Burlington County has installed new technology in several government buildings to make meeting rooms and offices more inclusive and accessible to residents who are hard of hearing or hearing impaired.
The Burlington County Commissioners announced the improvements this week, saying they would help remove barriers that challenge or limit those with hearing impairments from participating in public meetings and court proceedings or from accessing important government services and programs.
“Public participation is vital to our democracy and our County is committed to ensuring our buildings, offices and meeting rooms are accessible to all residents,” said Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson. “By installing these enhancements, we’re able to assist those residents who are impaired or hard of hearing to attend public meetings and access many of the critical programs and services our County offers.”
The improvements include the installation of hearing loops, portable hearing hotspots and transmitters and receivers in various county offices in the Burlington County administration and courts facilities at 49 and 50 Rancocas Road in Mount Holly, and at the Burlington County Human Services Building, Health Department Building and Burlington County Library in Westampton.
Hearing loops assist people with hearing impairments by directly transmitting audio into telecoil-enabled hearing aids or “neck loop” devices via magnetic fields. Doing so amplifies the voices or sounds from a microphone or an audio system and greatly reduces background noises.
Most prescription hearing aids and implants have telecoils. Transmitters and receiver systems use low-power radio frequencies to transmit sounds to receivers, such as headphones or neck loops.
Burlington County used funding from a $75,000 New Jersey Department of Human Services grant to install hearing accessibility systems in the Burlington County Commissioners’ meeting room on the second floor of the Administration Building at 49 Rancocas Road and in other locations where residents go to receive services or interact with County employees and officials. The locations include the Sheriff’s Office Community Services Room, the Superior Court Jury Assembly Room, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office lobby, the County Clerk’s Office, Board of Elections Office and Board of Elections lobby window.
“We are so pleased to have received from the County listening aid devices in our jury assembly room for court uses. The County’s generosity demonstrates a real commitment to the court system in the Burlington Vicinage. Without even needing to ask, they provided these much-needed devices, which will greatly improve the ability of those who are hard of hearing to participate in the fundamental civic engagement of jury duty,” said Burlington County Assignment Judge Jeanne Covert. “This donation makes clear the value of an unparalleled partnership between the courts and the County here in Burlington, thanks to the efforts of County Administrator Eve Cullinan and all our County leaders. We simply cannot express our gratitude enough for this incredible contribution to our justice system.”
In the Human Services Building, the accessibility technology is installed or available at the Main Lobby information windows, the Office of Aging conference room, the 1st floor lecture hall, the Board of Social Services lobby and interview room and the Veterans Services office.
Hearing transmitters were also deployed to the Burlington County Library to better assist hearing impaired visitors, and several transmitters and portable loop systems are also in the Health Department Building and can be used in multiple rooms upon request.
In addition to the hearing loops, the County has contracted with Purple Communications to offer interpreting and captioning services, including Video Remote Interpreting, real-time CART Captioning and Scheduled Virtual Interpreting at some locations. These services assist residents who are deaf or hard of hearing communicate with County employees.
“These improvements will ensure people with hearing impairments still have full access to the information, resources and services available to all other Burlington County residents,” said Hopson, the liaison to the Department of Human Services and the Minority and Equality Rights Task Force. “Disability rights are civil rights and we’re committed to improving accessibility for all.”