by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man explained:
While staying at a motel last week I ran into a potentially hazardous situation involving my hearing loss. Though the problem could have been avoided, late deafened adults like me who function moderately well with hearing aids, though profoundly deaf without them, are not likely to anticipate it until a dangerous or costly event like this occurs.
My partner left for the morning to attend an event she had come for while I remained at the motel with my lap top, the morning papers and a good book. She expected to return about noon. I dozed off at mid morning and removed my hearing aids to avoid feedback problems. Waking after a half hour, I did not put my hearing aids back on since there was no one there, and I intended to just read and work on the day’s crossword puzzle.
Around noon I thought I heard noises at the door. Assuming it might be the maid wanting to clean the room, I unbolted the door to see what they wanted. It was my partner and the maid, both pounding frantically on the door as they had been for the past half hour. Neither my partner’s electronic key nor the maid’s master key could open the door while the bolt was on. They had also tried calling on the house phone, but it was not loud enough to attract my attention even though I was sitting right next to it.
The management said the only other alternative was to call the fire department and either cut through the door or break in through the window. Fearing that I might have had a heart attack or a stroke, that was under serious consideration if their last attempt at knocking was unsuccessful. Apparently, once the deadbolt is closed, there is absolutely no way anyone can gain access to a hotel room except by breaking in. All normal means of communication are auditory and useless if the person is profoundly deaf.
Obviously, I could have avoided the situation with a little forethought, but since I have moderately good hearing with my hearing aids on, I never anticipated or envisioned the problem. Late deafened adults should be warned about the potentially dangerous or costly result of locking themselves into secure rooms and areas without hearing aids or a way for others to reach them.
You’ve made your point quite forcefully. Now the question is, “What can you do to prevent this in the future?” Obviously, you don’t want to compromise your security by leaving your door unbolted, but you need ways to be alerted if people are at the door.
Fortunately, there is a good solution, at least if you live here in the USA, and that is to ask for an “ADA kit”. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that hotels and motels provide alerting and communications devices for hard of hearing people. All you have to do when you check in (or even better, when you make your reservations) is ask for the ADA kit.
Getting the kit is only the first step. As one lady asked, “What should be in an ADA kit, and what do I do with it once I have it in my hands?”
Excellent questions. For hard of hearing people the ADA kit should contain the following:
1. A telephone amplifier. Typically this is an inline amplifier that plugs into the base of the phone in place of the handset cord, and the handset cord plugs into the amplifier. A good amplifier for this purpose is the HA-40 by Clarity/Ameriphone. (This amplifier also works well at home or when visiting friends. You can see this amplifier here.)
2. A bed table alerting console. This unit typically is a wireless receiver for the various modules (more about them later), and includes an alarm clock. You plug the bed-side lamp into the back of this unit. You also plug in a bed shaker (vibrator) and put it under your pillow or mattress. When any alerting device goes off, the bed-side lamp flashes and the bed shaker vibrates. A system that is often used is the Ameriphone AlertMaster AM-6000 or one of its derivations. It has several indicator lights on it so you know which device has activated such as the alarm clock, doorbell, phone, room sound sensor, etc.
You also plug the phone into the back of this unit, and plug the unit into the phone jack with the supplied phone patch cord in order to be alerted when the phone rings.
3. A doorbell/door knocker. You need an alerting device if someone is at the door. There are two devices that are good and one that is almost useless. Let’s look at the good ones first. Either you have a wireless doorbell that fits on a bracket that slides over the edge of the door (so it can’t be removed when the door is closed) or a wireless door knocker sensor that also fits on a similar bracket.
When someone presses the doorbell or knocks on the door, a wireless signal is sent to the bedside receiver which activates. Besides the lamp flashing and the bed shaking, you can see an indicator lamp on the receiver telling you which device is going off (in this case it shows “Door“).
The almost useless door knocker device is a battery operated light. The unit activates properly when someone knocks, but the light is so weak that you have to be looking right at it to see it blinking. If you are laying on the bed, you can’t see it at all, as typically the corner of the bathroom blocks you from seeing
4. A smoke detector alarm. Unfortunately, this is where most ADA kits fall down. They usually give you a useless strobe light affair that about all you can do is lay it on top of the TV—and it will flash the strobe light when the smoke gets down to that level—and that is almost too late.
The smoke detector alert needs to be somehow tied into the house system so even if a smoke detector in another unit goes off, it alerts you too. What I do as a reasonable work-around if my ADA kit includes the AlertMaster AM-6000 or equivalent is set the “Mic” switch to “on”. This “Mic” is really a room sound sensor. When the installed house smoke detector goes off, the racket is enough to set this alert off too. (It only activates if there is a sustained sound for at least 12 seconds.) This way I get the “early warning” advantage that all hearing people get.
Note: It is important that you check that there are good batteries in all of these devices or they will be totally useless to you in an emergency.
Caution: make sure you do not plug any alerting devices into an electrical outlet that is controlled by a wall switch. If you do and inadvertently turn the switch off, there goes your alerting device too.
Another caution: In some rooms I’ve been in, there weren’t enough electrical outlets to plug in all the devices I needed, so you would be wise to carry a spare power bar or plug extender so you have more outlets available. You may even need an extension cord.
And still another caution: Sometimes the plugs are screwed down so you can’t unplug them (so people don’t steal the bed lamps, alarm clocks, etc.). The problem is that you need to plug the bed lamp into the AlertMaster. Thus you need a screwdriver with you too (both slot and Phillips—you never know what you will need).
The above are good reasons why you should get the hotel maintenance man to come and set everything up for you. That way they get to understand the problems and how to fix them for you. (Often I have to teach the maintenance man how to set up the system properly. And just as often, they have to run out to the store and buy some fresh batteries!)
Some ADA kits are very deficient and only do lip service (so to speak) even assuming all the pieces are there—and often some are missing. Often I have to “raid” 2 or 3 ADA kits just to get the parts to make up one working kit. I make sure I complain about this so the management knows they need to “smarten up”.
When you are staying in hotels and motels, get and use an ADA kit. The life you save may be your own—and that’s definitely worth it!