Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Portable hearing loop comes to Ottawa. Hear! Hear!

It doesn't look like much, does it?
Kind of looks like a heating pad.
But my husband Scott Troyer and I are hoping this little gizmo will change a few lives.
It's a portable looping system that can be used in cars, boardrooms and living rooms. The pad fits under or on the seat of your chair and microphones are placed strategically so that a person who has hearing loss can actually understand what is going on around them -- instead of taking their hearing aids off because they are frustrated by all the noise around them.
So the driving snowbird can actually hear his partner on the long drive to Florida. Or a child with a cochlear implant sitting in the backseat can talk to her mom on the way to hockey practice.
It's not perfect and not for everybody but isn't it nice to know that those hearing aids you paid a few thousand bucks for will actually do you some good while driving around town, or watching the Superbowl on the big screen with your family cheering along?
This solution is now available in Canada and is reasonably priced.

We got the idea because Scott is a car salesman at Ogilvy Subaru in Ottawa and he has a good number of customers who wear hearing aids. The Bluetooth is fine for the phone, but it just doesn't cut it for the rest of the car. So we went looking for a solution and found it at Advanced Listening Systems out in Victoria. Company head Tim Archer, who installs looping systems for businesses, governments and churches, sent us our kit just this week and we will be testing it with Subaru customers.
I will be sharing the results in an upcoming video blog.
Scott is hoping to lead by example to make Ogilvy the first hearing friendly car dealership in Canada, offering solutions for people who wear hearing aids. He will put up the T-coil sign at his desk identifying him as a hearing friendly car salesman. That's important because many people who wear hearing aids feel self-conscious. A lot of them don't like their hearing aids or simply don't want people to know they are wearing them.
We're hoping, in our own small way, to change that.
All they need is our little heating pad gizmo and an active T-Coil in their hearing aids.
So, Subaru drivers, Turn on the T-Coil.
You know you want to.

People with hearing loss should be loud and proud and stick up for their rights.
Starting in January, businesses and not-for-profits with more than 20 employees will be obligated under the Ontario Disabilities Act to better serve people with disabilities, and to ensure that their staff are sensitive to their needs.
Our little gizmo -- I haven't invented a name for it -- would work beautifully in all environments, not just cars. And people with hearing loss won't have to wear a loop around their necks advertising to the world that they can't hear as well as the rest of the population.
They won't feel frustrated sitting in a boardroom, and decide not to speak up.
Maybe they'll get out in the world a little more.
Maybe they'll stop falling asleep in church.
There is simply no reason that Canadians with hearing loss have to suffer in silence, while the rest of the world is able to walk around museums, take taxis, and do their grocery shopping with the benefit of hearing loops.
Let's get with the program, shall we?
You can demand to be served by your government in both official languages, but in the past,you had no right to be served in a hearing environment.
Until now.
It only took Ontario fifty years.
But it's here, so let's take advantage of the new laws.
So come out and support us.
If you're in Ottawa, look Scott up. He'll be in the Subaru with the gizmo.
Come take it for a spin.
You can contact Scott at 613-294-6217.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Ontario Disabilities Act: Are you being served?

By January 1, 2015, businesses and not-for-profit organizations with more than 20 employees will be required by the Ontario government to provide accessible customer service and train their staff on how to serve people with disabilities.

That means that a dance studio must be able to provide information materials in an accessible format like a website, not just on paper, so that clients who have vision loss can read them with screen readers. It also means that a clothing store must either provide fitting rooms to accommodate wheelchairs, or provide an exemption to a no return policy if their wheelchair bound customers cannot try the clothes on beforehand.

It makes sense that, finally, in this modern age, businesses will be required to find better ways to serve the more than 1 in 7 persons with a disability in this province. It also makes sense from a business standpoint considering that ageing Ontarians and people with disabilities represent 40% of total income in Ontario. That's worth $536 billion to the Ontario economy, according to our government.

And yet, people who suffer from hearing loss continue to be the silent minority.

While the new government directive encourages the use of assistive devices -- pieces of equipment that a person with a disability can use to help them in their daily living -- it does not go far enough for people with hearing loss, many of whom have difficulty negotiating the world with hearing aids alone.

Assistive devices such as hearing loops are in use only in a small corner of our society, in churches mainly, but not in businesses, government service centres, hotels, transit or recreation facilities. (There are some exceptions, such as schools which utilize expensive FM systems which use microphones and transmitters to connect teacher and student.)

