: Entry Level Digital, Basic Digital, Advanced Digital, and Premium Digital Hearing Aids and compares the differences.
    • Shows Best Value: Reprogrammable models keep your hearing in focus for years to come.
    • Shows how damaged hair cells affect hearing.
    • Lists 10 reasons receiver-in-canal wins.
    • Lists seven reasons you hear better with two ears.
    • Talks about the new invisible hearing aids.
    • Explains hearing aid battery basics.
    • Explains what you should expect from your hearing aids.
    • Provides a glossary and definitions so you understand hearing aid terminology.
    • Is must-have before you buy your next pair of hearing aids.

    Order from: 

    Hearing Loss Association of America
    Call: 301.657.2248…

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    HLA-CA Asks!: Your Accessible City

    by  • October 3, 2011


    What have you done to help make the city in which you live accessible for those with hearing loss? What was the process like for you? Who helped you? Did you change the law or did you help enforce it?

    We are looking for stories and tips to feature on the HLA-CA website in a new section on Advocacy.

    You can talk about anything from captioned broadcasts to looping to transportation to emergency alerts.

    If you are interested in sharing your story, please email admin@hearinglossca.org with:
    1. Your name
    2. Your city
    3. Five sentence summary of your accessibility story
    4. Two tips that you have regarding achieving this particular kind of accessibility

    Once you email the above four items, you will be contacted with more details about sharing your story.

    The deadline to submit is October 31, 2011.

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    Hearing Aid Compatible Cell Phones

    by  • August 26, 2011

    The Better Hearing Institute has just compiled a list on their website of the most hearing aid compatible cell phones that carry the highest rating of M4/T4.

    M4 indicates there is the least likelihood of microphone interference and T4 means there is the greatest likelihood of telecoil coupling compatibility with the cell phone.

    Click here for the list. Remember that each cell phone user has their own preference for the type of phone that they want, so think about what features you want before purchasing a new cell phone or upgrading from your current one. For some useful tips, check out some videos and links from Access Wireless by CTIA: The Wireless Association.…

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    No Limits Speaks Out

    by  • August 23, 2011

    Scene 1
    Nine-year old Josue makes his stage debut as an Olympic athlete.  His bigger-than-life costume bulges with a six pack and enormous biceps.  Josue struggles to lift the 500 pound barbell in front of him.  His legs quake, his arms shake and his face is a picture of determination.  

    His coach hollers, “You can do it!  Don’t Give Up!  No obstacle is too big.  You can achieve your dreams! Now say it…”

    Teeth clenched, Josue says under his breath, “I’m a mean lifting machine.”

    Coach says “Again!”

    This time Josue, at full volume, shouts, “I’m a mean lifting machine.  I can do anything!”

    The audience agrees and cheers him on as he raises the barbells above his head and wins the Olympic Gold.  Josue comes off the stage and says “This is so much fun!  Did you hear the audience clapping?”

    Scenes like this one are taking place across the nation as No Limits Theatre Group’s 2011 season is underway.  Productions performed by children with a hearing loss from the ages of 4 to 18 years are being rehearsed and performed in Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Diego, New Brunswick, NJ and Wethersfield, CT.  As Executive Director Michelle Christie-Adams recently said, “It is truly a thrilling year for No Limits as we are producing more shows than ever and are adding new cities to our No Limits family.  Traveling around the country and meeting all the kids has been a wonderful time for me and the company.”

    In 1996, Michelle Christie-Adams, M.S. and UCLA doctoral candidate, and a graduate of the John Tracy Clinic Graduate program, with over 18 years experience in the entertainment industry, founded No Limits.   Ms. Christie-Adams recognized the lack of opportunities for oral deaf children to improve their speaking abilities in a fun and non-academic setting.  Knowing these children can often be lost in the shuffle of the hearing world, Ms. Christie-Adams designed an after-school theater program to help develop communication skills, expand vocabulary and grammar, and understand character development.  Through role-laying, cultivating creativity and developing public speaking skills, No Limits children began to confidently move into the hearing world.  After witnessing dramatic improvements in the children, No Limits expanded to become a national program. No Limits is the only theatre group in the country for children with a hearing loss who use spoken language.

