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 Hotel Facilities Scenario

You check in to your hotel perfectly. The reception had a portable counter induction loop that you could utilise, making the process so much easier and you could hear your room number and amount owed clearly.

You take your bag and go to your room, there’s a large double bed, TV, coffee making facilities and trouser press. You flick off your shoes and switch on the TV.

The TV volume isn’t loud enough so you turn it up, and up a little more. That’s better I can here Steve and Michelle having their recent barney on the cobbles of coronation street now.

The show finishes, you decide to head down to the bar and grab a beer. Well, it has been a long 6 hour drive down from Liverpool you deserve one. As you walk through the foyer, the manager waves to catch your attention. He walks over and introduces himself but he has been advised that a resident in the adjoining room to you has complained that your TV was on very loud and it woke them from an afternoon nap. Would you mind turning the volume down next time please? Shocked and embarrassed you say that you will, but inside you know you can’t watch the TV in your hotel room again as you thought it was only on low. If only they had considered a loop facility for the bedroom also?

You walk over to the bar and order a beer, the bar tender tells you the cost 3-4 times as you struggle to hear him due to the noisy stag do at the other end of the bar.

Embarrassed you sit at a table and finally enjoy your beer, switching your hearing aids off for some much-needed peace and quiet.

While you are sat you think to yourself that the hotel started out great providing loop facility for check in, but that’s the only room the facility was provided to and you are using the whole hotel not just the foyer and reception area. Lets hope they have some facility for me to use at the conference tomorrow, or my stay will have been a complete waste of time!

Imagine being sat in a meeting with a group of colleagues; you are sat around a large meeting table and people are chatting among themselves, but you are struggling to hear anybody clearly. The chairman at the front calls the room to order and starts delivering a presentation. He seems very quiet to you and your hearing aids are picking up the air-con unit churning away.

He asks questions but you struggle to hear, even though you would know the answer you don’t dare risk responding. You may have lip read the question incorrectly and could be ridiculed. You sit quietly, not providing any feedback feeling left out and isolated.

The presentation finishes and you are split into groups to work on team tasks. Ten colleagues are in your group and you position yourselves on a separate table to the rest. Discussions commence but your NHS Hearing aids are picking up the table behind, as they seem to be more vocal than your group. You struggle to participate only joining in when you are 100% sure of what section of the task has been itemized for discussion.

Thinking to yourself ‘I’m glad this isn’t a tender meeting for a multi million pound contract I’m involved in, as I could look disinterested, ignorant and weak. ‘

There are 10 million people in the UK who are deaf or living with a hearing loss.
resturant hard of hearing

Many deaf or hearing-impaired people struggle whilst visiting restaurants and bars as the facilities can cause them to feel isolated. This is due to the large amount of background noise from the other patrons and music etc.

Just imagine sitting at your restaurant table with a group of friends enjoying a birthday meal. The wine is flowing, the conversation is of the highest order and the food is divine.

Now imagine sitting at the same table. You are struggling to hear what is being said. Your NHS Hearing aids with the microphone to the rear of your ear worked great earlier in the quiet taxi ride, but now all you can pick up is the party on the table behind you talking about a recent loss in the family.

The waiter approaches your table and you ask to hear the specials.  Instead of hearing about the delightful fennel infused pulled pork, all you can hear is that it was Aunty Margret who had passed peacefully in her sleep. Not the great sharing starter you were hoping to hear about.

You persevere with the conversation on your table, trying to lip-read and pick up on body language. You try your best to laugh and pretend that you understand what your friends are talking about, in reality you feel embarrassed and isolated and just wish to finish your dessert and go home.resturant dining 2

The waiter approaches with the bill and it is handed to a friend who is working out how much everyone owes. You can not understand what anyone is saying, the background music is a little too high, and the depressing party behind have now been replaced by a couple who are constantly shouting and being vulgar.

You guess the amount you have to pay and leave the restaurant, thinking to yourself  “Why do I even bother coming to social events like these? If only there was something that could be done to include me more and make these social events enjoyable.” Imagine if your facility could attract even 1% of the people feeling like this by having a solution to help them feel included. 1% of 10 Million is 100,000.

With over 10 Million People in the UK that are deaf or living with a hearing impairment, isn’t it about time your venue took action?
venue hard of hearing blog2

With competition from rival venues why don’t you become the flag ship venue for the hearing impaired.

Just imagine if you managed to tap into just 1% of the 10 million hearing impaired that’s 100,000 people. Could this extra customer increase your venues profits?

