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Chapter 4: Crowded rooms

Section C - Meetings and lectures, etc.

Pease note that some of the suggestions refer to those meetings where everyone is in rows and some suggestions refer to meetings where everyone is sitting round a table.

In this section:

C.a. Environment (Meetings and lectures)
C.b. Where to sit (Meetings and lectures)
C.c. Professional help and equipment which hearing impaired people may need at meetings and lectures
C.d. It is useful to tell the Chair/speaker/official before the meeting how s/he can help (Meetings and lectures)
C.e. How people besides the chair can help you (Meetings and lectures)
C.f. Explanations (Meetings and lectures)
C.g. Contributing to the meeting (Meetings and lectures)
C.h. Being the chairperson (Meetings and lectures)
C.i. General (Meetings and lectures)

To see the other sections click on the relevant link in the left hand column

 

C.a. Environment (Meetings and lectures)

1. The best sort of rooms to use for meetings have carpets and soft furnishings which help stop echoes.  If you have any control over the choice of venue try and avoid rooms or halls in which background noise and traffic noise is a problem. Avoid rooms with poor acoustics.

2. If you have a t-switch on your hearing aids, but don’t have a loop system yourself try and borrow one (preferably with 2 microphones) and set it up beforehand.  People will need to have it explained to them how to use it.  You could either explain or ask the chair to.
If you don’t have a t-switch you could ask your audiologist if you could have one.

3. Are there likely to be other deaf people present?  If so their needs should be considered, too.

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C.b. Where to sit (Meetings and lectures)

Different people will have very different needs and be attending very different types of meetings in different types of rooms. So there is quite a variety of ideas here.

1. I arrive early to find the best place for me to sit.

2. One person said, “I sit in the front row as near the platform as possible. It took me a long time to overcome my shyness about sitting at the front but it has been worth it.

If the speakers will be sitting on a high stage, I sit further back so I won’t get a crick in my neck.”

3. I sit at the side with my best ear to the platform.

4. I sit near the central alley which will enable me to see more people.

5. I sit as near the speaker as possible.

6. I sit near the people that experience tells me will make the greatest contribution to the meeting.

7. I sit next to someone whose judgment I trust.

8. Another person said, “I sit near the Chairperson, secretary or chief participant because people tend to look at them as they speak.”

9. One person said "I sit two places from the chair with my good ear facing the chairperson and where I can see everybody's faces".

10. Another person said, “I like to sit opposite the chair because the Chairperson usually summarises all the points.”

11. I speak to the Chairperson beforehand and ask to sit next to him or her in a position where I can see his/her face clearly, and also the faces of the audience and the other members.

12. I sit near the person who will be answering questions.  From the answers I deduce the questions.

13. In small meetings I like to sit in a circle if possible.

14. At a long table, I choose a seat near the centre with my back to the light.

15. I arrive early so that I can arrange everything to suit my needs. For example, I reorganise the seating, shut the windows, draw curtains or open curtains as appropriate, and switch the light on if necessary.

16. I sit near the minutes secretary and read the notes as s/he jots them down.

17. If I am sitting in the wrong place, I ask to change places and explain why.

18. I avoid sitting near people who rustle papers as the noise stops me hearing. If the rustling starts half way through I move.

19. The most important thing for me is that I sit where I can see peoples' faces and can lipread.

20. I ask where the loudspeaker is and sit near the loudspeaker and also where I can see faces to lipread.

21. I never sit near a wall at meetings because I get the echo effect as sound bounces off the wall. I sit in the middle of the row. However if the loop is running round the by the wall I sit near the wall and use the loop.

22. Find out if there is a loop system, if it is switched on and where is the best place to sit.

23. I sit by the wall because I like the slight echo.

24. If there are two microphones one at the centre and one at the side the speaker may speak from one but answer questions from the other. I position myself between the two so that I can see the speaker's face.

25. Even though the front rows are usually last to fill up I still arrive early to make sure I get the front seat I want.

26. I go really early to get the best place for me. For the Bishop of Durham I was two hours early. I took a flask of coffee and read the paper while I waited.

27. Try to avoid sitting anywhere you feel causes difficulties, such as an open window or door which may create background noise or distractions.

