Help a grandmother out...
April 3, 2012 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Dearly loved but severely hearing impaired/deaf family member + unscripted wedding/vacation. Are there any solutions, technological or other, that you can recommend that might help them, and by proxy us, enjoy the festivities by knowing what key players are saying?

So the topic basically says it all, we'd just like to have her grandmother be able to follow/understand the highpoints of the ceremony/toasts/etc at our upcoming wedding. She can usually read the lips of people she knows well but complete strangers will likely be an unsolvable puzzle.

I have techie (software and auditory/musical/PA equipment-wise) friends and potentially up to a few hundred bucks to throw at the right solution. The wedding is in 2 months or so and we could start beta-testing any setup we decide to go with in the meantime. The ceremony is outdoors and on the beach, so wind may or may not be an issue.

Thanks for your help, it means alot.
posted by RolandOfEld to Writing & Language (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Outdoors and at the beach will be difficult to do anything real time, unless she understands sign language and you could hire a signer for the ceremony.

Otherwise, why not assign someone she knows to stay with her and help her navigate conversations and fill her in on things she misses.

And if you make a wedding video, maybe you could subtitle her copy.
posted by wrnealis at 10:27 AM on April 3, 2012

She's attending, right? Do you have another super nerdy family member who might just be okay transcribing the thing as it happens, more or less, and having it be viewable on an ipad or other tablet like device by grandma? I'm thinking like a person who may not be really social in the first place and might LOVE a chance to help out grandma and have an excuse to not have to be terribly present at the event and also maybe enjoy having an Important Job to do?
posted by jessamyn at 10:27 AM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

Dang, fast replies.

She understands sign alphabet but not at lightning speed, and I'm not sure about other sign words/vocab.. I've never seen her or the family use it. She lost her hearing later in life. I'm pretty sure a signer is not an option for that reason.

We can assign someone and probably will, but not making her feel singled out or impaired would be *cue heavenly trumpets* amazing.

She is attending. Putting a speed typist nearby is actually a great idea, while buying a tablet/ipad for the purpose of that isn't in the budget I might be able to beg/borrow/steal one. That's a GREAT idea.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:31 AM on April 3, 2012

Depending on whether she's hearing impaired or truly deaf, would making sure the speakers have microphones and she has an in-ear receiver be something that would help her?
posted by brainmouse at 10:33 AM on April 3, 2012


She's severely hearing impaired not totally deaf, such that her hearing aids let her hear the vaguest impression of sounds (not words, sounds) if you're talking loudly directly into her face/ear, though she still uses that in addition to reading lips, not in place of seeing your lips. I could broach this with her daughter(s) and see what they think.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:35 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is her eyesight good enough to just read texts on someone's phone? Even sans tablet, you could easily enlist some young and quick-thumbed individuals to send it to her line by line and not have to buy anything new if someone could lend her their phone.
posted by gracedissolved at 10:35 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

A dear friend of mine is deaf and attended my wedding. My husband and I made sure that we had a personal wireless mic for the officiant and a hand-held mic for the various speakers. Both were hooked up to a big battery-powered sound system. My friend didn't use a personal receiver, but if he had wanted to, we would have been all set to do that. Perhaps you can do the same for your grandmother. They aren't all that expensive to rent and they are easy to set up.
posted by Cygnet at 10:38 AM on April 3, 2012

Is anything going to be amplified? Beach weddings can be really really hard for normally hearing people, too. If you're asking someone to type/text/etc for her, you need to be sure that person will defnitely be able to hear what's going on, which means either you need amplification or that person will need to stand within about 5 feet of you.
posted by juliapangolin at 10:40 AM on April 3, 2012

The last three weddings I attended were beach weddings, and even as a full-hearing adult I could not hear a lot of what was said. At one wedding I heard almost nothing. So even if you position someone to transcribe, you still may have to ensure that that person can hear what you're saying.

What about a discreet Bluetooth mic that goes to a phone in the groom's or officiant's pocket, which "calls" Gram as the service starts and she can listen with earbuds?
posted by cocoagirl at 10:44 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my experience with a hearing loss, sound amplification isn't always ideal: you always get a distortion with amplification. Plus, what does her audiogram look like? If she has a "waterfall-type" audiogram (that is, profoundly deaf in some areas but residual hearing in others), amplification will be difficult as there still won't be sounds she'll pick up on unless you ramp up the speakers to 120 dB - which means you're making everyone else deaf anyway!

