1. What was the moment when you realized that you had a hearing loss? What did you do about it?
Believe or not, that’s a really hard question. I was born hearing, talked at an early age and had a terrible illness when I was four which caused my hearing loss, but wasn’t diagnosed until I was 10. That was my first set of hearing aids. I never met another person with hearing loss who looked like me until I was 43 years old. So I guess as the world became more aural, I was increasingly left out of things. The phone became the object of my desire (we had 12 phones in our house with multiple lines) and my father came out of the record business and eventually wound up in television. He was one of the producers of “The Andy Griffith Show,” – it wasn’t captioned, but every script passed through my hands before a show aired.
2. How has your hearing loss affected your life?
It frustrated me and enraged me at certain points in time. As I began my working career, I learned to barter my talent (i.e. you make my phone calls and I will type and get you coffee). I had finally reached some level of success in story development when the little hearing I had died. My first CI in 1994 was the beginning of a whole new life. And it was at that point that I realized – I could either be another “great” development person. Or I could make a difference by putting people with hearing loss in movie theatres. I chose the latter and have never looked back.
3. What current issue related to hearing loss would you like to see addressed more? Why?
Obviously, captioning access in all formats and available as soon as possible. I learned both the film and television distribution systems well enough to persuade the powers that be into opening up the access pipeline. But I also learned that it was not a simple process. But if you deny your disability, you deny yourself of accommodations. You cannot participate in life to its fullest without coming out of the “hearing loss” closet. We can save the world, but one cause at a time. Pick your particular hearing loss related passion and follow it.
4. What would you like to tell the younger generation?
Speak up, advocate, request, and do so with a smile and a sense of urgency. This generation has more technological advances to equal the playing field in education, business, and volunteerism, so they need to use them. Don’t squander your opportunities. Get out of your comfort zone and remember, a poor attitude is the only true disability in life. Working within HLAA to have ONE VOICE matters. A lot.
5. What technologies are the most useful to you? How?
Captions and more captions. I’m actually old school and watch television. I love captioned theatre and would love to go to a captioned Lakers’ game. I use a Bluetooth with my Blackberry but, in reality, I’m technologically challenged. Fortunately, I have two young, brilliant partners in Captionfish, Brendan Gramer and Chris Sano, who are social media geniuses and happen to be deaf. They make me look good! And HLA-CA has an equally brilliant webmaster who knows her stuff. We are truly lucky to have her.
6. I am a member of HLAA because…
When I founded InSight Cinema in 2002, I was no longer surrounded by DHH people. I wasn’t comfortable and I needed to be back around people who felt the same way as I. HLAA has become my home and extended family. They are the people who keep me going and bring me back to earth when it becomes necessary. HLAA has truly become the light of my life.