By Andrea Palmer
Pam Fisher is pioneering an initiative to install an audio loop for the hearing impaired at the Charles R. Wood Theater.
The project, known as “Let’s Loop The Wood,” is raising funds to purchase and put in place a hearing loop (also referred to as an audio induction loop).
A hearing loop provides a wireless, magnetic signal to hearing aids. The loop utilizes a microphone to pick up audio, an amplifier to process and send the signal and a loop cable strategically located around a specific area. In this case, the loop cable would surround the theater seats.
The loop cuts out background noise as the sound is channeled directly into the user’s hearing aid. The hearing loop is unseen to general public, inconspicuously installed.
The project is being undertaken by a group of students, including Pam Fisher, in the University of Albany Weekend MBA program. The students will be graduating in June.
Groups in the class, Creativity in Entrepreneurship, are tasked with the assignment of creating a charity, creating a web presence for the charity, and utilizing a product or service to raise money. The goal is to raise $500 for the cause the group chooses.
Nicole Jandreau of Albany Medical Center is one of the four people leading the project. Other group members are Louise Coelho, Rudy Wang and Fisher.
“Pam had this idea on her radar and shared it to see if we were interested. She told us how the technology worked, how it would impact people with hearing loss. How could we not be interested? We said we’d love to be part of it and it’s taken off from there. It started with Pam Fisher, and we’ve grown to love the idea as well,” said Jandreau.
“People are backing the project” she noted. “They believe in it. They think it’s awesome.”
“We’ve all been in class with Pam for the past two years. We’ve seen her successes and her struggles with hearing loss … I loved this idea as a project to get behind because I’d love for everyone to be able to experience theater the way it is meant to be experienced,” said Jandreau.
The Wood Theater would be the only venue in the area with the audio loop technology. The project is just in time for the Adirondack Theater Festival’s 25th anniversary this year. Fisher is on the ATF board of directors.
Chad Rabinovitz is the producing artistic director of the Adirondack Theater Festival. Fisher presented the idea to Rabinovitz, who brought in Emily Murphy, executive director of the Charles R. Wood Theater.
Said Rabinovitz, “I’m excited to play even a little part in helping to champion this important upgrade to the Wood’s sound system. When Pam first opened up to me and the rest of the ATF Board about what she goes through just to understand a small percentage of what is heard on stage, and how her experience at an ATF show (or any show at the Wood) is so incredibly different than it is for many of us, it became instantly clear that we needed to jump to action.”
“Like many, I just presumed that the hearing devices used in 99 percent of all theaters were sufficient,” Rabinovitz said. “They’re not. The recent advancement in hearing aid technology provides Pam, and others with hearing loss, the potential to have a much greater experience at the theater. Why wouldn’t we jump on that opportunity?”
“It’s a luxury to myself and so many others have, in being able to walk into a theater, sit anywhere we want and enjoy a show,” Murphy said. “After some research, we knew we had to make this happen.”
“This is also a great opportunity for us to take a look at the theater experience from others’ perspectives, and get educated on where accessibility is lacking,” said Murphy. “To make sure that every community member that wants to come to the Wood feels welcome and accommodated.”
The Adirondack Theater Festival is in full support of the project. Donations for the project go through the organization and are 100 percent tax deductible. The ATF will use all of the donations to purchase and install the technology in partnership with the Wood Theater.
In addition to donating directly to the ATF, the project has a GoFundMe page at www.GoFundMe.com/loop-the-wood-theater.
By Andrea Palmer