After 12 years of living in NYC, HearStrong Champion, Laura Friedman, saw an opportunity to make a difference in the accessibility of the NYC Transit for individuals with disabilities. That is why she applied to be on the New York City Advisory Committee for Transit Accessibility. The ACTA is a new group made up of diverse volunteers from different disability communities designed to collect rider feedback on accessibility issues for the NYCT. After an intense application and selection process, Laura was one of only 18 members selected to be in the committee. Honored and excited, she is determined to work with the NYC Transit to help make everyone’s daily commute inclusive and accessible.
The panel wanted as much diversity as possible as they are aware that everyone faces different challenges. A person with low vision’s biggest hurdle might be finding the correct platform, but for Laura, that is not the case. Laura says, “Most of the other disability communities struggle to just get on the train in the first place and so once they’re on the train, that’s a sense of relief, but for me, that’s when the anxiety starts.”
For Laura, her hearing loss makes it difficult to hear the muffled announcements on the train. When the cars are packed and taller people are blocking the overhead signs, individuals have to rely on listening to those announcements. In general, they can be hard to hear when the subway cars are noisy from chatter and the movement of the train, especially when the sound systems are outdated. When an individual with hearing loss has to rely on these barely audible announcements, hearing which stop is theirs can be almost impossible.
The committee has met twice already with each meeting lasting four hours. Everyone involved is putting in long hours and hard work to make NYC Transit more accessible for all. In October of 2019, an accessibility model station went live with changes that are already underway. These improvements are geared toward helping individuals find their correct platform, which will be very helpful to some individuals. Laura is excited to see changes like this take place and she is confident there is still more that can be done.
Laura knows everyone’s experiences are different, so her biggest frustration may not be the same for every individual with hearing loss. Her goal is to gather what challenges other individuals with hearing loss encounter. Whether you take the subway every day or have only ridden it once, if you came across any challenges at any part of your commute due to your hearing loss, let Laura be your voice. You can email your experiences, frustrations and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.