Thursday, October 23, 2008

Asking for Accommodation

I've asked for an accomodation for the conference I'm attending next week. This is a new experience for me. When I attended my first ever library conference in Washington DC last April, I didn't make my needs known. I coped by sitting in the front or close by a loudspeaker. I managed but found it very tiring. My coworker, mentor, and friend Diane advised me that next week's conference would be a much larger affair with many more people in attendance. With that in mind, I marked the box on the registration form that indicated I am hearing impaired and may need an assistive listening device.

Soon afterwards, I received an email from the Director for Conferences and Educational Activities. She asked what type of device I needed. I wasn't sure how to answer that question so I explained that my hearing aids had T-coils and a device that was compatible with that would work for me. The Director also inquired if I needed an interpreter. No, I replied, I don't know sign language. Another question of hers was if I needed assistance with transportation to and from the conference. That puzzled me a bit. Did she think I would have trouble communicating with a taxi or shuttle bus driver? Fortunately my hotel is within walking distance from the convention center, so I confidently replied that transportation would be no problem for me.

My next communication from the director said that an onsite AV company could set up systems in the session rooms I'd be attending. They would provide me with a wireless beltpack with headphones. I was also offered the opportunity to reserve a seat for the sessions I'd be attending. All I needed to do was tell her which of the many workshops available I wanted to attend. I had already created a schedule for myself so it was no problem to forward her that information.

Then I got to wondering, was I creating too much of a problem? Were my needs really that great that someone should go to this trouble for me? My personality style is to keep a low profile and not draw attention to myself. Asking for accomodation felt slightly uncomfortable. Then I remembered how tired I was at the conference in April and thought of how using an assistive listening device could make my experience in Orlando much easier. I thought of how by voicing my needs, I was validating the fact that hard of hearing people can have professional lives and benefit from attending conferences that will help them in their careers just like their hearing colleagues. Okay, I was good on that part. Then worrywart that I am, I wondered if now that I was expecting accomodation, what if it failed to happen? I decided to bring my own personal assistive listening device along just in case.

This morning I received a very nice email stating that reserved seating would be available for me in as many sessions as possible. I was directed to where the seating would be available for the general session which everyone attends. For the featured sessions, I was told to look for seating in the front marked with a sign "Reserved Hearing/Sight Impaired". That sounded good to me.

I'll be sure to write afterwards about how my experience with accepting an accomodation turns out and how I was treated at the conference. Meanwhile if you have any helpful advice or a similar experience to share, I'd love to read your comment.


AmyKay said...

I cant wait to hear how this turns out. I haven't asked for an accomidation quite that large yet. Good Luck.
Best Wishes,

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thanks AmyKay! By the way, I just discovered your blog yesterday through Deaf Village. I really enjoy reading your stories of coping with hearing loss. Keep up the good writing.

Holly the Librarian said...

Speaking up and asking for accommodations has always been difficult for me, too. I, too, always wonder if perhaps I'm being an inconvenience--is it beyond "reasonable" accommodations?
I always sit up front, too. Recently, I found that I needed a CART for some of my classes, and it is surprising to realize just how much I was missing. I think if I went to one of those big conventions I would probably go for the CART because of the degree of my loss.

I must say I am glad that I found your blog again after a year--it is so nice knowing I'm not the only one :) Thanks for blogging!

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Welcome back to my blog, Holly. I just went over and read yours! Did you know that I taught a "Web 2.0" class based on the 23 things program at my library last winter? To make it even more fun, my colleague and I created the course online so everyone had to experience what our distance learning students do! Now we're offering the class to local public libraries' staff.
I need to learn more about CART before I ask for that. I'm glad it's working for you with your classes.