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Wash-CAP Advocates for Rights of HOH in Washington State

Wash-CAP Advocates for Rights of HOH in Washington State

by John Waldo

Editor: Tell me again why some public places in the US are not required to provide communications access for people with hearing loss. If John Waldo has his way, we’ll soon all be pondering such issues. John is the founder of the Washington Communication Access Project (Wash-CAP), a not-for-profit that is encouraging public places to provide appropriate communications access to people with hearing loss.

This article was originally published in Sound Waves, the publication of HLA-WA (HLA’s Washington State Association), and is published with the kind permission of Sound Waves and John Waldo.

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May 2008

In the last Sound Waves, we introduced the Washington Communication Access Project, or Wash-CAP. Wash-CAP is an organization dedicated to enforcing the civil rights of the Hard of Hearing to understand what is communicated by sound at Washington’s public places, including theaters, civic meetings, seminars, classrooms, arenas and the like. In focusing specifically on securing existing rights, Wash-CAP complements but does not duplicate the work of organizations like HLA-WA and a number of national bodies.

Wash-CAP begins by pointing out that the aids and services provided to the HOH are frequently ineffective, particularly for those of us who don’t achieve full comprehension with the use of Assistive Listening Devices, but who don’t use sign language. We ask that the proceedings be reduced to text form, which creates instant access for the HOH, as captioned television demonstrates. We provide information about how captioning can be done. If the facility refuses without a good reason, then Wash-CAP may go to court to ensure our rights.

We have enjoyed some successes. At our request, Key Arena captioned Bruce Springsteen’s March 29 concert. HLA-WA Board member Dean Olson and I were given wireless hand-held devices that displayed a print-out of the lyrics. While it wasn’t a total success, the Springsteen concert was a very difficult application of the technology. We have encouraged Seattle Center to use the technology in other contexts, such as plays, when the script can be entered once, and the text used for multiple performances.

The other entities we’ve contacted have been far less receptive. Both the Paramount and the 5th Avenue theaters in Seattle have said captioning either can’t be done at all, or is too expensive. We’ve referred them to other theaters in other cities that are providing some captioned performances, and asked Paramount and 5th Avenue why they believe their theaters can’t do what other theaters in other cities have already accomplished.

We asked Washington State Ferries to caption the announcements made on board and at the terminals over the public-address systems. WSF declined, saying its systems are not designed for captioning. That answer, we said, was a perfect illustration of the problem – when the needs of the HOH are not known or taken into account, then obviously, systems won’t be designed to meet those needs. We have asked WSF to stipulate legally that it will incorporate the needs of the HOH into its future plans.

To make Wash-CAP more effective, we are organizing it as a non-profit corporation. Membership will be free, and available upon request. Creating a formal organization will allow Wash-CAP to work in the organization’s name on behalf of any one of its members for the benefit of the entire HOH community, reducing the burden on any one individual and dramatically multiplying the impact of advocacy efforts.

Within the next two weeks, we should have a functioning website with much more information at www.Wash-CAP.com. Meanwhile, feel free to get in touch with me at johnfwaldo@hotmail.com.

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Wash-CAP founder John Waldo is a Bainbridge Island attorney with a significant hearing loss who wants to apply his legal knowledge and experience to benefit the HOH community. While a number of individuals associated with HLA-WA are working with Waldo on Wash-CAP, there is no connection between the two organizations.

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