City Opts For 'FM' Hearing Assist System

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By Joe Foreman, Editor

An upgrade in technology is coming to Glenwood City Hall.
The city council has given its approval to the installation of an “FM” assisted listening system and an audio visual system that can be utilized for guest presentations at council meetings and employee training sessions.

The FM system transmits audio signals to a receiver worn by the listener - typically a headset or neck loop. The system complies with Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, city administrator Brian Kissel said.

“It allows people that are hearing impaired to hear what’s being said,” Kissel said.

Kissel said the system comes at a cost of around $900. Prior to the relocation of City Hall in 2012, Mills County resident Mary Dyer, who has been deaf since 2008, asked the city to install a “loop system” in the new council chamber. Dyer sells the system and gave the city a bid for $2,500.

At multiple meetings, Dyer told council members the loop system is superior to the FM system. The loop system is an amplifier capable of sending signals directly to a person’s hearing aid or cochlear implant without the distraction of background noise.

Dialogue between city officials and Dyer became contentious at times in 2013 after she filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) about the city’s lack of progress in getting a hearing assistance device installed. A DOJ mediation hearing between Dyer and the city is now expected to take place at a future date.

Kissel said the city considered a loop system, and even solicited bids from vendors other than Dyer, but believes the FM system will meet the needs of hearing-impaired citizens at a fiscally-responsible cost to taxpayers. Dyer said the city’s decision is a mistake.

“They are fulfilling the letter, not the spirit, of the law,” Dyer stated. “While an FM system fulfills the ADA requirements, it is not the system preferred by the great majority of people with hearing loss.”