To mark Deaf Awareness Week (14th – 21st May 2018), assistive hearing technology specialists Contacta has released advice for deaf people to help ensure the services and venues they use are accessible.

The advice, laid out in a guide, emphasises the rights hearing-impaired people have to access information and services and what hearing support they should expect in public spaces under building regulations.

Additionally, the guide provides practical advice to help people with hearing loss speak out if venues such as banks, shops, public buildings, universities and theatres don’t have a hearing loop, or the loop doesn’t work.

A hearing or ‘induction’ loop amplifies the sounds people want to hear above distracting background noise when they switch their hearing aid to the ‘T’ position.

“Services can’t instantly provide you with a loop but making them aware they have a duty to make their services accessible will alert them to their responsibilities,” states the guide.

“Speaking out could help the next person with a hearing impairment.”

The Equality Act 2010 states everyone should be treated equally and that venues, employers, schools and local authorities are among the organisations required to make “reasonable adjustments” to allow hearing impaired people to access their services.

Andrew Thomas of Contacta, who has more than 30 years’ experience in the sector, said: “Two million people in the UK wear a hearing aid but that doesn’t automatically mean they can fully enjoy being part of everyday activities. They are reliant on shops, cinemas, public buildings and other venues having a hearing loop available – and one that works.

“We released this guide because we want to emphasise to people that they have a right to hear and a right to have access to information, employment and entertainment.  Not being able to hear in these situations can leave deaf people at a disadvantage as well as feeling frustrated and isolated.”

Maureen Kelly from East Sussex was an avid theatre-goer until hearing loss spoiled her enjoyment of the performances. She explained how not being able to hear can range from her feeling like she wants to cry to feeling enraged.

However, her local theatre, the Devonshire Park in Eastbourne, installed a loop system that amplifies the actors’ speech through a signal picked up by the telecoil in her hearing aid, which transformed her experience.

“It was a revelation to me,” she commented.  “I realised I hadn’t heard in the theatre for a very long time.  I cried – it was a very powerful experience.”

Deaf Awareness Week is an annual event aiming to raise awareness of deafness and the challenges faced by the 11 million people in the UK with hearing loss.

Contacta’s guide is available HERE 

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