    The children have performed 65 original productions in front of over 60,000 audience members and in 2009 had the distinct honor of making history by performing at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

    Erica DeLange, a parent of a deaf child and organizer of the No Limits Detroit show said, “I learned about No Limits from my friend, Kathy Buckley. She felt I should talk to them because my son Stewart is deaf. We live in Michigan and they had yet to come to our area to perform. Once I talked with Michelle, I knew I had to do what I could to bring them to Michigan. I am so excited to be a part of this amazing program and can’t wait to see how much Stewart and our other actors gain from the process!”   Kathy Buckley, the first hard of hearing comedienne and motivational speaker is a spokesperson for No Limits, and spreads the word across the country.

    In addition to the production activity, No Limits has garnered incredible media exposure this year, appearing on ABC Family, CNN and NBC.  ABC Family recently filmed a series of “webisodes” focusing on No Limits actress, Carmen Meissner, who has a role on the hit series, “Switched at Birth”.  The vignettes focus on Carmen’s audition process and goes into detail on the skills she learned while participating in No Limits since she was seven years old.   In addition, John Autry II, an alumnus of the inaugural 1996 production, recently acted in an episode of “Glee” and has been an active spokesperson for the benefits of theatre for children with a hearing loss and serves as a role model for the youngest No Limits actors across the nation.  No Limits has been fortunate to receive much attention for the results of its program including being featured on OPRAH, PBS, The Learning Channel and the subject of four documentaries for its revolutionary techniques.   It is the goal of No Limits to provide a platform that will educate the hearing community about the needs and talents of children with a hearing loss who use spoken language.

    Six-year old Lana steps out confidently from behind the red curtain dressed as a young heavyweight champion with gloves bigger than her head.  She then shows off the strength of her talents in the boxing ring as she becomes the first female heavyweight champion of the world.   The audience excitement is palpable.  Lana, like a professional actress, waits for the applause to die down before she delivers the punch line:

    “I fly like a butterfly. I sting like a bee, anyone out there want to mess with me?  I don’t think so. Girls Rule.”

    The audience laughs and Lana smiles from ear to ear.  

    In addition to No Limits national theatre company, in 2002 No Limits launched its Educational Center in Los Angeles dedicated to helping lower income children, ages 4 to 18 years, and their families receive services that would otherwise be out of their reach.   Some students attending No Limits arrived at five years old with no auditory skills and did not know their name, age or birthday.   No Limits Educational Center was designed to help students like these....

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    See Captioned Movies by 2013

    by  • August 23, 2011

    The long-standing dream of fully accessible movies continues to move closer to reality in California. AMC, America’s second-largest theater chain, announced this week that it would install captioning equipment at all of its first-run theaters throughout the nation, joining Regal and Cinemark, America’s first and third largest chains, in committing to full access for people with hearing loss.
    The AMC announcement came in the course of ongoing discussions involving the Association of Late Deafened Adults, attorneys from the public-interest law firm Disability Rights Advocates, and myself. Because AMC is attempting to blend two different captioning systems and because it is attempting to allocate the available equipment on an equitable basis across the country, the exact schedule and sequence of its California roll-out is not yet known. But suffice it to say that California movie-goers will soon experience a dramatic increase in movie availability.
    Meanwhile, Cinemark’s actual deployment of captioning equipment is well ahead of schedule. As of mid-August, Cinemark had installed at least some captioning equipment at 51 different California locations. In all, 440 Cinemark auditoriums in the state were equipped to show captioned movies, and the number continues to increase.
    Cinemark has also made major strides in the past month at making information about captioned movies more readily available. Working with Nanci Linke-Ellis, Cinemark has worked out a means by which the list of captioned movies and their showtimes can be displayed on the Captionfish website, www.captionfish.com, which is rapidly becoming a go-to source of information for people with hearing loss. A user can go to the Captionfish site, input their location by name or zip code, and learn what captioned movies are available nearby. The site notes the method of captioning being used, including an indication of which movies may be subtitled foreign-language films.
    The increase in captioning availability is occurring in tandem with conversion from traditional film projection to digital projection. In that mode, film ceases to exist as a physical reality. Instead of large reels of film, movies are reduced to digital format and transmitted to the theaters either on computer discs or over the internet. In addition to creating a means of movie display that can’t deteriorate over time, digital projection saves the studios considerable money, because there is no longer any need to create the physical movie prints or to pay to ship them.
    For a number of years, the prospects of digital conversion at some unspecified future time served to retard the availability of captioned movies. Although the vast majority of major-studio movies had captions provided under contract with the studios, the theaters were reluctant to purchase and install captioning equipment that would work with film but that might not work with digital projectors. Now that digital conversions are actually taking place on a broad scale, that issue disappears. Not only do the theaters accept the fact that digital projection is not likely to become outmoded anytime soon, but the equipment to show captions from a digital set-up is considerably less expensive than the equipment necessary to show captions with traditional film.
    Cinemark’s commitment to full captioning capability throughout California resolved a lawsuit that DRA attorneys and I had filed in Oakland on behalf of ALDA and two individuals, Linda Drattell and Rick Rutherford. That action was quickly and amicably resolved at the end of March, with a commitment on the part of Cinemark to install captioning upon completion of its digital conversions. Cinemark did not limit its commitment to California, but announced that it would provide full captioning capability nationwide. Regal quickly made a similar commitment. AMC was the last of the three large chains to do so.
    All those theaters are going to use closed captioning, in which the captions – the written dialogue and some additional aural information – are displayed on individual viewing devices so as not to alter the movie-going experience for other patrons. Two of the viewing devices, made by different companies, display the captions on a cell-phone like screen. The display module is mounted on a flexible goose-neck that fits in the cup-holders. In some respects, it is similar to Rear Windows Captioning (RWC), except that instead of showing a mirror-image reflection of captions being displayed on an LED board mounted on the rear wall of the auditorium, the captions are transmitted wirelessly.

