I want to introduce you all to a new friend of mine who over the last few days has already blessed me enormously……………
Yes, he looks like a pen and his manufacturers call him a pen, a Roger Pen. He operates on Bluetooth and connects wirelessly to my hearing aids enabling me to hear presentations much more clearly and effortlessly. My hearing aids have also had radio transmitters fitted. This was a part of the generous gift from the Methodist Church to enable me to continue to practise my Ministry: an affirming thing for me and for which I'm so grateful. Together with the generous gift of a personal loop system (given by a friend) I'm feeling as though my Ministry is valued enough for people to want it to continue.
But why am I telling you this? It's not just out of a sense of gratitude but because using Roger over the last couple of days has raised an interesting question for me.
To put this into context: at the moment I'm on holiday in Orkney and doing the tourist 'bit'. On Monday we went to the Orkney brewery and asked the tour guide if he would mind wearing Roger. He immediately agreed and even amongst the noise and distractions of the brewery I was able to hear him clearly.
Yesterday we attended a talk at the Tomb of the Eagles, a Neolithic burial site. Three different guides gave talks and all willingly wore the pen. One even said that it was part of his training!
Now the question for me is this….. Why in Church, in worship, in meetings or in organisations like Rotary are speakers loathe to engage with amplification systems or loop systems ? So often they will look at a microphone and say “I don't need this, you can all hear me can't you ?” Thankfully, my last Rotary President, Rod, began to reply on my and others behalf that some couldn't.
Apart from the ludicrousness of asking the question, because the deaf or hard-of-hearing wouldn't hear it anyway, it is an arrogance or an ignorance to assume you are a good enough speaker that you can overcome any disabilities you can't actually know or see.
Within the Church, as within other organisations, we are notoriously slow at catching up with the needs of others and yet consumer driven areas, such as tourism, are always seeking new ways to be more effective and therefore more attractive. When the disability discrimination act came into force many big name organisations began to adapt their premises and services (indeed some had done it before the act) because they wanted the custom. At the same time I was engaged in countless church councils who were doing their best to either avoid the issue or doing the least possible, when extravagant generosity would have said far more to the world about Christ.
I'm fortunate in that others have bought Roger and my loop system for me and I'm fully aware that Churches etc. can't afford such personal used systems for each member or visitor: however, at the very least each church ought to have a good quality amplification system and loop system, preferably with an over the ear/front of mouth microphone such as this used in a church I know.
In addition, those of us who lead worship or who engage in public speaking need not only to learn how to use such equipment, but need to commit ourselves to showing how much we care for others by wanting to use it.
So my plea to fellow speakers and organisations is
“let's get with the real world and make sure we can be heard !“