Burlington County, N.J., has installed new technology in several government buildings to make meeting rooms and offices more inclusive and accessible to residents who are hard of hearing or hearing impaired.
The accessibility improvements were announced by the Burlington County Commissioners, which said the improvements would “help remove barriers that challenge or limit those with hearing impairments from participating in public meetings and court proceedings or from accessing important government services and programs.”
“Public participation is vital to our democracy and our county is committed to ensuring our buildings, offices, and meeting rooms are accessible to all residents,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson. “By installing these enhancements, we’re able to assist those residents who are impaired or hard of hearing to attend public meetings and access many of the critical programs and services our county offers.”
The technology improvements include the installation of hearing loops, portable hearing hotspots and transmitters, and receivers in various county offices in the Burlington County administration and courts facilities, and at the Burlington County Human Services Building, Health Department Building, and a Burlington County Library.
A press release from the county explained that hearing loops assist people with hearing impairments by directly transmitting audio into telecoil-enabled hearing aids or “neck loop” devices via magnetic fields. Doing so amplifies the voices or sounds from a microphone or an audio system and greatly reduces background noises. Transmitters and receiver systems use low-power radio frequencies to transmit sounds to receivers, such as headphones or neck loops.
Funding for the new technology came from a $75,000 New Jersey Department of Human Services grant to install hearing accessibility systems in the Burlington County Commissioners’ meeting rooms and in other locations where residents go to receive services or interact with county employees and officials.
“We are so pleased to have received from the county listening aid devices in our jury assembly room for court uses. The county’s generosity demonstrates a real commitment to the court system in the Burlington Vicinage. Without even needing to ask, they provided these much-needed devices, which will greatly improve the ability of those who are hard of hearing to participate in the fundamental civic engagement of jury duty,” said Burlington County Assignment Judge Jeanne Covert.
In addition to the new technology additions, the county has contracted with Purple Communications to offer interpreting and captioning services, including Video Remote Interpreting, real-time CART Captioning, and Scheduled Virtual Interpreting at some locations. These services assist residents who are deaf or hard of hearing communicate with county employees.
“These improvements will ensure people with hearing impairments still have full access to the information, resources, and services available to all other Burlington County residents,” said Hopson, the liaison to the Department of Human Services and the Minority and Equality Rights Task Force. “Disability rights are civil rights and we’re committed to improving accessibility for all.”