    AMC is planning to use viewing devices manufactured by one company but digital projectors manufactured by a different one, so it needs to install some form of conversion gear. Because of that, and because of the heavy demand being placed on the small firm that manufactures the viewing devices, AMC cannot develop a definite schedule for captioning availability in California, but expects some installations to begin before the end of 2011, and anticipates full deployment by the end of 2013.

    Elsewhere around the nation, favorable court decisions have advanced the cause of movie access. In July, a court in Washington state directed AMC to equip all of its theaters to show captioned movies after digital conversion. AMC resisted, but  based on financial data we presented at trial, the judge concluded that AMC could afford to provide full accessibility, and therefore ordered that it be done.

    Although the trend seems to be moving irreversibly towards something approaching universal access to the movies, there are still some significant issues that need to be addressed.

    First, there is some concern about the effectiveness of the viewing devices, which have not been tested on a broad scale over a long period of time. In my opinion, this issue is far better addressed in our capacities as consumers than through any legal process. The law requires theaters to provide “effective” accommodations, not necessarily those that we prefer – particularly not those that only a few individuals prefer. I think the best way to approach this issue is to try what is being offered, suggest changes if appropriate, and then, most importantly, actually patronize the accommodations being requested.


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    Using Your HLA-CA Website

    by  • August 18, 2011

    In the past year, the website for the Hearing Loss Association of California has been undergoing a major overhaul in its content, design, and interaction with HLA members and website visitors. The website was redesigned with the idea of engaging more members via social media networks while still providing the same useful information on local and national resources. The Hearing Loss Association of California has been at a critical point in its impact in the state of California and the website should be both a resourceful and powerful tool for outreach for all members. As I have designed this website in the past year, I’ve been shocked by the unfamiliarity of many HLA members with the social media giants that are Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. As a member of the emerging 18-35 young adult generation, these websites are crucial to how I keep in touch with the many other young adults whom I have met at the past three HLAA conventions that I have attended. I find out about the latest news in technology, talk about advocacy, and read various articles about their life experiences with hearing loss. I want the older generation to be able to engage with each other in the same way because I have seen it make a difference.

    This is where you come in. The HLA-CA website, at its core, is a tool that all the California chapters should use. Each chapter in the north and south is listed on the chapters tab on the website. If chapters have their own personal websites, like the Los Angeles and Sacramento chapters, website visitors will be redirected to that chapter’s website when they click on their names. For those who do not have their own websites, like the San Fernando and Peninsula chapters, the links for them take website visitors to a page that lists their contact info, meeting times and location, and available accessibility. The overall HLA-CA website is managed and updated by the Webmaster, but it is the responsibility of each chapter to update their own web pages. The chapters that have web pages have each been provided with a log in name and password that allows them to have complete independence in updating their own information about their chapters. Please be sure that you update your web pages because the more engaged you are on your page, the more people you will attract. I know this as a fact because when I engage more in social media, I hear more from people.