Nor are they in use in hospitals, conference rooms or many seniors' facilities. Nor are they offered as an "add-on" in new building construction.

And yet, hearing loops provide a cost-effective solution to many of the difficulties faced by people with hearing loss.

What are hearing loops?

Put simply, a hearing loop is a system of wires and microphones that are placed in a room or a designated area. People who wear hearing aids simply turn on a telecoil in their hearing aids or cochlear implants and can hear most of the sounds in the room just as a person with normal hearing does. (They don't work for everybody, but they do provide significant improvement in a person's hearing in a noise environment.)

Hearing loops are enormously popular in Europe where, for more than two decades, they have been installed in museums, taxicabs, even the London underground. And yet, they are rarely used in North America.

Recently, New York City has begun to encourage business to use hearing loops and now they are in all NYC taxi cabs. Even Yankee Stadium is looped!

If they are so effective, why aren't they becoming more available in Canada?

Part of the problem is that there is a general lack of awareness about hearing loops and what they can do to improve the quality of life and service for people with hearing loss. Right now, they are used only in churches and by some consumers who order them over the Internet from companies in Europe. There is also a lack of installers in Canada who are qualified and knowledgeable about microphone placement. Finally, there is a lack of buy-in from audiologists and hearing instruments professionals to promote their use. Some consumers report frustration that audiologists don't even bother to turn on the telecoil, which virtually renders hearing aids useless for use with hearing loops.

What is confounding is that hearing loops are very inexpensive, costing between $3,000 and $5,000 for a large conference room, as an example. Portable loops for use in homes, offices and cars cost less than $1,000 installed!

Those numbers are much cheaper than building wheelchair ramps and new dressing rooms.

And yet, such a simple fix is being ignored instead of being included in a business's accessibility plan.

There are a number of things that need to happen in Ontario in my opinion.

First, consumers must begin to demand these services from governments and businesses. They need to walk into their banks, hospitals, government kiosks and recreational facilities and ask why they are not being properly served. They need to stand up for their rights, under the Disabilities Act. Simply put, they need to start a dialogue.

As for businesses, they need to realize that installing hearing loops is good for business. In the U.S., where the Loop America campaign is in full swing, businesses are encouraged to become more hearing friendly and carry the sticker above, which indicates that their needs are being met.

If businesses, governments, hearing providers and consumers become engage, the change would be nothing short of miraculous.

It means a person with hearing loss could speak to the bank teller, ride public transit and hear the driver or hear their spouse while driving in a car equipped with a portable looping device. And it means that a person with hearing loss could talk to the nurse in emergency and save precious time.

Most importantly, if hearing loops were installed in more places, it would give people with hearing loss back a sense of normal.

If you would like to learn more about hearing loops, visit this site.

Remember, in Ontario, the use of hearing loops is no longer a privilege, it's are a right.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Bell Canada has great customer service said no one ever.

Dear Bell Canada:

Thanks for following me on Twitter.
You must be greatly interested on why I cancelled your home phone service today, so let me illuminate.
Two years ago, we got Bell Fibe. We were one of the first customers in our area happy to get rid of Rogers once and for all.
Unfortunately, we hated the Fibe service.
It kept cutting out. The highlight was when it cut out at the end of the Canada hockey game during the Olympics. It was also constantly cutting out during the good bits in the movies.
So we cancelled, and I wrote about how Bell Fibe sucks in my blog. Six thousand people have read that blog.
A lot of them agree with me.
But not wanting to put all my huevos in one basket, we decided  to keep the home phone.
After all, Bell is the granddaddy of phones. I've had a Bell phone since I was a kid, when dialup meant you actually had to dial up your granny.
Because we have smartphones we only use the home phone for bill collectors, telemarketers and the occasional call from a relative who doesn't believe in smartphones.
Also I do all my interviews on a landline.
I'm old fashioned that way.
We asked you for the lowest price with minimum services. We were told we could pay $20 which was about right and we were happy.
Then we decided we needed caller I.D. so we upped our service to $40 a month.
This week we got our first bill and it was for $130 which included a $25 phone call to Vancouver.
We called you today to find out why our home phone costs $95 instead of $40.
We were told it was because we didn't have a bundle with Bell.
We have a bundle with Rogers so we called them.
As of this writing -- because we cancelled your ass -- we will be paying 50 bucks which includes long distance, call display and answering.
For your part, in your quest to keep us as customers and on the off chance you might one day get us back (hey, you can always dream) you have told us you are charging us for five weeks service because we cancelled BEFORE the CRTC decision, which comes into effect on January 1st. This ruling will make it impossible for companies like yours to swindle us if we don't like  your service.
In the meantime, we will have paid you $300 for service which should have cost us let than $100.
Hey Bell, we have news.