28. I try to sit where I can see everyone. This might be at the end of the table.

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C.c. Professional help and equipment which hearing impaired people may need at meetings and lectures

People who are hearing impaired often have very different needs, (e.g. they may need different equipment and/or helpers). A solution which works for one person may be useless for another. For example a loop system will be no good if there is a deaf person who is not wearing a hearing aid with a T switch or who is wearing a hearing aid which does not have a T-switch.  See also Chapter 6: Environmental Aids and Chapter 7, Section 29: Language Service Professionals.

Many organisers and chairpersons know very little, if anything, about equipment or people who can help and therefore the situation will need explaining to them. Not only that, they also need to know that there may well be more than one hearing impaired person present who may also need help. Once told, some organisers are very interested and keen to help. Where possible, organisers should be told before the meeting.

Equipment and helpers include:

1. Good loudspeaker system.

2. Loop system (and the willingness on the part of every one else to use it by speaking through the microphone).

3. Find out the looped areas of the room before the meeting. I ask whether there are any areas of the room where the loop works best.

4. When I arrive early I test the loop/loudspeaker system out. This ensures that I will be OK but it also means that if the speaker checks the system out I won't hold everybody up.

5. With a domestic loop system like Sarabec, if there is one microphone I ask people to pass the microphone and use it when they speak. When there are two microphones they do not have so far to pass them so it is easier for everyone to use a microphone when they speak.

6. Palantype machines and operators. These are expensive but excellent because the operators are supposed to write everything including any funny asides.

7. Overhead Projector (OHP) and OHP writer. These are usually cheaper and are fine if people come prepared with transparencies of their talk. However you will find very few OHP writers who are good at making notes. Some are and they are to be congratulated, thanked and encouraged. (If there are people who are not very good they also need a thank you.)

8. Lipspeakers for people who are experienced at lipreading and who are not too tired to follow.

9. I ask for a microphone which can be used by people asking questions from the floor.

10. I use a personal listener for small meetings.  I find this works best in a quiet room with only a few people attending.

11. If it’s an important meeting and I know I won’t be able to take my own notes because I’ll be too busy lipreading, I ask for a note-taker.

12. An electronic note-taker can take notes to give you after the meeting, but I also sit next to them and watch what they are typing as it comes up on the computer screen. I find this helpful if for any reason I can’t follow a certain speaker or get tired of lipreading.

13. I ask for a whiteboard to be available and ask beforehand for the speaker to write up the topic each time he/she starts a new topic.  I find this helps me to keep up with what’s going on.

14. I ask for an agenda to be sent to me before the meeting if possible so that I can look ahead and anticipate what might come up.  With the advent of email I find that this is a very good solution for me as it doesn’t create extra work for anyone – they just send it as an email attachment   

15. I use my personal listener and put the microphone on a pencil and point the microphone at the speaker. It makes a great difference if the speaker is close enough.

One person said that in small meetings they clipped the microphone onto the box they carried their personal listener about in and just moved the box towards the speaker as necessary.

16. I have a portable personal listener and I have added a directional microphone which I point at the speaker. It has enabled me to hear more clearly what is being said.

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C.d. It is useful to tell the Chairperson/speaker/official before the meeting how s/he can help (Meetings and lectures)

1. One person said, "A good chairperson should be able to control the meeting in an orderly fashion, keep to the agenda, and introduce speakers or subjects clearly and concisely."

1. Quite a lot of people said that they told the Chairperson that they were hearing impaired and explained how s/he could help. Several pointed out that there may be many other hard of hearing people at the meeting.

Suggestions about how the chairperson/speaker could help included:
a. Repeating all questions from the floor before the questions are answered. (This helps everyone not just hearing impaired people.)
b. Asking speakers come up to the front of the hall and face the audience before they speak.
c. Asking speakers from the floor to use the microphone (loop or otherwise).
d. Asking speakers to stand up so that they can be seen better.
e. Insisting that only one person speaks at a time.
f. Giving speakers any relevant hints to communication like speaking up, speaking clearly, not too fast, etc.
g. Asking speakers not to cover their mouths with the microphone or anything else.
h. Ensuring good lighting on the platform.
i. Ensuring the speaker stands in a good light during the slide show.
j. Ensuring lights are turned up after slides are shown and before the speaker resumes talking.
k. Summing up at the end and repeating the important points.
l. Telling the audience that there might be several hearing impaired people in the audience so please speak up.