    Social media exists because of the internet and cell phones, which are increasingly allowing for more accessible and free ways to communicate with our family, friends, and co-workers. As of this past spring, HLA-CA has both a Facebook page and a Twitter page. Both of them post the latest articles from the state newsletter and any local or national news that would be of interest to people with hearing loss, such as movie captioning, hearing loss or disability legislation, cochlear implant and hearing aid technologies, tinnitus research, social media uses, and the health and socialization of people with hearing loss. The news is not for one population or generation; it is useful to all who are affected by hearing loss. I encourage you all to “Like” the Hearing Loss Association of California on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hearinglossca, and “Follow” it on Twitter at www.twitter.com/hla_ca. If you are unfamiliar with either website, there will be a social media presentation at the upcoming HLA-CA state conference in February, or you can contact me, Rhianon Gutierrez, about giving a presentation for your chapter.

    The newsletter articles were, until Spring 2011, only published in print format, but now selected articles can be found online, both in downloadable PDF format and as blog entries on the main page of the website. This gives people a chance to be able to access the articles in an alternative format and save on paper and shipping costs. Since the articles will be posted online, I encourage you to share them via email and social networks, including the ones that you may potentially write. It’s a great way to start an online dialogue that may lead to an unexpected connection or insight.

    A website is always more interesting if it has personal stories and images on it. I’m writing to ask chapters to share community advocacy and meeting stories and take high quality pictures, then share them with us on our Facebook page or email an article and an accompanying high quality picture for me to post on the HLA-CA website. Consider how the state website can help give your chapter a voice and to educate people about the mission of HLA-CA and what it means to be engaging in and fulfilling that mission. In this world where technology continues to make accessible so many things that weren’t accessible before, become engaged. The time is now.

    Lastly, I want to make the website transparent. The website is controlled by members of the Board of Trustees. Many people often ask us what we talk about and what we do for the chapters. As a member of the board who wants to work for and with the chapters, I feel that its important that we keep you connected with how the board makes decisions, and to hear from you about how we can most help you. Summaries of our board meetings and updates from the President and other board members will occur on a quarterly basis. Right now, I am working solo as both the Webmaster and the Social Media Manager, but I want all chapter members to be engaged on the HLA-CA website and its Facebook and Twitter pages. My work is given importance by those who engage with my posts. I’m doing it for you. I expect a mutual exchange, and I encourage you to send me any...

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    How to Get A Grant

    by  • May 17, 2011

    The Hearing Loss Association of Sacramento recently obtained $15,000 in support from the California Communication Access Foundation (www.communicationsaccess.org)  and See-Speech (www.see-speech.com) for a new live captioning project. Over the course of the next year, this project is expected to provide free captioning to people with hearing loss throughout the greater Sacramento region and give the chapter new opportunities to expand their outreach. Sacramento chapter president, Kathleen Bowers (kathleen@hlasac.com), has some experience in obtaining grants. Below are a few thoughts from her on how to get a grant.

    Billions of dollars in grants are given away every year, with funds for just about every conceivable kind of project. What’s more, many of these grants are awarded at the local level. If you see a need that you would like to fill, or have an idea for something that doesn’t exist in your community, you may be able to get a grant to make it happen.

    Getting a grant may require time and persistence, but the return on investment is most often greater than that for a fundraising event or an appeal letter. Remember: grant-making institutions need you just as much as you need them. They have the financial resources to create programs. You have the ideas, experience and skills needed to identify and solve problems in your community. Find the right grantmaker, and the result will be a dynamic partnership. Interested in learning more? Here are a few tips to help you get started:

    • Review your public presence before you start. Unless your group is new, grantmakers will expect to see an attractive, well-organized web site as well as additional information about you on other web sites. One easy way to increase your visibility for grantmakers is to create a profile on Guidestar, a site that funders frequently use to gather information on nonprofit groups (http://www2.guidestar.org).
    • Envision a fundable project. The most fundable projects are typically those that A.) most obviously make a major difference – in situations, communities, and lives, and B.) are a good match with the goals of prospective grantmakers.
    • Think in terms of unaddressed needs and unresolved problems. Do you have a clear picture of your project’s goals? Are these goals connected to needs not already addressed by other organizations? Grantmakers will want answers to these questions, so you should be asking yourself these questions from the start.
    • Get validation. In general, grantmakers will want to see some external validation for your group and your proposal. Partners, sponsors, matching funds, and statistical evidence are all forms of external validation. To obtain external validation, you may want to meet with other community organizers and experts. Explore ways that they might support you – anything from a testimonial to a financial donation or some form of partnership. Some groups have found it helpful to meet with public officials to solicit their support as well. Another way to get external validation is to conduct a survey to assess the need for the project, so that you can report your findings to the grantmaker. (A great resource for surveys is www.surveymonkey.com.)
    • Touch base with the HLAA national office. Elizabeth LeBarron reports that she and Brenda Battat are happy to talk with you about your prospective grant-writing projects. Consider the national HLAA office a good resource. Over the years, they have had direct contact with many grantmakers, and have collected information on many more.
    • Research grant-making institutions to find the best funding opportunities for your project. There are three main sources of grants: 1.) government agencies, 2.) private foundations, and 3.) corporations. Remember that these entities have their own goals! Your research should focus on trying to find a good match between your project goals and a grantmaker’s interests.  Researching government grants can take some legwork. Often, Federal grants are given to states and counties who then divide the funds into smaller grants for local non-profit organizations. With some persistence, you can track them down by starting at the Federal or state level. One of the best sources of information on Federal grantmakers is the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA), which you can find online at http://www.cfda.gov>. Also try www.nonprofit.gov.

