Just in time for the season’s holiday shows and the New Year to come, the California Center for the Arts, Escondido (the Center) has installed a state-of-the-art Assistive Listening Device (ALD) system in both of its performance halls, allowing the hearing-impaired to fully enjoy the arts.
The installation of the new system in the Center Theater and the Concert Hall will enable the Center to continue carrying out its mission of enriching the lives of residents in Escondido, San Diego County and beyond.
“We are so pleased to be able to offer this service to our patrons,” said Jerry Van Leeuwen, executive director of the Center. “Our mission is to bring people together to discover, create and celebrate the arts, and this new system helps us achieve that goal. Everyone should be able to enjoy the incredible performers and acts that take the Center’s stages and the assistive listening devices now available in both of our theaters truly make the arts accessible for all.”
The Center also led the design and installation of an ALD system in the Escondido city council chambers, so local residents can hear better during public meetings.
What is Assistive Listening?
The ALD system amplifies sounds that attendees want to hear while filtering out background noise. The devices can be used with a hearing aid or cochlear implant to help the wearer hear certain sounds– in the case of the Center, music and dialogue– more clearly.
Manufactured by Minnesota-based Williams Sound, the system at each location includes a permanently-mounted radio frequency transmitter and antenna that, while invisible to attendees, broadcast an FM signal that can be heard via personal receivers anywhere within the space, such as in the orchestra or balconies of the Center Theater.
“This system has been designed so (the patron) can sit anywhere in the theater and they can get good reception,” said 17-year Escondido resident Mike Conrad, a Center volunteer who has been working on implementing the ALD system since February.
During productions at the Center, signs in either performance hall lobby bearing the international symbol for Assistive Listening will notify attendees that the devices are available and direct them to coatrooms where they can obtain a small, portable (wireless) receiver that transmits the amplified signal to the patron’s hearing aid or to behind-the-neck earphones, whichever the patron prefers.
“It’s not clunky,” Conrad said. “You can click (the receiver) on your belt loop or wear the neckloop around your neck.”
The device is also user-friendly and auto-selecting, meaning it automatically finds the strongest signal with the least interference for the best reception.
“It’s all automatic. You don’t have to tune anything,” he said.
The Center’s volunteer ushers have been trained in assisting theater-goers with obtaining the ALD personal receivers, so that the process is seamless and guests can get their devices and then to their seats in a timely manner. Patrons will be asked to leave their driver’s license or ID to check out an ALD. However, it is important to note that even if one was to take a device home to, for example, hear the TV better, it wouldn’t work because there is no transmitter to send sounds to the receiver.
High-tech system first of its kind in California
The new system is compliant with the latest Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. The equipment has been authorized by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), making the Center the first organization of any type in the state of California to have the latest, T45 fully-digitized system.
Federal law required the Center to have personal receivers for 2-4 percent of the number of seats in each space. Following those guidelines, there are 45 devices available in the 1,500-seat Concert Hall and 16 in the 400-seat Center Theater. Twelve receivers are available in the 300-seat city council chambers.
Including hardware and installation, the ALD system for all three locations cost about $22,000. The money for the project came from the City of Escondido.
The system was installed in all three locations by Fallbrook-based sound system installer Quiet Voice Audio at the end of November. With the install complete, the Center’s goal is to get the word out about the new system so that people will take advantage of the technology.
“This is a way of reaching out to the community . . . What a wonderful thing if people can say to their aging parents, ‘Let’s go together to this (show) as a family and we can all enjoy it,'” Conrad said. “Just because you’re aging doesn’t mean you don’t want to enjoy things anymore.”
About the California Center for the Arts, Escondido
A 501(c)3 charitable organization, the Center’s creation was sparked by a civic vision—one that recognized the vital role that the arts play in strengthening and uniting the community. Our commitment to enriching lives and improving access to the arts, especially for low-income individuals and families, is exemplified through our extensive educational programming and robust series of free community events. The Center is guided by an enthusiastic Board of Trustees and passionate staff who are dedicated to furthering arts education and access, and to creating programs that provide cultural enrichment for residents of North County and beyond.
You can join this inspiring mission by becoming a donor. Visit artcenter.org/support or email firstname.lastname@example.org to start a conversation about how you or your company can make a difference right here and right now in your arts community.
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