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

"Rosie Tits"

Rosie Tits.
That was my nickname at my first job as a reporter.
One of the photographers gave me that nickname nearly 40 years ago, about a month after I started writing for my hometown paper.
I was 19 years old. 
When he called me that, he did so in front of the newsroom. Everybody had a good chuckle over that one. He also gave my colleague a nickname. He called her Darlene Happy Crack.
I didn't know what to do. I couldn't go to the principal's office, or go up to a teacher.
There were other women in the newsroom, but I didn't know them, and I didn't feel comfortable discussing the dilemma with the managing editor who was an old man.
So I did what all good girls do: I smiled and laughed along with the boys.
I did a lot of laughing over the next few years.
I was very naïve back then and didn't know how to handle this kind of degradation. I'm sure my face was red, I can't remember.
Rosie Tits, just kept echoing in my ears.

It was the first time, but certainly not the last time. I was subjected to verbal abuse as a Carleton journalism student by my radio professor who had a reputation for being a total asshole, a prick of the first order.
He'd been to the show, to CBC radio and television.
He was grooming us for the real world.
So it's not like we weren't warned.
We were taught journalism ethics and the law, but those lectures didn't include the ethical treatment of women in the newsroom. I had to read Norah Ephron and Ms. magazine if I wanted to learn that.
Our journalism profs didn't offer us any strategies to deal with the misogyny that was ripe in the cesspool we call Canadian journalism. Over the years, you sort of had to figure out how to roll with it, join in the joke long enough to make the assholes go away.
Don't get me wrong. I certainly wasn't physically abused by the bosses.
I'd know how to deal with that. I had a pretty good left hook.
But the psychological scars, they last forever. They can creep up on you, know.
Triggers, they're called.
They're happening to a lot of women these days, thanks to you know who.
Degradation, exploitation, call it what you want.
It just makes a person feel worthless, like a loser.
I had always hoped that women my daughter's age could be spared this kind of ugliness, 40 years later. Apparently, creeps are still allowed to slither around, and suffer no consequences.
And that is so disappointing.

But you know what hurts the worst?
When women do it.
During my first year working for an Ottawa paper, a female editorial assistant with whom I'd reluctantly agreed to room, used to come into the paper and regale the guys with tales of my sexual exploits. She would lean in and tell the bored deskers in detail how I looked while in the shower even though I'd never allowed her in the bathroom.
According to this women, whom I regarded as a friend, I was a tart of the first order.
So much for my professional reputation. I was finished professionally, at least in my own mind.

I was never raped but I was certainly sexually assaulted more than once.
That was a given. A fondle here, a tweak there, especially after a few drinks.
But you don't stay in the news business very long if you can't deal with pervos.
You learn quickly, as a young ambitious woman, that you are little more than fresh meat.
If you're smart, you develop your own coping mechanisms.
Here are a few I learned.
Always have an exit strategy.
Never believe anything they say especially when trading favors over job prospects.
And never, ever, let them take you to a second location.
Like a hotel room. Or a place in the deep recesses of the news factory.
Bruises heal.
But for me, the personal insults, the degradation of me as a human being, the discounting of my talents because of the overly soft bedframe God gave me, well those things hurt the most.

Why didn't I report the fondlers?
Maybe because, for the most part, those guys actually ran the newsroom. The other guys, well, they were complicit, sniggering, passing rumors on the computer system's Rumor Mill.
Talking is a career ender.
There weren't any HR people to talk to.
Nobody would have supported me, this I know.
Thanks to my little friend, I am certain that the higher ups would have told me I deserved it.
It was just better to smile, turn tail and get on with the job.