How do you feel about hiring a transcriptionist for the day? There are services that offer real time, word-for-word transcription. I adore these services. They're able to keep up with everyone, and you don't miss a word, unlike with amplification.
posted by Conspire at 10:46 AM on April 3, 2012

We'll have PA stuff available for the ceremony if desired, no idea how/if we'll decide to use it. Going to play that by ear.

I'm thinking that Conspire has the hearing situation enumerated better than I have. I'm thinking amplification/relaying is out. Transcription of some sort may need to be the primary focus.

Good points so far. Oh, her eyesight is fine but not hawk eyed, I'd say par for someone her age. So a phone instead of a tablet/laptop might be a bit problematic. Now I just need to figure out what display would be visible in the sun, I know the E-inks on kindles is supposedly really nice, but virtually nothing about how iPads perform in direct sun. Hrmmm...
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:58 AM on April 3, 2012

Just got confirmation from my fiance that the personal amplifier things don't help her grandmother at all. So anything relying on audible cues is a non-starter.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:06 AM on April 3, 2012

The transcription sounds like a great idea in general-- even if s/he did a quick version for the grandmother, it sounds like other people may have trouble catching everything, and others may be interested in reading parts of the toasts or vows later too (I know I would!) Perhaps using a small netbook?
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:19 AM on April 3, 2012

Let me explain a bit more about the service I was recommending then!

It's called CART. I'd recommend you google around and see if you can find any services in your area. If not, they can work remotely too. Generally, they provide their own equipment: I would be surprised if they aren't used to doing outdoor events, so they can probably advise you. Things that my local service offers: they have special tripod stands to compensate for terrain, for instance. So unless it's raining on the day of, there should be no issue in having them cover an outdoor event - but check with them, I'm not the expert.

I would highly advise against just having a volunteer at the wedding transcribe for your grandmother. While they're likely going to be willing, the thing is they likely won't understand how much concentration transcription takes. For an untrained person to be
posted by Conspire at 11:24 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm almost as hearing impaired (movies without subtitles are usually a puzzle to me, and I zone out at weddings and similar events). The ceremony is usually pretty scripted. People decide these things weeks and months in advance. Print out the vows, readings, and what the officiant is going to say beforehand. Someone next to her can point to where they are in the script.

For the reception, you need a transcriptionist. It doesn't need to be word for word. I wouldn't use an iPad, unless the person is an awesome typist. Just use paper & pen. If they are an awesome typist, use a bluetooth keyboard instead of the onscreen one. Give her paper and pan so she can ask questions back.

Also, Deaf people base a lot of interaction on social cues. Many events are fairly scripted. I know the bartender is going to say some variation of "What'll you have?" The best man is going to say "I've known Jack since 5th grade and Jill is a great match for him" or somesuch. Is someone videotaping the whole thing? Have it subtitled after the fact and give her a copy, in case the transcriptionist missed anything.
posted by desjardins at 11:25 AM on April 3, 2012

((Sorry, phone hates me.))

... able to consciously process every last word for hours on end is not reasonable. They would get exhausted. You need someone trained to listen and type.

And don't use a mobile device or anything; only a laptop will really do. No phone keyboard can keep up with spoken word; even captionists use specialized phonetic keyboards over regular keyboards due to the pace of spoken word.

Finally, the additional service that CART can offer is that it can project its transcription onto a projector screen. Two advantages here: your grandmother doesn't feel singled out, and everyone can see what's going on. It may not be in the mood/spirit of your wedding, however; in that case, they can just provide your grandmother with a second laptop to view it on.
posted by Conspire at 11:29 AM on April 3, 2012

Someone next to her can point to where they are in the script.

This already happens where possible but I should have mentioned it earlier. Where scripted this is the trivial, already in place, solution but the toasts and ad libs get tricky. Glad to hear a first hand response. Thanks for the view point desjardins.

We weren't specifically planning on videotaping the whole thing but recent developments with other older relatives makes it likely that we'll try to work something out and then post a video to youtube or something for their benefit.

Thanks for the namedrop with CART, I'll probably contact them regardless and see what they have to say with regards to tips/rates/options/flexibility/so on.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:32 AM on April 3, 2012

Something like CART is ideal, granted, and I agree with Conspire that an untrained person cannot keep up with the rate of speech. However, the worst thing about being deaf is that not necessarily that you can't hear every word, but that you don't know what the fuck is going on. You've lost the plot. I have this conversation every time I watch an un-subbed TV show with Mr. desjardins: "What did Picard say to Riker? Why aren't they shooting the alien? Why did Worf steal the shuttle?"