Of course it will!
new customer sign

Over the years venues have been requested to have hearing induction loops installed to conform to the Equalities Act (DDA) or the CQC (Care Quality Commission). A fixed installed loop system is the best option to provide; however, if you have multiple rooms and multi use of rooms this may not be the case. Your facility may have also undergone refurbishment and the decor is to the high spec that your facility should provide. Leaving the chances of installing a fixed loop system to the bare minimum and therefor missing out on that magic extra custom.

As a venue the best option would be a portable solution. A unit you can move from room to room, can perform in multiple room uses, whether that be a meeting room with a board room set up, a lecture room, classroom, a theater, a restaurant or even a bedroom. This unit would have the capability for future expansion should your extra 1% increase to 2,3 or even 5% of the 10 Million hearing impaired suffers.

Ideal you may think, and you would be correct. But before we get to this perfect solution you maybe wondering what do I do when I have purchased the equipment?

MARKET! MARKET! MARKET! Shout about it! Let the deaf and hearing-impaired community know that you have their best interests at heart. Don’t be silent about it.

What you may not know is that the deaf and hearing-impaired rate venues on the facilities that venues like yourselves offer. These websites highlight the good but also the bad, and if you’re on the good list the hearing impaired community will use your facilities more favourable to that of any competitor.

Take a look at our typical scenarios where a hearing loop would be beneficial.

Deaf MP Mojo Mathers’ long running, high profile battle for funding to allow her to participate fully in Parliament has shown the public what she and other hearing impaired New Zealanders battle every day, she says.

Speaker of the House Lockwood Smith, who has been under fire for delays in securing long term funding for a note-taker for Ms Mathers, this morning announced permanent funding had been approved by the Parliamentary Service.

“I am issuing a direction to the Parliamentary Service which will provide the lawful authority to provide equipment and personnel services to Ms Mathers while she is a member of Parliament”, he said.

“Specifically, Ms Mathers will continue to have access to electronic note takers while she is an MP. This support will be in addition to that to which she is already entitled, to ensure she may fulfill her role as a member of Parliament.”

Dr Smith said the cost of the services would be met from the Parliamentary Service’s baseline and was additional to the funding provided to support all members.

Ms Mathers said Dr Smith’s decision was a very positive step both for herself and for the disability community.

“I want to thank the speaker for reaching this decision.”

The decision meant aspiring MPs with a disability or hearing impairment “will be able to run for Parliament confident that they will get the support that they need”.

However, it was disappointing it had taken so long for Dr Smith to reach his decision but not unexpected.

“It’s the reality of the situation for people with disabilities that it takes time to change attitudes and time to improve poeple’s understanding of what real inclusion means.

“It’s the day to day reality of what people with disability’s lives are like and its just this has been played out more in the public view.”

Meanwhile, Dr Smith also said he planned to develop a captioning service to make proceedings of the House more accessible to the hearing impaired.

“I intend working with the Office of the Clerk to develop this service and will raise this with the Standing Orders Committee which deals with such matters.”

Ms Mathers said that news particularly welcome.

“Captioning will greatly increase access to political debate and Parliament for the 700,000 New Zealanders with a hearing impairment.”

Advocates for the hearing impaired are hoping a technology that drastically reduces background noise for the hearing impaired will find a home in public spaces across Canada.

The technology, known as a “hearing loop,” is a thin strand of wire radiating signals most hearing aids and cochlear implants can pick up.

When set up in a space such as a bank, church or theatre, it allows the listener to pick up sound directly from a microphone without the background noise.

In Britain, hearing loops are common everywhere from banks to fast food restaurants. But in Canada, they have been slower to take hold.

‘Loops’ in Toronto, Ottawa

One system in Canada has been installed at the GO Transit counters at Union Station in Toronto.

Jo-Anne Bentley of the Canadian Hearing Society said at the station, where commuters and ongoing construction creates constant noise, the innovation is a welcome addition.

“A customer coming up to the counter: they’re getting direct communication from the microphone of the customer service [representative] directly to their hearing aid,” said Bentley.

“Our hope is that all public facilities have counter-loop systems in all locations to really improve access for our hard-of-hearing consumers,” said Bentley.

Canadian Churches leading the way!

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in downtown Ottawa has its own hearing loop that runs around the building, bringing the sound of music or sermon straight into the hearing aid of a parishioner, no matter how bad the acoustics of the building.

Churches have led the way in Canada but other institutions have been slow to follow, said Mary Beth Jennings of the National Centre for Audiology at the University of Western Ontario.

“Now we’re starting to see more loops coming on the market, and certainly we’ll have a spillover effect from the movement that’s happening in the U.S.,” said Jennings.