It didn't take long before I left journalism, at the tender age of 25.
I was getting passed over for promotions. I was put back on nights when I objected.
So I did what lots of the ladies did back then; I decided to get married and have babies, believe it or not.
I wasn't made for the cut and thrust of the news business.
At least if you're a freelancer, you get paid based on what you do, not what you look like.
And the good news is, since leaving journalism, I've only worked for women.
Never had another problem with harassment.
Some of them have had ugly personalities and have been strident.
But at least nobody has ever called me Rosie Tits again.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The dog park makes things right

On Sunday, Scott went to the dog park with the pug Sophie and the lab Finnigan in tow. He was going to take some photos of the hounds against the backdrop of the wonderful burnt orange leaves and brilliant red Sumacs.

After an hour of hard running, Finnigan was happy to climb in the backseat. Sophie wasn't ready to go it seemed. She ripped free of her harness and tore off into the parking lot. After several minutes of skirting cars and milling hounds, Scott managed to grab her and get her back into the car.

In the meantime, he had forgotten he'd left his $1,000 camera on the roof.

Scott was halfway home when he remembered his camera, which represented more than a hobby for him. It was both his livelihood and his passion. That camera has documented the birth of our granddaughter, the marriage of my daughter Marissa, the ages and stages of the kids growing up. It had also made him money from time to time. Just this past week, he'd gotten a contract to take pictures for a local car dealer and without that camera, that contract was in peril.

Quickly, he made a U turn, getting to the park within minutes of committing his absent-minded folly.

He parked the car, and opened the door. Again, Sophie jumped out, this time onto the busy road that borders the Conroy Pit. He chased her for a few minutes, dodging speeding cars, before wrangling her back in the car.

He then scoured the ditches and woods near the park entrance. There was no camera in sight.

I cannot imagine what was going through his head. We aren't well off and a new camera would never be in the budget no matter how we arranged things. He came home red-faced, and a little mad at Sophie for all the mayhem, and confessed.

I wanted to cry a little, but what's the point of making somebody feel worse who already feels terrible?

The key to a good marriage is understanding, forgiveness and empathy.

I felt all those things.

Besides, I told Scott, it was only a camera. Imagine explaining to me that instead of losing the camera, he had let my Sophie become roadkill?

"I'm going to put an ad on Kijijji," he said.

"Don't bother," I said. "Go back to the dog park and put up a note."

If there is one thing we know for sure, it's that the dog park is the best place to lose a camera, a watch, a lead or your keys.

There's something about the spirit of dog owners who take their companions out to the dog park. They are willing to put up with nearly everything, from the eating of feces to a white dog rolling in mud. They are the most forgiving and honest people on the planet, hopelessly devoted, and kind.

Dog owners, particularly ones who brave the elements to provide happiness to their charges, are fueled by unconditional love.

Within 24 hours, Scott got a call from a woman who had found his camera. She normally wouldn't have been at the park that day. She had just decided to borrow a truck to take her dog out for a spin. She couldn't believe it when she saw this high-end -- well, it was high-end to us -- camera laying in the ditch, its battery flap broken off and a few nicks but otherwise in perfect shape.

When she got home, she put her own ad up on Kijijji and saw Scott's. That's when he got the call.

He described the pictures on the camera, the photos of Finnigan spinning around and leaping at trees.

"Yeah," she said. "And you took a picture of me and my dog."

Scott couldn't believe his good fortune. He bolted out the door, collected his camera and thanked the woman. He didn't offer her a reward, and none was asked for.

Instead, next week, he will be taking a portrait of the woman, her daughter and her dog.

The spirit of the dog park isn't about material things, it's about caring and sharing.

In an time when it's so easy to distrust others and embrace skepticism as a second skin, it's nice to know you can always count on the people from the dog park to make things right.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Life on the disabled list

Pardon me for being crabby, but I'm on my last nerve, and that nerve is on the outside of my ass.

For days, I've been hold up, here, on a Lazy Boy chair with only two pugs book-ending me.

You see, my body is failing me. My left knee has become a mess of angry cartilage, threatening to explode every time I get up to take a piss. As if in retaliation -- in the case of my gallbladder, it's always 'what about me?' -- I am nursing a sickening pain in my right side, making laying down not an option.

Being immobilized means that all the food just settles despite a parade of little helpers: antacids, green tea, and Aleve, so I'm feeling really bloated and belchy, unable to bear the fencing in of various rolls of flesh. Bras and control top underwear, once my go-to friends, have become the enemy.

Here I splay.