At a wedding reception, it'd be horribly frustrating and embarrassing when everyone is clapping or laughing to not have any idea why. I've been brought to tears by this. So, your "transcriptionist" needs to provide something like this:

Jack met Rob in 5th grade
Story abt stealing candy / skipping school
Says Rob was still a renegade in college
She sat behind him in Economics
First date was picnic on the beach
She mad because he got sand in car [laughter]
3 yrs later proposed on another picnic at same beach [awwww]
Guess she saw through bad boy act
Or housebroke him [laughter]
My best to both have a long happy life [applause]
posted by desjardins at 11:51 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the iPad idea is great as a screen for HER. It is big enough to magnify the text, unlike a cell phone or iPod. It has better battery life and it is lighter than a full-fledged laptop. I'm sure a friend would let you borrow one.

When I did something similar, it worked out the way desjardins describes. It wasn't a perfect word for word transcription, but the basic content of the speeches and jokes were very helpful. In our case, we opened up a chat room, and two of us transcribed at the same time, which was helpful because one of us could finish that thought while the other person started up with the next.
posted by barnone at 12:29 PM on April 3, 2012

Two transcribers for the same event? Working together? Wowza... seems like you'd step on each other's toes all to often.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:36 PM on April 3, 2012

It was actually fine for speeches! People tell one anecdote at a time. You could see what the other was typing and wait for the next thought. Once you saw the other person starting with that thought, you knew to finish up that line and jump ahead. Sounds complicated but it worked perfectly! Google doc with live updating would be even better!
posted by barnone at 12:46 PM on April 3, 2012

You need to ask the grandmother what is the most important thing to her at this wedding.

It might be that she has a basic idea of the ceremony but really wants to see her grandchild say the vows (that is why the groom stands on the bride's side so that the bride can be seen by her family and vice versa), it might be that the toasts before dinner are totally confusing and that is when she wants help (transcription or just someone whispering in her ear a play-by-play) or it maybe that she really likes to dance and no one ever asks her (nothing to do with the hearing).

And I have been to many an outside wedding - it is really, really hard to hear even if your hearing is great. It can help to have people actually practice speaking during the rehearsal (texts, vows, anything that is scripted): focus on speaking slowly and loudly, enunciating, facing the assembled group, breathing or looking up between sentences, etc. It can help to have a very clear order of service that is handed out at the beginning (can include the texts, songs, etc). It can help to make the ceremony short and go to the ceremony sight the week before and see if there are any bits of extra noise that you can pay away (leaf blowers, volley ball competitions, ).

Congrats on your engagement.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 12:59 PM on April 3, 2012

(Hi Cygnet!)

Depending on how well she reads lips, an oral interpreter may be a possibility. Many interpreting agencies can provide that service with a bit of advance warning. Basically, someone sitting in front of her and mouthing what's being said. It's less cumbersome than it sounds, although it also sounds like she may not be willing to do anything terribly visible or "special" seeming.

Which is a major frustration of mine. Guys, these are accommodations that work. Use 'em or not, but don't dismiss the tried and true as "not good enough". End unnecessary rant.

CART, if you can afford it, may be a better solution in that sense - you can put the screen somewhere that she can see it, but it doesn't have to be obviously connected to her. It's more expensive, but it's also way more effective than some random untrained person at a keyboard. (Although even that might be better than nothing.) Many, though not all, CART reporters will be prepared to do outdoor events.

Finally, I know you said it's unscripted, but if you can get copies of speeches and toasts ahead of time - to the extent that they exist ahead of time - whoever is transcribing can use that as a base, reducing the amount they need to type.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 12:59 PM on April 3, 2012

I agree that CART would be ideal; however, I wanted to put the possibility of a TypeWell transcriber out there as well. I've done TypeWell transcription for events, and the situation is basically: I have a laptop, the user has a laptop, and my transcription shows up on their screen. The transcription is not as detailed as CART (TypeWell transcribers are trained to get across the meaning of what is said, even if that means rearranging the wording a bit, rather than getting down everything word-for-word), but it's likely to be significantly cheaper.

If you have any nearby universities, colleges, or community colleges, you might try contacting their Disability Services departments and asking for assistance in locating a transcriber -- they work with them (or directly employ them) on a regular basis.
posted by brookedel at 12:54 AM on April 4, 2012

Update for those that may care, we're going with a more fixed script for the actual ceremony. So that'll help there. Toasts and stuff are still up in the air, we're thinking about getting rough versions on paper if possible as well.

The other options are also being considered by the family members closer to her. Thanks for all the great help/tips.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:01 AM on April 16, 2012

« Older High-quality mockup renders   |   Starting to play rugby Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.