Hearing Loss Association of America’s (HLAA) 2019 Convention is only three weeks away. Will you be there? This year the convention is in Rochester, NY, home to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) which boasts “an internationally recognized education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.” Partially because of RIT, Rochester is a hub of activity for the deaf community and incredibly welcoming for people with hearing loss. It even has a local yoga studio that offers ASL-interpreted yoga classes every Saturday morning. And the airport is looped!
This will be my fifth convention. Each year I am thrilled to meet, mingle with and expand my hearing loss community. Usually I come away with at least one new hearing loss friend and a handful of tricks and tips I can use to make the world more accessible. All sessions are looped and have CART (communication access real-time translation), so you won’t miss a word. I’ve never attended a conference that is so accessible for people with hearing loss.
One of my favorite parts of convention is the Exhibit Hall, where new products for people with hearing loss are showcased. Last year I learned about the Tunity app which allows you to listen to TV on your smartphone. In prior years, I discovered the speech-to-text app Ava. I wonder if there will be anyone from Live Transcribe there this year?
Along with numerous workshops in advocacy, lifestyle and hearing assistive technology, this year’s convention will feature a special focus on genetic hearing loss. This includes a Research Symposium on Friday morning featuring leading researchers in genetic hearing loss as well as a series of smaller workshops later in the day. My hearing loss is genetic so I am particularly interested in learning more about this area.
Convention is also always full of inspiration. Last year, singer Mandy Harvey performed. This year the keynote speaker is Rebecca Alexander. As a teenager, Rebecca learned that by the age of 30 she would be completely blind and deaf due to a rare genetic disorder called Usher syndrome (type III). Rather than let this diagnosis defeat her, Rebecca tapped her strength to not only survive but thrive in the face of this incredible challenge. She is now a successful psychotherapist, disability rights advocate, author, group fitness instructor, and extreme athlete. I am excited to learn more about her personal journey.
If you have not yet attended an HLAA Convention, this might be a good first one. This year HLAA will be celebrating its 40th year anniversary as the leading advocacy organization for people with hearing loss. There will be an awards gala and other fun activities to “Say Cheers to 40 Years.” I would love to see you there.
Readers, have you attended an HLAA Convention?