When Rebecca was in elementary school, the school district recommended that she use an FM system in classes. It consisted of an FM transmitter with a microphone for the teacher to clip on her lapel, and a receiver that Rebecca would wear on her belt and connect directly to her ear-level hearing aids. That would enable her to hear the teacher’s voice even if she (the teacher) were at the board with her back turned to the class or were standing in another part of the classroom. The local Lions club paid the approximately $1,000 cost of the device. I still remember the proposal letter from the school district asking for this contribution to assist a “remarkable little girl”.
One day in first grade Rebecca came home from school and told her mother that Mrs. So-and-So was going to have a baby. “How do you know that?” was the wary question her mom asked her. “Oh, I heard them talking about it in the teachers’ lounge.” Obviously, it is important for the teacher to remember to turn the transmitter OFF, before leaving the classroom.
Because it is difficult to get much out of television if one cannot hear the audio, we purchased a “closed caption” unit to assist Rebecca. This was long before such technology was required to be installed in every television unit. Having a text bar displaying the narrative is a real benefit to those unable to hear the audio. We are sure that having this device also helped Rebecca (and her younger siblings) learn to read better. I’ve always said that if my children ever grew up with an inclination toward spray-painting obscenities on public walls, they would always be able to spell the words correctly, all thanks to network television.
And a few words from me about this. I pretty much hated wearing the FM system. I had a unit that I wore clipped to my belt, and the teacher had a separate unit, complete with a large microphone that could be clipped onto their shirt. As far I was concerned, I might has well have been wearing an sequined eye patch that played music. I felt very, very conspicuous wearing it and thought that it screamed "Special Ed!" The good news here is that my friends thought it was awesome because between classes, they would take the teacher's unit and try to talk to me, a la walkie talkies. Because no kid can resist a microphone, right?
My teachers were always very understanding. Before each school year started, Mom would take me to school to meet my teacher and warn/educate her about how to use it. The teacher's unit had an on/off button, and my unit had a volume control, as well as on/off. If I had been more mature and less curious, I could have turned my unit off whenever the teacher left the room. Just couldn't resist a good eavesdrop, I suppose. Easily the most embarrassing moment for any of my teachers would be the time that Mrs. Smith (5th grade) forgot to turn her unit off when she went to the restroom. I turned mine off quickly after I realized what was going on, but I couldn't resist telling her when she came back to the classroom. She was mortified, especially when she realized that I had already gleefully told the entire class what had happened.
Until I read Dad's post, I hadn't realized that the local Lions Club had paid for the FM system. That was not the only time I was the beneficiary of their charity. But I am grateful. For all the mortification it caused me, the FM system was probably one of the reasons that I did so well in school. I was able to listen to the teacher's instruction, rather than classroom chatter, and wearing it reminded the teacher to give me just a little extra attention. I wore it from elementary school to high school, and it is miraculous that it held up as well as it did.
One of the more inventive uses for the FM system came from my 6th grade band director. He noticed that I was playing my instrument a little flat and thought that clipping the microphone to the bell of my clarinet would help me stay in tune. So, we tried it out, and my problem was solved. To this day, I do not know why that helped. I don't remember changing anything else about the way that I played, but somehow, hearing my sound through the FM system kept me in tune. He was so impressed that he even had me demonstrate to the entire band how my sound had changed.
Now, closed captioning. It is amazing! Why don't more people use it? At one of my appointments with Amy, I asked about whether I would be able to watch TV without closed captioning. She thought that with some practice, I would get there. To me, watching TV without closed captioning is the ultimate proof that my implant has worked. (I'm not there yet.) Anyway, William listened to this little interchange, and after he'd had enough, he piped up, "Uh, I don't think that I want to get rid of closed captioning..." And then we all laughed, because closed captioning is so helpful! (Have any of you ever tried to watch something dialogue-intense like Sherlock or The Social Network without captioning? How did you keep up with it?)
Just over a year ago, the movie theater closest to us started using in-seat captioning devices. I've used this device twice, with The Help and The Hunger Games, and boy, has it revolutionized my movie-watching experience. The first time I used the device, I couldn't help but think just how far accessibility for hearing-impaired people has come. I was, and continue to be, grateful to live in a time when such help is available.