Safety and security are one of the basic needs of human society. One needs to feel secure in their environment and surroundings. Otherwise, a heightened state of anxiety and constant feeling unsettled becomes a daily thing. It’s like living every day without any sense of trust.
Yet, even with all the tools and technologies to keep us feeling safe, not everyone has the privilege to benefit from them. People like us, without little to any hearing, often are the least considered for support. We live in a society where we must use our ears to communicate. We scream for help, the sirens go off to move the vehicles, and the alarm tells us that we are close to physical danger. No one ever thought these approaches might not work if you can’t hear.
Yet, the sound isn’t a problem for everyone with a disability. People of all types of disabilities benefit from audio communication because they can be aware immediately. But, except for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, it is not the same.
How do you alert a deaf person?
The problem is that alarms are not exactly made with inclusive designs. Inclusive design means applying all senses to accommodate people with various preferences and needs to respond to their environment. So it makes sense, no pun intended, that we need to add visual and tactical alerts. This way, we support people like us where hearing might not be our strength.
What is the most common alerting device for the deaf?
If I had to choose, fire alarm alerts are the most popular alerting device for the deaf. The reason is that so many buildings require fire alarm alerts. In addition, building codes enforce fire alarms because of laws and regulations and for everyone’s safety. Yet, people who find audible alarms prefer strobe lights, bed shaker alarms, sound recognition devices, or what we are doing here at Lisnen.
Extreme weather and storms are a regular occurrence now due to global warming. Weather alerts are ways for governments to alert citizens of an upcoming storm. Weather warning devices for the deaf and hard of hearing are specialized devices that provide access to weather broadcast alerts and send signals to home-based devices. These devices come with a flashing light or vibrating device as attachments. Unfortunately, there are few of these technologies around because these days, our smartphones have substituted the solution for many. Most emergency weather alerts are broadcast to the local community using text alerts sent to cell phones.
Parents need to respond to their newborn or child calling out in distress. Prolonged abandonment can lead to the unhealthy development of a child because a child needs to have a feeling of security and attachment. Baby cry alerts are a great tool to help parents know that their child is seeking attention.
Other alerting solutions for emergencies
Home security uses sounding alarms to alert the home dwellers but scare off intruders. Most home alarm security systems are operated by companies who monitor the home, or homeowners can set up their solutions. People are increasingly using other sensors from video cameras to alert users of objects coming near their property. It’s an alternative way to get the result you want.
For public spaces, companies like Alertus provide alarm systems across commercial buildings to alert people with hearing loss to evacuate using visual alarms and displays. In the future, sound recognition systems will be equally integral to emergency alert devices.
Civic alarms or air raid sirens have been around since the beginning of 19 century to help warn the public of pending bombs. These days they stand idle, but in recent times we are reminded that the air raids still have a purpose in our tumultuous world. While text alerts have been alternative solutions that can help people who can’t listen to noises as loud as these sirens, they still fail. The infrastructure for network connectivity is critical for these solutions to work.
Oral communication and listening abilities are essential for making a 911 call. But, if you’ve ever tried to call for an emergency in a noisy place like, I have before, good luck. It’s a painful reminder that even during the most pressing time, it is difficult to hear on the phone. Even if you tell the operator about your hearing difficulties, whatever changes they make on their end don’t register or make a difference. Frustratingly, you can’t hear the basic questions you know you can answer to get the help you need but hearing the operator on the other line is just a mumble jumble.
Text 911 or 999, as well as 999 BSL services, allow us to get help using our mobile phones. In the case of the UK, you can sign in BSL to get help or as in other parts of the world, mainly in North America, you can text for help.
Sirens on the road are a sign you need to pull over. It could be because the cops are after you, or emergency vehicles need a clear path and want everyone out of the way.
Many people who can’t hear the emergency sirens have learned to use their eyes to pay attention. Many studies have shown how attentive we are. However, now and then, our eyes fail when drivers on the road make abrupt moves when an emergency vehicle is nearby that we haven’t seen yet. It leaves us with little time to react. Let’s face it, most of us are not following our driving school lessons of providing three car spaces in front of us when we are on busy streets. Cars like Hyundai or Tesla have started to build the technology to detect alarm noise in anticipation of automated driving vehicles in the future.
Your Safety is Important
We all know how important safety is for everyone, and people with limited hearing should be left out of the solution. Today there are a few solutions that can help under certain conditions. Yet, with advanced technology and better awareness, more solutions to help people with hearing loss in the case of emergency will appear.
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