    Finding private foundations and grant-making corporations is fairly easy, thanks to the Foundation Center, located online at http://www.foundationcenter.org.

    Note that many grantmakers will require your group to either have your own 501(c)(3) (or other charitable or association status) or apply under the umbrella of another organization. If you don’t have your own tax-exempt status, don’t give up – talk with the particular grantmaker, as well as the HLAA state and national representatives, to get their recommendations on how to proceed.

    • Once you have identified them, contact your best grant-making prospects –by phone or in person if possible. Ask for their application materials and the date of the next application deadline. But don’t stop there. Also ask about their current funding priorities and even for advice on how your project idea matches their funding objectives. This will help you better tailor your grant proposal to get the funding you’re seeking.
    • Write the proposal. Government proposal procedures are usually clearly spelled out in written form. However, many government agencies also provide public forums where grant-seekers can bring their questions. These meetings are often well worth attending. Private foundations often allow for more flexibility in the grant-writing process. But all proposals are expected to contain the same basic elements in some form:
    1. The Problem that you have recognized and are prepared to address.
    2. The Solution – your project! Include what will take...

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    Movie Captioning: Now the Rule Rather than the Exception

    by  • May 17, 2011

    Widespread movie captioning in California came one big step closer to reality in April 2011, when Cinemark announced plans to equip all of its first-run theaters in the state to show closed-captioned movies by June 15 of 2012. Cinemark’s decision led to a friendly resolution of the lawsuit filed by two individuals, Linda Drattell and Rick Rutherford, and by the Association of Late-Deafened Adults. I represented the plaintiffs in the suit in partnership with Disability Rights Advocates, a public-interest law firm based in Berkeley.

    Cinemark will convert at least half of its first-run theaters in California to digital projection by June 15 of this year, and will install equipment in each auditorium to show closed-captioned movies. The captions will not be visible to the general audience, but only to patrons who use a viewing device that the theaters will provide at no charge.

    Over 80% of the major-studio movies today come with captions. The theaters must install the equipment required to show the captions.

    The captioning capability will be installed in conjunction with Cinemark’s conversion of its first-run theaters to digital projection. When digital projecting equipment is installed, film ceases to exist – movies become a package of digitized information transmitted either on computer discs or over the internet. Because there is no film to physically deteriorate, colors don’t fade and the print doesn’t scratch.

    Digital projection is highly desirable from the studios’ point of view, because the expense of producing and mailing large canisters of film is enormous. But the benefits to the theaters are less clear, and may in fact be negative, because digital projectors are expensive, and they require considerably more expensive upkeep than film projectors.

    While digital conversion has been technically possible for some time, its actual roll-out was delayed while the theaters and the studios negotiated over who paid for it. The precise details of that resolution are at least somewhat confidential, but the general outline is that the theaters will borrow money to finance the conversion, and then the studios will reimburse them over time in the form of a “print fee” paid for showing digital movies.

    The delay in widespread digital conversion also hampered the expansion of movie captioning. The equipment used to show captions in theaters using film wouldn’t necessarily work with the equipment used to show captions in a digital theater. Because of that, the theater chains essentially froze their captioning capability for several years rather than buy equipment that might become outmoded.

    With the financing questions resolved, at least for the large theater chains, digital conversion is finally under way. As that has occurred, the theaters are also beginning to install equipment necessary to show captions.

    Although many people with hearing loss prefer open captions, in which the captions are projected on the screen and are visible to the entire audience, the theaters are firmly convinced that open captions deter other patrons. Therefore, all have opted for some form of closed captioning after they convert to digital projection. The captions are not visible to the general audience, but show up on viewing devices that a patron wishing to view the captions checks out.

