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May 31
Mandala Projects
Limiting the Barriers, part 3

Putting Acoustical Treatment in Drala Hall

Putting Acoustical Treatment in Drala Hall

A Report in Three Parts
From the Accessibility and Disability Working Group

article compiled by Stefan Carmien, Chair of Accessibility and Disability Working Group

The first two parts of this series of articles discussed the history of the Accessibility and Disability working group and several of its recent projects. This, the last part, is a presentation of our work with practice centers. Read part one by clicking here. Read part two by clicking here.

Land Site Example: Dechen Choling
What is now called Drala hall is the core of accessibility for Dechen Choling; there is an accessible bedroom and bathroom there as well as accessible parking right next to it. Most small to medium events are held in the Drala hall or the Chateau shrine rooms. Interestingly, the hall is elegant, spacious and beautiful in our now traditional style combining Tibetan, Japanese and modern sensibilities, but the acoustics have been problematic from the beginning; especially for people with hearing deficiencies and non native speakers of the language the event is being given in. One measure of the problem is that a standard reverberation measurement of the hall RT-60 is 2.4 seconds, in the upper range of cathedrals, where for lecture halls it should be closer to .7 seconds.

From the very beginning Dechen Choling has been committed to simultaneous translation support and from a certain perspective this can be seen as accommodation of a certain kind of disability. Originally they used a homemade setup using headset microphones wired to headphone amplifiers and connected to individual headphones, which came to be called by some “the octopus”. Since 2011 they have used a commercial grade FM tour guide system that allows translators and listeners to be located anywhere in the hall (and in the big event tents) and support up to three languages. This system, the Williams TGS system has made accommodating multiple languages much more simple, at a fairly high cost, though. Additionally the system provides induction loop capabilities for directly feeding the talk to persons with hearing impediments using hearing aids (and with headphones for those without aids); the first test of this last summer lead a user to say, “It was very effective and excellent having the hearing loop on the Shastri program. It was the first time I had been confident that I would hear all that was said, and it was a huge relief.” Commercial grade systems such as the TGS are in the 4000 € range.

The Working Group last spring sent a two person evaluation team to Dechen Choling, with the active support of the administration and staff. We spent a weekend evaluating each building that was used by participants; we decided to exclude facilities used only by the staff, although in the long run these should move towards being barrier free also. The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) were chosen as the evaluation tool.

Dechen Choling's green wheelchair path

Dechen Choling’s green wheelchair path

The ADAAG Checklist for Buildings and Facilities provides a nice 200 point checklist that has measurable items (i.e. Is the door opening width at least 32 inches clear, between the face of the door and the stop, when the door is open 90 degrees?). The advantage of doing this sort of review is that the solution is explicit and the effort is more easily calculated. At the end of the weekend we meet with Simon La Haye and discussed our preliminary findings, planning to meet again with the final report and work out an agreement. The current draft of the report lists only about 40 items that need to be done, so the problem is, at Dechen Choling, more tractable than we initially surmised. As a result of the initial talk, Dechen Choling immediately installed plastic paving inserts over the gravel to make the path from the Drala hall to the Chateau wheelchair accessible – completing the initial barrier free path for small and medium sized programs (see the photo – the green path is accessible); and moved the entrance door of the boutique to one wide enough for wheelchairs. Currently they are remodelling the Drala shrine room to reduce the reverberation (see picture above), having done a specific fundraising program for it.

The next steps for Dechen Choling and the accessibility and disability Working Group are to finish the final report and write up the agreement. The accommodation needs are numerous but small projects. Dechen Choling’s commitment to accessibility and obtaining the resources to do the necessary modifications promises that although there are financial problems the progress will continue. Following the agreement with Dechen Choling we intend to send teams to Karme Choling, Shambhala Mountain Center and Dorje Denma Ling and repeat the process with appropriate modifications.

How to join in
We hope that these articles have inspired you to support our journey to barrier free sangha and accessible dharma presentations. The staring place is to talk with others about accessibility and express support at your local center.

Here are some other ways to help:

  • 1. Support accessibility efforts at your local center. Offer to work on the problem with the directors, raise money for accommodations.
  • 2. Donate to land centers tying the funds specifically to accessibility work
  • 3. Join the accessibility and disability working group. We expect about 12 hours a quarter work on projects that interest you and attendance at bi-monthly conference calls. Anyone can offer to join in, but in the interest of diversity we are looking for a member who has movement disability, male (we are all female but the chair) and European or South American/Mexican.
  • You can reach us at: [email protected]

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    1 response to “ Limiting the Barriers, part 3 ”
    1. Thank you for this article. What policies are being developed to make land and urban centers accessible and supportive for those who have suffered trauma? Thank you

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