Regina Folk Festival Piloting Accessibility Project Using Hearing Loop

“I think this will have a wider-reaching impact than it was probably intended for. That’s very cool.” Author of the article:Creeden Martell
Publishing date:Jul 18, 2022

The Regina Folk Festival (RFF) is piloting a project at this year’s event with the aim of improving accessibility for the hearing impaired at future shows with the use of a Hearing Loop.

The loop is a copper wire, which is inserted into the ground and could be used in a wide variety of environments like meeting rooms, theatres or, in this case, a music festival.

It converts audio to a magnetic signal, which is transmitted to a person’s hearing aid, implant or headset and those within the loop can utilize its capabilities to hear the entertainment better by eliminating background noise.

“Then you’re able to use your hearing aids or implants to tune into the sound right off the sound board,” Josh Haugerud, executive director of the RFF, said in an interview Monday. “You can basically adjust the sound so that if you have hearing issues or if you have sound sensitivity or if it just sounds muddled to you, you can make it sound the way you want it to sound and be more comfortable.”

The loop was purchased with the help of a grant from the City of Regina, which was just under $8,000, according to Haugerud.

There are 4.6 million adults in Canada who have experienced hearing loss in speech frequency to some extent, according to Statistics Canada. People who also have hearing sensitivity could use the loop, the RFF noted in a news release.

The pilot will have the loop in a designated area near the soundboard to determine its capabilities. If there is no hearing aid to tune into the sound, there is a headset option. Haugerud said the RFF wants to make sure it’s working 100 per cent before it starts charging people in future events.

The RFF has given out passes to the upcoming festival to organizations in the city, such as Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (SDHHS) and Regina’s Autism Resource Centre (ARC), which will give the passes out to those who can use the loop and provide feedback.

“It’s really cool to actually have like a double impact where it can help those who are deaf or hard of hearing, but it could also help those who might experience sensory overwhelm if it’s too loud, too busy, too crowded,” said Diandra Nicolson, employment coordinator at ARC.

The organization received four weekend passes from the RFF, which will be available to those interested.

Nicolson said neurodivergent people, which includes people with autism, ADHD or other sensory-processing disorders, could utilize the loop by blocking out all the extra noise and hear the music, which is why people go to the Folk Festival.

Nicolson, who has ADHD, said she wishes there had been similar technology at other festivals she has attended, such as a show in Winnipeg earlier this summer.

“It was super overwhelming and loud. When there’s conversations going on all around you, it’s hard to focus on the music and actually enjoy it,” Nicolson said. “I think this will have a wider-reaching impact than it was probably intended for. That’s very cool.”

She said the loop could have the same effect as a cut curb, which references accessibility features and designs being utilized and appreciated by more people than just those who require them, like someone with a physical disability.

“I think that this loop pilot project will have the same effect, that it might benefit people who are deaf and hard of hearing first and foremost, but then it could also help other neurodivergent people –
people who are autistic, ADHD or people who just get overstimulated in loud, crowded events, I think it could just help make the festival more accessible to many, many people.”

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