Apr 132011
 

 

By Susan Gilmore, Seattle Times, 4/8/11

Photo and full article at:  http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014720592_ferrysigns09m.html

 

On Friday, the ferry system kicked off what it calls a “visual paging project” on screens on the two Bainbridge Island ferries — the Tacoma and the Wenatchee — as well as Colman Dock and the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal.

Related

 

When John Waldo, who is hearing-impaired, lost his checkbook at Colman Dock a few years ago, he didn’t hear the announcement that it had been found.

 

Although he eventually got it back, Waldo saw the incident as another sign that the state ferry system wasn’t doing enough to help its hearing-impaired passengers.

 

When his wife was returning from a trip, Waldo didn’t hear the announcement that passengers were getting off the boat, so he wasn’t there to help her with her heavy suitcase.

 

Waldo has a cochlear implant, but even with that he misses announcements because background noise from ferry boats is so loud.

 

“There’s a lot of anxiety when you know something is being said and you don’t know what it is,” said Waldo, an attorney who filed a lawsuit against the state because it wasn’t accommodating the hearing-impaired. “Once we filed the lawsuit, we got the attention of a lot of people. The ferry system makes a considerable number of announcements over public-adddress systems on its boats and at its terminals. Those announcements have often been inaccessible to riders with hearing loss.”

 

The lawsuit was settled when the state agreed to create a system to display the announcements on special screens installed on some of the boats and in terminals.

 

On Friday, the ferry system kicked off what it calls a “visual paging project” on screens on the two Bainbridge Island ferries — the Tacoma and the Wenatchee — as well as Colman Dock and the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal.

 

The state hired Four Winds Interactive to design the system, which the state hopes to expand to all ferries in the system.

 

The pilot project costs about $100,000.

 

On the Tacoma, the second mate has a keyboard to type out the messages. For example: Vessels are arriving and departing; someone left their car alarm or lights on; passengers must depart on the car deck; someone lost a cellphone; there’s a whale breaching near the boat.

 

“This is really exciting,” said Michelle Coleman, with the Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center in Seattle. “We’re working toward creating systemic changes. We want to create an environment where everyone has the ability to communicate and there aren’t barriers.”

 

Steven Zwerin, a hearing-impaired passenger on the Tacoma, said the new system helps “equalize things. We’re… pretty excited about this. This decreases our anxiety.”

– Thanks to NVRC, Fairfax (4/9/11)