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Photo by Pam Eubanks
Lakewood Ranch resident Richard Williams, 70, also helped secure a hearing loop system at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
East County Wednesday, Jul. 16, 2014 9 months ago

Court takes up 'hearing' initiative

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by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — On any given day, Richard Williams needs a handful of gadgets and tools to survive in a digital, sound-filled world.

He needs an alarm clock that vibrates and releases light, a doorbell that flashes, a caption telephone, a microphone to set next to speakers and a bluetooth device for his iPad.

“There’s probably more if I sat down and wrote them,” says Williams, a resident of the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club.

The items, although simple, allow Williams, who has severe to profound hearing loss in both ears, to function as normally as possible.

Awareness of hearing loss is a cause for which Williams has advocated for the last four years with the Hearing Loss Association. And although he has helped secure the installation of hearing loop systems locally, Williams, a retired attorney, now has taken his case to the highest court possible — the U.S. Supreme Court.

After writing a letter to the court’s marshal, Pamela Talkin, in December, Williams learned June 30 — the day he returned from a Hearing Loss Association conference — the U.S. Supreme Court will install a hearing loop system in the courtroom this summer, as stated in a June 23 letter from Talkin.

“I was pretty excited,” Williams said. “Summer is the time they redo the court. In my mind, I was going to follow up. I got home June 30 — the last day of the court — and I saw that (letter) in my mail.”

Williams said his experience attending a session of the court in June 2013 prompted the idea.

He cited benefits of the hearing loop system (see graphic, right) to Talkin, including that it does not require the pick up and return of receiving units and headsets, operates on a universal frequency, has no hygienic concerns and is inconspicuous for the user, among others.

Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said the hearing loop system will replace the FM and infra-red listening devices the court has made available to courtroom visitors in the past.

“It will be installed later this summer in the courtroom with plans for it to be in place for use when the term begins in October,” Arberg said.

Williams said he is pleased.

“Advocacy is what I’ve chosen to do,” said Williams, who has been an active member of the Hearing Loss Association for about four years. “I’m a lawyer. That’s what we do — advocate.”

About Williams
Richard Williams worked as a city attorney while teaching law at Northwestern University, in Chicago, and later at the University of North Florida, in Jacksonville.

He argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981 and 1996.

He began noticing hearing loss in the late ‘90s while teaching.

“I like the give and take, and I couldn’t get the take,” Williams said, adding he received his first hearing aid in 1998.

Williams reluctantly gave up teaching in 2001 because his hearing loss became too severe.

He retired from actively practicing law in 2007.

HEARING LOOP SYSTEMS
The Hearing Loop System works by hooking up an existing microphone and amplifier to an induction loop, which is placed around the perimeter of the theater, meeting room or area where an audience or congregation sits. The magnetic field created by the loop projects the sound directly to a T-Coil, a wireless receiver that acts as a loudspeaker inside a hearing aid. Most hearing aids are equipped with a T-Coil.

LETTER:
Dear Mr. Williams,
This letter follows my reply of January 2, 2014. I am pleased to inform you that this summer we will install a hearing loop system in the Courtroom of the Supreme Court of the United States.

I truly appreciate the initiative you took in making your suggestion. Your suggestion will benefit countless visitors to the Court.
Sincerely,
Pamela Talkin
Marshal of the Court

Contact Pam Eubanks at peubanks@yourobserver.com

 

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