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News > Press Release

October 26,2005

Contact: John Carney
JMPR Associates

Award Celebrates Achievements Aiding Blind, and Deaf Theater Patrons

Washington DC, October 26, 2005 - The US Department of Health and Human Services today awarded Sound Associates, Inc., a Secretary's Highest Recognition Award for 2005 honoring their decades-long commitment to making the magic of live theater more accessible to special needs audiences through innovative use of technology.

"Americans of all ages with disabilities of all kinds deserve the opportunity to lead productive, independent lives with the dignity they gain from being involved and engaged in work, in school, in devotion to family and faith, and in their communities as a whole," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "HHS and the entire Bush administration celebrates their achievements and remain committed to assuring that people with disabilities are able to use their skills and talents to realize their full potential as contributing Americans."

The award was accepted by T. Richard Fitzgerald, CEO of Sound Associates, Inc. during the annual HHS Office on Disability event "Celebrating Persons with Disabilities" in the Great Hall of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building in Washington, D.C. The event held each October celebrates National Disability Awareness Month by recognizing individuals, organizations, and corporations for the exemplary contributions they have made to improve the lives of persons with disabilities.

"Everyone at Sound Associates is deeply honored by this recognition," said Fitzgerald. "We will continue to work toward making every performance accessible to every theater lover." Sound Associates Inc. has a long-standing commitment to making live performances more accessible to adults and children with disabilities that interfere with their full enjoyment of the performing arts.

"This celebration reminds America that disability does not mean inability, and that all Americans can be involved in the life of their community, as active members of their families and neighborhoods, in schools, workplaces and places of worship," said HHS Office on Disability Director Margaret J. Giannini, M.D. "The honorees today are helping 54 million persons with disabilities live the goals of the President's New Freedom Initiative. We salute them."

In August 1979 T. Richard Fitzgerald, also a theatrical sound designer, introduced the Infrared Listening System, ILS, to Broadway in Peter Pan at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater. The following June, 1980, the Broadway theatre community recognized this leap in assistive listening and what it meant for hard-of-hearing audiences by honoring Richard with a Tony Award.

In the 25 years since, Sound Associates continued to improve the ILS, now in use all over the country, and to invent new assistive devices and services: I-Caption®, which features a handheld wireless unit that displays real time dialogue and lyrics for the deaf; and D-Scriptive© an audio description service that fills in those essential visuals sighted theater goers take for granted, providing more clarity. Both services are designed to be available for all performances, for use from any seat, and are offered at no charge to the user.

"Sound Associates is proud to be at the forefront of making live performances accessible, " said Fitzgerald. "Every person should be able to attend any performance and enjoy it to the greatest extent technology allows because our society needs the arts and the arts need every audience member."

Both I-Caption and D-Scriptive are currently available at Wicked, Mamma Mia! and Hairspray on Broadway. Another service, ShowTrans®, makes live theater enjoyable for non-English speaking audiences and is available for most Broadway shows.

Sound Associates, Inc. was founded in 1946 by Thomas Fitzgerald, a pioneer in the field of sound and sound design. Thomas was posthumously awarded a Tony for 'Outstanding Theatrical Achievement.' His achievement continues today through the work of his sons, Richard and Peter, who are both distinguished Broadway sound designers. For almost sixty years Sound Associates, Inc. has been supplying sound equipment to everyone in the performance industry from Broadway shows and music industry giants to local houses of worship and high schools.