CHHA 2014 National Conference Report by Roz Sutley

The Canadian Hard of Hearing National Conference was held at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto May 22nd to May 24th this year. Thanks to the encouragement and financial support from CHHA Manitoba Chapter I was able to attend my first conference.

Feeling very much like the fabled country mouse, I packed my bags and flew off to the BIG city. Arriving in Toronto and navigating my way to the hotel on my own was just the start of my adventure. It was interesting to note that summer and construction go hand in hand no matter where you are, and having a hearing loss probably makes it much more endurable!

The hotel was gorgeous and full of the hurly-burly of people with places to go and things to do. As this was a conference for hard of hearing people, our needs for clear communication were addressed from our moment of arrival. The hotel’s front desk was equipped with a loop system, and with a flick of my T-switch I was able to hear and register at the hotel with ease. For once in my life I heard what the front desk clerk had to say without everyone else in on the conversation as well. If only all public venues would use this system!

For three days I was immersed in a community of hard of hearing people sharing ideas and interests with one another. Suddenly this invisible disability was out in the open and I found I was not alone. My stories, my life experience and my frustrations were heard, mirrored and understood by countless others. Our challenges united us and our successes encouraged us.

Laughing along with comedian D.J. Demers as he shared his take on life with a hearing loss, attending the baseball game and enjoying the awards banquet provided the entertainment at the conference. I enjoyed every moment of it all.

There was a variety of workshops to choose from; including family and interpersonal challenges, genetic influences and the impact of aging on hearing loss. For board members there was a series of workshops to enhance and facilitate the effectiveness of board members, volunteers and social media.

Young adults with hearing loss had their own agenda, workshops and discussions. At the closing banquet they shared their vision for life for those with hearing loss. They are not afraid. They are not invisible and they are not silent. We have much to learn from them and will benefit from their vision as we continue on.

This was a momentous weekend for me and I am deeply grateful and thankful that the board of CHHA Manitoba Chapter encouraged and helped me to attend the conference. For the first time in my life I did not sit on the sidelines, but rather I mingled, shared and connected with others. I would encourage anyone and everyone to attend the next conference which will be held in Halifax in 2015.