There are several means to make performing arts events, lectures, workshops and other arts programming accessible to patrons. Some of them are very expensive and require training, and some of them are more affordable and simple to use. The important thing to remember is that access technology is an investment for which the return is growth in audience; this growth occurs in both audience size and in level of enjoyment. Probably the cheapest and easiest access technology to implement is assisted listening.
Basically, an assisted listening system consists of a transmitter that hooks to your current PA system and a number of receivers that members of your audiences can wear to amplify specific sounds. These come in several forms, but the idea is that these can improve sound quality for those who have difficulty hearing, patrons wearing hearings aides equipped with T-coils, and some people who have cochlear implants.
Wearing and using a receiver can benefit anyone. Have you ever had to sit in the back row of an outdoor concert? Did you have trouble drowning out the other noise around you while straining to hear the weak signal you were getting from the PA speakers? Wearing a receiver is like having your own set of speakers.
The Kentucky Arts Council owns a modest assisted listening system used for KAC events, workshops and other public meetings. It was relatively inexpensive and allows participants to hear well without having to move closer or ask a speaker to talk louder. Please comment below or contact me if you are interested in purchasing an assisted listening system for your arts venue and would like some system recommendations or even ideas about where to get funding.
Sarah Schmitt, arts access director