    Cinemark and Regal, the nation’s third and first largest theater chains, respectively, have completed both digital conversion and the installation of full captioning capability at all of their theaters in King County, Washington. (Both chains were defendants in a lawsuit I filed on behalf of the Washington State Communication Access Project, www.wash-cap.com.)  The experience in Washington gives us some idea of what to expect in California.

    The good news is that captioning has become the rule rather than the exception. Instead of having one or at the most two movies at any multiplex available in captioned form, the vast majority of the movies Regal and Cinemark are showing in the Seattle area are now available with captions. And instead of having limited show-times, the captions are available for every showing of every movie that comes with studio-provided captions.

    Cinemark is using a viewing device called CaptiView. The CaptiView unit is a metal box with a shielded viewing screen mounted on a flexible goose-neck that sits in the theater seat cup-holder. The captions are transmitted wirelessly directly to the unit. While some users that have tried the system in the greater Seattle area have cited eye fatigue from needing to look back and forth from the viewing box to the screen, others have had very good things to say about the system.

    CaptiView is, in some respects, similar to Rear Window Captioning, in which the captions are projected in mirror image on an LED reader-board mounted on the theater’s rear wall, and are viewed on a transparent plexiglass screen. CaptiView has some advantages over RWC. It works equally well from any seat, and because the captions are transmitted wirelessly, the system isn’t interrupted by visual interference, such as the person behind the viewer standing up. On the other hand, one advantage to RWC is the transparent viewing screen, which permits a viewer to superimpose the viewing panel onto the movie screen, and can create an illusion of an open-captioned movie. Because the CaptiView unit is solid, the viewer either has to position the viewer unit below or to the side of the movie screen and glance back and forth, or place it in the same sight-line as the screen, thereby blocking some of the picture.

    Regal is offering a similar system, but is also experimenting with eyewear – special glasses (that can fit over regular eyeglasses) that display the captions on the lens. The caption size and perceived distance can be adjusted to be consistent with where in the theater the viewer is sitting. Despite some negatives – unattractive glasses and a somewhat cumbersome receiving device that the viewer must attach to a shirt or sweater – the eyewear has generally received very positive reviews.

    The good news is that the technology that converts the...

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    HLAA National Convention Registration

    by  • May 4, 2011

    The Hearing Loss Association of America’s Annual Convention will be held from June 15-19 in Washington, DC. The featured speaker is Christopher J. Artinian, whose family was profiled in the award-winning documentary Sound and Fury. Please be sure to reserve your tickets for the Convention by May 25!

    Convention highlights include: a captioned performance of the award-winning musical, Wicked, on Friday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m., a Thursday evening young adults outing, a Research Symposium on the impact of noise on hearing, and a Saturday evening banquet for all convention attendees who have purchased the package that includes the banquet.

    To see a complete list of this year’s presenters, visit the HLAA National page.

    See you there!…

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    The Department of Justice and Movie Captioning

    by  • January 14, 2011

    From HLAA National:

    Twenty years ago, HLAA members came out in force when it was time to comment on rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Our comments helped shape the way the rules were written. We need you to do that again to push for captioned movies.

    The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) published a notice that it is considering changes to its regulations to require movie theater owners and operators to show captioned movies. DOJ is inviting written comments from members of the public.


    According to the DOJ, written comments must be postmarked and electronic comments must be submitted ON or BEFORE January 24, 2011.  Comments must be identified by RIN 1190–AA63 (or Docket ID No. 112).

    To file comments electronically:
    1. Check out the Fact Sheet about the Proposed Rule on Movie Captioning.
    2. Click on www.regulations.gov.
    3. Enter Docket ID: DOJ–CRT–0112 and click “Search”.
    4. Click on “View by Docket Folder”.
    5. Click on the little blue “Open Docket Folder” on the right of the orange title of the proposed rulemaking. 
    6. Click on the blue title of the proposed rule to open the HTML version of the proposed rule with all the 26 questions lined out.
    7. At the top of the page, you will see an orange bar saying “Submit a Comment”.

    To file written comments via Regular U.S. mail:
    Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice
    P.O. Box 2885
    Fairfax, VA 22031–0885

    Overnight, courier, or hand delivery:
    Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice
    1425 New York Avenue, N.W. Suite 4039
    Washington, DC 20005…

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