Friday, May 20, 2011

Update from 103 Orchard: New Technology for Accessibility

At the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, we’re accustomed to peeling back plaster and lath to inspect and date the pipes and wires we find inside. But this month, we’re the ones leaving clues for future urban archeologists.

Threading induction loops through the ceiling at 103 Orchard Street

In preparing our new Visitors Center at 103 Orchard Street, we’re adding all sorts of wires for new technologies. We’ll have “smart classrooms” on the second floor and a high-tech projector in our new cinema space. Most recently, we added several induction loops that will assist visitors who wear hearing aides.

Induction Loops are a technology that uses a loop—really a wire surrounding an area—to create a magnetic signal that hearing aid wearers can “pick up” wirelessly. This signal helps clear up the interference of a busy or crowded room such as our shop and Visitors Center by transmitting sound directly from an audio source to a person’s hearing aid by way of a telecoil or “t-coil” receiver.

In our current Visitors Center, we have induction loops installed at our ticketing and retail counters. In our new space, we will have a loop around the cinema where our film about Lower East Side history plays. A fourth loop will encircle the area where evening Tenement Talks are held. The system is complex, but its result is beautifully simple: vastly improved experiences for every visitor who uses a hearing aide.

At the Tenement Museum, we’re always looking for new ways to improve accessibility and open our ongoing dialogue to as many visitors as possible. To learn more about induction loops, and where else you can find them in New York, e-mail Sarah Litvin, our Education Associate in charge of Access.

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