Would you go to a hearing loss convention? For many years, my answer was “No.” I didn’t want to acknowledge my hearing loss, let alone proclaim it to the world by attending a meeting. But last year, I decided to go — it was my first HLAA Convention — and it was incredible. I learned so much about the various advocacy efforts underway through HLAA and elsewhere, got to try out some new hearing loss technology, but most importantly, I was able to connect with others with hearing loss. It was a great source of comfort to me.
This year should be even better since the Convention is being held jointly with the Congress of the IFHOH (International Federation of Hard of Hearing People), which will be a great opportunity to meet people with hearing loss living around the world. At last count, more than 15 countries will be represented.
Here are a few of the highlights that I am eager to see:
1. Keynote address by the Chair of the Disability Employee Resource Group and Chief Accessibility Officer for Microsoft, Jenny Lay-Flurrie. She is slated to discuss her job function at Microsoft and the tricks she has learned over the years about how to manage her own disability in the workplace. In 2014 Jenny was recognized by the White House as a Disability Employment Champion of Change.
2. Updates on important government reports from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). These reports could drastically change the way hearing aids are sold, bringing costs down and lowering stigma.
3. Research panel moderated by Dr. Frank Lin discussing recent advances in hearing scientific research and changes in best practices for audiologist care.
4. Exhibit Hall with the latest technology for people with hearing loss. Last year I learned about captioned phones and was able to connect with representatives of other hearing loss advocacy organizations.
5. The Experience Room is new this year and will give attendees the opportunity to try various hearing technologies in a living room type setting. This includes things like speech to text apps, assistive devices for watching TV, and FM systems.
6. Perhaps, most importantly, the fellowship that comes from being with others with hearing loss. I am looking forward to connecting with old and new friends and collaborating with other hearing loss advocates. It is inspiring to see so many people working to improve the environment for people with hearing loss.
Readers, will I see you at Convention?
This year’s Convention is June 23-26, 2016 in Washington DC. Register here by May 31, 2016. On site registration is also welcome.