Since March 2020, we have observed an uptake in the deployment of glass barriers installed at service counters, causing issues with the clear and concise flow of conversation. Pre-pandemic we were accustomed to speaking closely to individuals, sometimes at a lower voice level for privacy purposes when sharing personal details with someone at our local bank or in a medical setting.
As advocates for the hard of hearing community, our outreach to businesses has included reviewing considerations and benefits of adding a window intercom system to their counter to help combat this issue. These systems provide clear and natural speech levels to travel from microphone to speaker and vice versa.
During a recent online presentation to an accessibility committee, I was asked by a hospital network if these systems provide privacy. My immediate answer was YES. With the alternative, both parties (staff member & client) have to raise their voice to be heard. This scenario inherently creates the desire for both parties to move away from the counter (and barrier) for a clear conversation which defeats the purpose of it being in place (keeping both parties safe). This communication eliminates privacy while creating an additional layer of frustration and embarrassment for both parties.
Our goal is to help our hard of hearing community with an inclusive form of communication by deploying these systems, which include a counter-hearing loop. Both parties can benefit from a stress-free and natural conversation flow, as they existed pre-pandemic. Privacy is always top of mind, and we are happy to include inclusivity and dignity in how we approach removing communication barriers.