2. I ask the chairperson to keep an eye on me in a small meeting.

3. I get the Chairperson to repeat the last sentence if I cup my ear (or use another prearranged signal).

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C.e. How other people besides the chair can help you (Meetings and lectures)

1. I like to think ahead and do my homework. I ask the secretary for a preview of the agenda, and if possible I read the minutes of the previous meeting before the meeting. It makes such a difference. I also ask if there is any other relevant material to read.

2. I try to see if I can get a preview of the chief participants' notes.

3. I take a helpful relative or friend.

4. I ask somebody to take notes for me.

5. I ask for a copy of the notes as quickly as possible after the meeting.

6. I get a companion to fill me in afterwards.

7. I talk to somebody I trust afterwards to clarify any points that I have missed.

8. I tell the speaker I have a hearing loss.

9. I tell everybody about my hearing loss because then they always leave me my seat (which is the best place for me to hear and see the speaker).

10. I let people who are arranging the room know that I am hearing impaired and that I need the speaker to face the light.

11. I ask my husband/friend what the subject is and then I try to lipread.

12. I ask the person to sum up or tell me the subject if I miss something.

13. I take a lipspeaker with me to important meetings.

14. I sit next to someone who makes their own notes and read those. I make a photocopy of them after.

15. If I am in a committee meeting where there are microphones at each seat, I try to get the sound control operating at a maximum, and persuade everyone to use the microphones properly. This is particularly important if some speakers have their backs to you so that you cannot lipread. It may not always be possible, but a good microphone system is a great addition to your hearing aid.

16. If I don't hear a particular point I ask the person next to me to clarify.

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C.f. Explanations (Meetings and lectures)

1. One person said, “I prepare myself to say “I didn't hear that” and ask them to repeat.

2. I try to be bold. I prepare myself to remind people again and again that I have a hearing loss and that I rely on their help and cooperation.

3. I try never to get cross or sound annoyed. Sometimes I manage to spice my comments with humour.

4. I’m used to it now, so am happy to ask people to repeat.

5. I know I’ve nothing to be apologetic about - it’s not my fault I’m deaf - but I find that saying something like, “I’m sorry, I don’t hear very well,” can encourage people to be more helpful than just telling them what they should be doing.

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C.g. Contributing to the meeting (Meetings and lectures)

1. I remember that hearing people do not always make contributions, so I don’t feel guilty if I don’t make any.

2. When I cannot hear other speakers from the floor, I make contributions early. That way, they probably will not have been mentioned and I won't feel embarrassed by repeating something that they already said.

3. I write my contribution down and hand it to the Chair of the meeting so it gets brought in at the appropriate moment.

4. I always ask other people to tell me if I need to speak more or less loudly because it is often difficult to judge this for oneself.

Also see Chapter 1, Section 19: To avoid interrupting a speaker and Chapter 1, Section 23: Own voice

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C.h. Being the Chairperson (Meetings and lectures)

1. The best person to be is the Chairperson, because everybody has to face me and ensure I know what is going on if the meeting is to progress!

2. I like to have a helper, somebody I can ask when I get stuck but trust not to take the meeting over.

3. I stopped being the chair because of my deafness. Then I realised that the chair was the best person to be if you are deaf because everybody talks to you. Luckily they invited me back to be the chair.

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C.i.  General (Meetings and lectures)

1. We can learn from experience. When I could not follow a meeting because the speaker's face was in darkness and only the lectern was lit up, I explained what had happened to prevent the same mistake happening again.

2. I campaign on my own or with others for improved conditions at the various meetings I go to. I have been quite successful with some meetings and things have much improved.

3. I turn my aid down if there is clapping.

4. If I have to make a report of the meeting and if I did not hear all of it, I ask the speaker to give me/lend me their notes after the meeting. I have done this with church meetings and speakers have willingly helped and passed on their notes.

5. If the loop system or infrared system isn't switched on I ask for it to be switched on. If it still doesn't work I tell the staff and I write and complain to the management afterwards.

6. I wear my hearing aid conspicuously at all times. (You can get covers for hearing aids in bright colours. These are available from Connevans and Action on Hearing Loss's shop.) 

7. I concentrate on following the gist because I know I won't hear every word.

8. I try to relax and not panic.

9. When I have to take the minutes I practise the art of writing whilst not looking down.

10. With lectures look up the subject before going in order to help you follow the speaker.

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