Committee: Community Resources
Location: Public meeting space in a City building
Increase accessibility for people with hearing disabilities by installing technology that provides direct audio input to most hearing aid and cochlear implant users in a public meeting space such as a library or City Hall meeting room.
While most high-use public meeting rooms in Cambridge are equipped with assistive listening systems (ALS), we do not currently have any rooms that provide hearing aid and cochlear implant users the convenience of hearing (or telecoil) loops. The City is exploring options and seeking expert guidance to ensure that equitable, modern, and holistic solutions for increased hearing accessibility are identified given changes underway in the ALS space.
A hearing loop, one potential option, is an ALS system installed around the perimeter of a room that connects with the room’s audio system and transmits the audio directly into hearing devices, including most hearing aids and cochlear implants. This direct connection results in a significant reduction in background noise and gives the user control over the volume of their individual audio input. The system would include receivers and headsets that could be used by individuals with hearing disabilities who do not utilize their own hearing devices.
The difference between a hearing loop system and the ALS currently installed in City meeting rooms is that no additional equipment is required for people who have telecoil-equipped hearing devices; they can simply walk into a room, switch their devices to the telecoil, or T-coil, function, and receive the audio input. The current systems require users to get a receiver from City staff that has either an individual hearing loop (worn like a necklace around the neck) or headphones, whichever their preference is. Hearing loops are powered on anytime the connected audio system is powered on. Thus, it is always available when the audio system is in use.
Potential locations for a hearing loop or other similar technology include the Central Square Library Lewis Room, Sullivan Chamber at City Hall, Community Room at City Hall Annex (344 Broadway), or another public library meeting room. While all of these meeting spaces are currently equipped with some level of technology to accommodate those with hearing disabilities, a hearing loop would provide greater accessibility and convenience.