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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Arboretum Advocacy Pays Off with Accessible Communication

Today I visited Morton Arboretum with my local hearing loss support group, ALDA Chicago. This nature preserve was a relaxing, peaceful place to visit on a hot, sunny day. I last visited the arboretum in the fall five years ago when I photographed their tree root sculptures and scarecrows.

Today's visit was special because thanks to the advocacy of a group member who also works at the arboretum, we had a script provided for our one hour tour on the tram. The script was not a word-for-word transcript of our guide's spiel, but a summary of the key points for each stop we made along the way.

Here's a peek at the script which we were allowed to keep afterwards. (I apologize that the script is cut off in my photo, but otherwise the words would have been too small for you to see.) The arboretum staff set it up so we had a photo of a sign trail to use as a reference next to the tour information. Because they had distilled the guided tour down to these essential points, we were able to avoid having to read the whole time and were able to enjoy the view as we passed through the woods. Usually, the tram driver speaks throughout the entire tour. Ours waited until she reached the points marked on our pages and stopped the tram. She spoke slowly, clearly, and the loudspeakers worked well. Afterwards, she was available for questions.

I was very pleased with the efforts made on our behalf. This was the first time the arboretum had done this. Now they will evaluate our feedback and perhaps consider making a script available at the tram ticket desk to anyone who would like one. This communication access helped our group enjoy a tour that without the accommodation would have been scenic, but not informational. I wanted to share this experience with you to inspire you to seek out how you can be accommodated in a similar situation. When I begin blogging about my time in Washington D.C., I will discuss how I had the exact opposite experience at the Library of Congress. Communication access makes all the difference.

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