Burlington County, New Jersey, has installed new technologies intended to help remove barriers that challenge or limit those with hearing impairments from accessing important government services and programs.
The county installed the new tools in several government buildings to make meeting rooms and offices more inclusive and accessible to residents who are hard of hearing or hearing impaired, aiming to allow them to participate in public meetings and court proceedings.
“Public participation is vital to our democracy and our County is committed to ensuring our buildings, offices and meeting rooms are accessible to all residents,” Burlington County Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson said in a statement. “By installing these enhancements, we’re able to assist those residents who are impaired or hard of hearing to attend public meetings and access many of the critical programs and services our County offers.”
The improvements include the installation of hearing loops – a tool that amplifies the sounds from a microphone and greatly reduces background noises – as well as portable hearing hotspots, and transmitters and receivers in various county offices in the Burlington County administration and courts facilities.
Burlington County used funding from a $75,000 New Jersey Department of Human Services grant to install the hearing accessibility systems.
According to the county’s press release, residents can find the new tech in the Burlington County Commissioners’ meeting room and in other locations where they go to receive services or interact with county employees and officials – including the Sheriff’s Office Community Services Room, the Superior Court Jury Assembly Room, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, the County Clerk’s Office, and the Board of Elections Office.
“We are so pleased to have received from the County listening aid devices in our jury assembly room for court uses. The County’s generosity demonstrates a real commitment to the court system in the Burlington Vicinage. Without even needing to ask, they provided these much-needed devices, which will greatly improve the ability of those who are hard of hearing to participate in the fundamental civic engagement of jury duty,” said Burlington County Assignment Judge Jeanne Covert.
In addition to the new technologies, the county has contracted with Purple Communications to offer interpreting and captioning services, including video remote interpreting, real-time captioning and scheduled virtual interpreting.
“These improvements will ensure people with hearing impairments still have full access to the information, resources and services available to all other Burlington County residents,” said Hopson, the liaison to the Department of Human Services and the Minority and Equality Rights Task Force. “Disability rights are civil rights and we’re committed to improving accessibility for all.”