The Dallas Arboretum is listed among the top arboretums in the world—hosting over a million visitors each year from across the U.S. and from 90 countries.
While ground-breaking horticultural research is a big part of the mission, another aspect is to promote the art, enjoyment, and knowledge of the garden to the public through educational programs and tours. There are even programs designed especially for children in the award-winning Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden—which has 17 interactive learning galleries to explore.
Tram driver and Dallas Arboretum volunteer, Sue Greims, Barry Epstein of Hear Us Now and Linda Thibodeau, Ph.D., UTD professor who led testing of the systems by graduate students at the Callier Center for Communication disorders demonstrate the Hear Us Now™ technology which provides support for hearing impaired visitors to the Arboretum.
New technology for people with hearing impairments
With such a wide array of people coming to experience the gardens and to learn about the flowers, trees, and plant life, the Dallas Arboretum seeks to be friendly to people with differing abilities. There are trams to help people with mobility issues, and recently, the Dallas Arboretum has teamed with Hear Us Now™ to help the 15% of visitors who suffer from some form of hearing loss.
One of the trams has been equipped with a powerful transmitter and an antenna which connects with headsets for the Hear Us Now™ system. Other trams that follow are in range of the transmitter providing flexible capability.
Some users may be familiar with T-Loop which magnetically couples sound to the user’s special hearing aid. Hear Us Now™ offers a ‘Personal’ T-Loop option, which offers superior fidelity and reliability. The system allows people to leave the tram and walk typically 200 feet into the gardens from the first tram, while still being able to hear what is being transmitted. Future antennas will provide better range.
The Hear Us Now™ headsets are lightweight and designed to be worn under the chin like a stethoscope. The receiver has a volume control so that each person using it can set it to where it is comfortable.
Improved access to programs
The Dallas Arboretum’s implementation of Hear Us Now™ is designed to offer a better listening experience for guests taking a tram tour of the gardens, for experiences at the Charlotte and Donald Test Pavilion in A Tasteful Place, and for children conducting experiments at the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden.
The Charlotte and Donald Test Pavilion in A Tasteful Place helps visitors connect with the joy of learning how to grow, harvest, prepare and taste fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Hear Us Now™ enhances the connection between educators and participants as knowledge is shared about the gardens, classes at A Tasteful Place, and experiments in the Plant Lab in the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. In addition, the Plant Lab Hear Us Now™ installation focuses on and has provision for ‘classroom compatibility’ to the various hearing assist systems used in special classrooms of many area school districts. So now, entire classes of hearing-impaired students can expand the horizon of their experiences far outside the typical school classroom.
Alan Walne, Dallas Arboretum board chairman, added, “This technology will enhance the enjoyment of those visiting the Dallas Arboretum and children learning in the Plant Lab. We are thankful for the partnership with Barry Epstein, his Hear Us Now Foundation and Dr. Linda Thibodeau and her students at UTD for solving a problem that many visitors face.”
Graduate students from the UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders reviewed the Hear Us Now™ installation at the Dallas Arboretum’s Plant Lab in the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden..