WELU Assistive Listening System

Report to Executive (extract)

Providing an Assistive Listening System for WELU members to supplement the existing sound system

It is a complex problem from a number of perspectives:

However, with our ageing audience we felt we had to do something in the short-term to solve the problems of a few individuals (volunteers?) and to gain experience.

Therefore, rather than look for a really high tech/state of the art solution, we took the pragmatic approach - Just Do It. We propose setting up a sort of testbed for ideas and asking a small number of the audience to work with us to produce a means of improving their listening experience and to see if we cant do the same for any of our audience, no matter how "bad" their hearing.

WELU's conditions are unique and we haven't found a ready-made 'guaranteed' 'one-size-fits-all' solution. So we will do the following:

Starting at the next lecture, we will provide a variety of technologies to allow hearing impaired people to experience them. We suggest getting between 2 and 6 people to use headphones of various types, some directly wired to the PA system, others using off-the-shelf wireless headphones (none purchased specially, just what we have around).

We may also attempt to put a temporary loop system in place covering a few chairs near the AV table. This would be a slim cable taped to the floor and connected to the PA system. It may require some rearrangement of seating in the central area, probably to one side of the table. The loop system has the advantage of not requiring the users to wear anything else, as long as they have hearing aids with a T-coil (which is becoming more common).

We will ask for volunteers from the audience to take advantage of this, and keep the suitable seats free until just before the lecture.

One fairly simple strategy is to 'reserve' centre/front seats for those having difficulty hearing in spite of the sound system, and also for those with vision problems. We may find a reluctance on the part of some members who often sit near the front, but it is likely they choose to do so because of hearing or vision restrictions anyway, so they can stay...

We plan to continue the experiment for the rest of the series and review the results/feedback each week to see if there are improvements to be made. (We should be prepared to reset our ideas if it make sense) We will encourage appropriate audience members to try it, and we will work with 'difficult' individuals to meet their needs.

Finally, we may need to instruct some of the guinea-pigs/users how to take advantage of the technologies we are offering. Not everyone will be able to grasp the full potential, but we should treat is as an educational opportunity for the volunteers, the other audience members, and the speaker!!! It may be a little disruptive for a few minutes... but please bear with us as we can only try this live!!!

As a result of the series of tests we have purchased two new pieces of equipment - a Headphone amplifier, and a pair of Sony wireless headphones together with suitable connectors, adaptors, and cables.