Recently, I had the opportunity meet with Debra Bare-Rogers, DRM’s Communication Technology Specialist, over lunch. Deb works out of DRM’s Falmouth office and I’m based out of Bangor, so it was lovely to be able to get together. We had a great time talking about our families and our preferences regarding cheese-flavored puffed snacks. Then, because I simply can’t help myself, I started talking shop.
DRM staff brings with it a wide range of expertise. Part of Deb’s job is to work with individuals with hearing loss to identify assistive technology solutions that will help them to communicate with others. As a hospital-based advocate, part of my job is to help patient secure accommodations that will enable them to be more integrated in their communities. Although Deb and I work in different areas, we both know that DRM is a stronger agency when we collaborate across programs and achieve the very best outcomes for the individuals we serve.
You can imagine my excitement, then, when I told Deb about Ray, a patient with hearing loss. Like so many others, Ray found that his hearing decreased as he got older, until eventually he lost all ability to hear in one ear and the majority of his hearing in the other. He compensated by asking people to speak louder and reading lips when people spoke to him. Even with these coping strategies, however, Ray was frustrated because he often missed much of what was said to him. When I described Ray’s situation to Deb she immediately offered to come meet with him and talk about how assistive technology could allow him to participate more fully both in his treatment and in social situations.
A short time later, Debra came to Bangor and met with Ray as he was preparing to be discharged from the hospital. During the visit, Deb brought with her variety of communication equipment for Ray to try out. First, she showed us the CapTel. This is a telephone that provides written, word-for-word captions of everything the other person says on an adjustable screen. They can also caption voicemail messages. CapTels are easy to use and the captioning service is free!
Next, Deb told Ray about CART (Communication Access Real-Time translation). With CART, “a captioner (CART provider) uses a court reporting stenography machine, a computer and software to display everything that is being said, word for word. The text is displayed on a computer, television or projection screen.” This service would be very helpful during treatment team meetings when there are a lot of people present. Because CART can be used in a variety of settings (online or in-person meetings, conferences, educational settings, etc.), it has the potential to open a lot of doors for Ray.
Lastly, Deb showed us the Pocketalker, which is a small personal amplifier. According to the manufacturer’s website, the “Pocketalker amplifies sounds closest to the listener while reducing background noise. [It is] ideal for one-on-one conversation, small-group and television listening, or conversing in the car.” With a personal amplifier, Ray would have the opportunity to hear stories of his nieces and nephews triumphs and share in their joy, or listen to play-by-play for every Red Sox game on the radio and cheer on his favorite team.
If you would like more information about how DRM’s Communication Technology Services may be able to assist you or someone you know, visit our Communication Technology & Outreach page (https://drme.org/deaf-services/commtech) or call our Falmouth Office (800.639.3884) and ask to speak someone in our Deaf Services Program.