DuPont People Spotlight: Championing Communication Access for Those with Hearing Loss
An estimated 15-17 percent of the population has hearing loss. Many don’t wear hearing aids for fear of a stigma. Some gradually acquire hearing loss over time and don’t receive complete diagnoses until later in life.
DuPont Pioneer Research Scientist Martha Meyer inherited her hearing loss. Meyer, who began wearing a hearing aid in her teens and received a cochlear implant in 2013, is very familiar with the challenges of living and working with hearing loss. She advocates for people with hearing loss in the workplace and in the community. As leader of the Iowa chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America, Meyer has provided support and encouragement to other hard-of-hearing Iowans, advising on topics such as movie theater captioning, cochlear implants and coping strategies.
At DuPont, Meyer educates colleagues about services, such as Communication Access Real-time Transcription (CART), that enable full participation of people with hearing loss. CART provides real-time captioning of live events. The text appears on a computer monitor or other display, enhancing understanding for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, non-native speakers of the language or just having trouble keeping up with the speaker.
Meyer says, “At this point, I speak up about CART services on behalf of the many others with hearing loss who haven’t reached that level of boldness yet – and perhaps never will. There’s still a lot of stigma attached to hearing loss, for reasons I don’t quite understand, but I grew up in a family of hearing aid wearers.”
Shakti Harris, Organizational Vibrancy and Accessibility Champion, says, “I first learned about CART services from Martha when she attended a meeting I was leading and inquired about it. I appreciate Martha for speaking up and educating us about this important service that benefits colleagues worldwide.”
CART services are helpful to anyone who needs communication access, including those with different learning styles and those who may not be native speakers of the language being spoken.
Meyer has promoted CART to colleagues worldwide. She says, “I often receive feedback that CART is very useful for non-English native speakers when there are big teleconferences because it facilitates comprehension of the spoken word.”
The DuPont Human Resources leadership team recently used CART services during its town halls. Christina Yang, HR leader – ASEAN and ANZ, appreciated the use of CART services. She reflected, “I love the live transcription during the call. I even have a feeling that we are on the way towards being a real high tech company with those minor, minor upgrades. It is a good signal. We appreciate the global HR leadership team on their efforts to make the upgrade. It also shows our commitment to respect and inclusion.”
In her community, Meyer continues to raise awareness about inclusion of people with hearing loss. She says, “My bravest moment recently was requesting CART for my Iowa precinct’s political caucus held in February. It was something of a battle with the political parties (both), with my party’s precinct finally arranging for CART and notifying me. I brought my own projector in anticipation of their providing a professional transcriptionist with only a laptop to sit next to me, with no one else benefiting. The 300 people who turned out (to a middle school gym with NO microphones!) all saw the CART displayed on a wall, and a number of them thanked the CART provider for helping them understand better. Bit by bit, the message about accommodations will get out.”
Meyer notes that meeting organizers should emphasize that all speakers, including the audience, must use the microphones. Microphones serve multiple purposes. They amplify sounds and assist those who have hearing loss as well as enabling CART transcribers to hear everything that is being said and transcribe the corresponding words.
She advises that hearing assistive technology can support people with many types of hearing loss, noting, “There are many cell phone apps for captioning, some specific to iPhone or to Android, and some for either. That’s one of my personal development goals for the year, to get better at phone calls through using more technology.”