Testimony on Hearing Loss in Workplace at NYS Assembly

State Legislature Hears About Impact of Hearing Loss on Careers

Two professionals whose careers were cut short by hearing loss gave moving testimony at a joint hearing in October of the New York State Assembly’s Committee on People with Disabilities, Committee on Labor and Subcommittee on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities.  Also testifying was Marc Safman, a spokesman for the DeafBlind community. 

Michelle Othon of HLAA’s Albany Chapter and Peter Fackler of the Rochester Chapter were among over 50 people to testify at the all-day hearing that was chiefly devoted to examining state services to assist individuals, such as those with developmental disabilities, in accessing employment.  Othon, Fackler and Safman were the only ones to testify about the workplace struggles of hard of hearing professionals.  

Othon, who was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease in 2012, was recently forced to end an award-winning 23-year career as a lead research scientist at GE Global Research.  Fackler, who serves as treasurer in his second term on the HLAA National Board of Directors and as a member of the State Association Board, was a financial executive in higher education until late-onset hearing loss led to his semi-retirement.

Peter Fackler testimony at NYS Assembly In their testimonies, both Othon and Fackler called the lack of a state commission for the deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing to the attention of legislators.  New York is one of only 12 states lacking such a body to inform state policy, legislation and services for our communities.  

A video of the hearing can be viewed online. The testimonies by Othon and Fackler are just after the 6:53:00 recorded time.

The State Assembly staff’s difficulty in accommodating people with hearing loss was apparent at the hearing.  Live CART captioning was displayed on monitors, but froze for several minutes at a time and the monitors were placed in view of the audience but behind the table at which people sat when they testified.  Thus, Othon and Fackler were largely unable to understand comments from the legislators.  And a hearing loop in the chamber would have been helpful.   Our Advocacy Committee subsequently called these issues to the Assembly’s attention.   

Written by Jerry Bergman, Leader of the HLAA NYSA Advocacy & Legislative Committee

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