Being a shut-in, chained as I am to the Lazy Boy, is no picnic. I am a reactive mess forced to entertain myself with a variety of devices, all of which give me no comfort. Television has already failed me. I can no longer tolerate the imbeciles that litter daytime television, the free-range thinking of has-been actresses and comics, the commercials selling insurance and cures for incontinence.

The news is no better with the 24 hour cycle filled to the brim with sad images of fallen soldiers and serial killers, interspersed with reports of what's trending on Twitter and cat videos.

I'm going nuts, I tell you, nuts.

My only relief is letting the dogs out, which I do a couple of times a day. I can fairly well hobble down the stairs holding onto the railing while Finnigan barks and snaps at Sophie. Gingerly, I limp towards a chair to spend a precious hour throwing Kong for Finnigan whose gratitude fills me with delight.

Sometimes I'm envious of this wonderful, vibrant soul who exists in our world oblivious to its sordid underbelly. And I'm envious, too, of the hundred or so souls who bustle past me on St. Laurent Blvd. completely taking for granted their ambulatory abilities.

What wouldn't I give for a day without pain?

Still, I'm grateful for a crisp autumn day, the burst of color, the falling leaves landing on my lawn where they will stay until someone else rakes them up.

How wonderful, I think, as I see Finnigan sniffing an apple that, presumably, some lazy schoolkid tossed over the fence. He worries it, turning it over and over and walks away. And then I realize there is something wrong with it. I hobble over, pick it up and see that it's not an apple anymore. It's a drug pipe fashioned with metal mesh and remnants of some sour smelling mash that makes my loyal retriever turn up his nose.

Lucky for Finn, that he didn't gobble it down. He would have dropped like a stone, and that, my friends, would have been a terrible day.

I'm not sure what's safer, life on the inside watching murder and mayhem on the news, or life on the outside witnessing firsthand what our world has become.

In the end, I suppose, it could be much worse.

I could be really sick, not just injured. And Finnigan could have chosen the wrong door by gobbling up that apple.

Better to be watching the news than be in it, I guess.

A glass is half full observation that helps me get through my day.

A day in life, on the disabled list.


Friday, 31 October 2014

Jian Ghomeshi and his Angry Inch

It's now been a week since Jian Ghomeshi told his fans he was taking time away from CBC Radio, six days since the CBC said it was distancing itself from the great man, five days since the CBC fired him for his lifestyle choices, four days since the Toronto Star let loose a can of whoop ass on the host of Q, three days since the first woman put her name forward claiming he choked and hit her, two days since nine women came forward to say the same and worse.

The scandal started slowly enough but quickly resulted in a white squall of outrage from women -- and right-thinking men -- who took to social media to express their disgust that the CBC allowed Ghomeshi to walk their halls for even one day after a woman complained about him cupping her butt and promising to fuck her with his Angry Inch.

Boy, it must have been some week at the CBC, which is now so blown apart by this scandal that it's bringing in outsiders to talk to all the women who have been threatened, leched at, fondled and screamed at, and penetrated against their will by a man with an ego the size of the wall on which is portrait was allowed to hang, a portrait which was quickly taken down just in case it was vandalized by eggs and ketchup by the women who worked in the building.

Jian still has some supporters --Christie Blatchford, for one -- who decry the national and social media for unleashing accusations from anonymous women upon the Great Ghomeshi.

None of the women have filed charges, his supporters say. What about due process?

Fuck due process.

Where was the due process for all the women he caught in the glare of his fabulous headlights for more than ten years? They were all too afraid of his power, and have kept silent for a decade. What about the women we don't know about, and I'm guessing they are legion, spread as they are as far as book tours took him. 

Where's their due process?

It doesn't matter anyway.

Ghomeshi is toast. He'll never work in this country again unless he plans a career making pornos.

The fact is, the collective howl has done more to damage The Angry Inch than any court case. He'll never be invited to a swell party again, never hear his own voice on the radio, never be able to go to the LCBO without fingers being pointed in his direction.

They say a man is only as good as his name.

Ghomeshi was a name,, now he's only two letters: FU.

His name is gone, his poster has been ripped off the wall at CBC, and his celebrity has turned to notoriety; like a once juicy Porterhouse, he is now crawling with maggots.

Hopefully, the CBC -- and the nation -- has learned a lesson.

Perhaps his case can act as a cautionary tale.

When you meet a charming celebrity at a book signing, never let him take you to a second location.