Deaf people are being encouraged to speak up for their ‘right to hear’, this Deaf Awareness Week, and make sure venues and services they use are accessible.
The advice laid out in a guide to mark Deaf Awareness Week 14 – 21 May emphasizes the rights hearing-impaired people have to access information and services under the law and what hearing support they should expect in public spaces under building regulations.
The guide, produced by assistive hearing technology specialists Contacta, also 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”.
Contacta has, over the last 48 years, installed hundreds of thousands of hearing loops to benefit customers at a number of high street banks and retailers as well as bus and rail stations, theatres and entertainment venues.
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. People with hearing loss are the largest disabled group in the UK and we want to help them have the confidence to know their rights and to ask for what they need.”
Maureen Kelly from East Sussex was an avid theatre-goer until hearing loss spoiled her enjoyment of the performances.
“It’s like being the one sober person at a party where everybody else is enjoying themselves,” she said. “You go in and something starts and you think, “again, I can’t hear this!” It ranges from sometimes just wanting to cry through to utter rage!”
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. It has transformed her experience.
“It was a revelation to me,” she said. “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 ‘Right to Hear’ online guide is available here.