Advocates for the hearing impaired in Ontario told CBC News they hope the passage of access laws such as Ontario’s Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which comes into force in the new year, will push Canadian organizations to follow suit.

After he lost much of his hearing last year at age 57, the composer Richard Einhorn despaired of ever really enjoying a concert or musical again. Even using special headsets supplied by the Metropolitan Opera and Broadway theaters, he found himself frustrated by the sound quality, static and interference.

Then, in June, he went to the Kennedy Center in Washington, where his “Voices of Light” oratorio had once been performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, for a performance of the musical “Wicked.”

There were no special headphones. This time, the words and music were transmitted to a wireless receiver in Mr. Einhorn’s hearing aid using a technology that is just starting to make its way into public places in America: a hearing loop.

“There I was at ‘Wicked’ weeping uncontrollably — and I don’t even like musicals,” he said. “For the first time since I lost most of my hearing, live music was perfectly clear, perfectly clean and incredibly rich.”

His reaction is a common one. The technology, which has been widely adopted in Northern Europe, has the potential to transform the lives of tens of millions of Americans, according to national advocacy groups. As loops are installed in stores, banks, museums, subway stations and other public spaces, people who have felt excluded are suddenly back in the conversation.

A hearing loop, typically installed on the floor around the periphery of a room, is a thin strand of copper wire radiating electromagnetic signals that can be picked up by a tiny receiver already built into most hearing aids and cochlear implants. When the receiver is turned on, the hearing aid receives only the sounds coming directly from a microphone, not the background cacophony.

“It’s the equivalent of a wheelchair ramp for people who used to be socially isolated because of their hearing loss,” said David G. Myers, a professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Mich., who is hard of hearing. “I used to detest my hearing aids, but now that they serve this second purpose, I love the way they’ve enriched my life.”

After his first encounter with a hearing loop at an abbey in Scotland, where he was shocked to suddenly be able to understand every word of a service, Dr. Myers installed a loop in his own home and successfully campaigned to have loops installed at hundreds of places in Michigan, including the Grand Rapids airport and the basketball arena at Michigan State University.

“One of the beauties of this simple technology is that it serves me everywhere from my office to my home TV room to nearly all the worship places and public auditoriums of my community,” Dr. Myers said.

The Midwest has been in the vanguard, but New York is starting to catch up. Loops have been installed at the ticket windows of Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, at the Apple store in SoHo and at exhibits and information kiosks at Ellis Island, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History.

Even in that infamous black hole of acoustics — the New York subway system — loops are being placed in about 500 fare booths, in what will be the largest installation in the United States.

“This isn’t just about disability rights — it’s about good customer service,” said Janice Schacter Lintz, the head of the Hearing Access Program, a group in New York promoting the loops.

“The baby boomers turn 65 this year,” Ms. Schacter Lintz said, noting that more than 30 percent of people over 65 have hearing loss. “That’s a big group of customers who won’t go to museums or theaters or restaurants where they can’t hear. Put in a loop, and they can hear clearly without any of the bother or embarrassment of wearing a special headset.”

The basic technology, called an induction loop, has been around for decades as a means of relaying signals from a telephone to a tiny receiver called a telecoil, or t-coil, that can be attached to a hearing aid. As telecoils became standard parts of hearing aids in Britain and Scandinavia, they were also used to receive signals from loops connected to microphones in halls, stores, taxicabs and a host of other places.

People in the United States have been slower to adopt the technology because telecoils were traditionally sold as an optional accessory, at an extra cost of about $50, instead of being included automatically with a hearing aid. But today telecoils are built into two-thirds of the hearing aids on the market as well as in all cochlear implants, so there is a growing number of people able to benefit from loops.

Hearing loop systems are more complicated to install than the assistive-hearing systems commonly used in theaters and churches, which beam infrared or FM signals to special headsets or neck loops that must be borrowed from the hall. Installing a loop in an auditorium typically costs $10 to $25 per seat, an initial investment that discourages some facility managers. But advocates for the loops argue that the cost per user is lower over the long run.

“The joke among my friends is that the loop system sounds too good to be true, but it is,” said Christine Klessig, a retired lawyer living near Stevens Point in central Wisconsin. “Before they installed a loop at the public library, I had to sit in the front row at lectures and try to lip-read because I missed so many words. Now I sit wherever I want and hear everything.”

The Hearing Loss Association of America, the largest group representing people with hearing problems, has joined with the American Academy of Audiology in a campaign to make loops more common in the United States. The technology is a cost-efficient way to provide benefits that even the most expensive hearing aids cannot deliver, said Patricia Kricos, an audiologist at the University of Florida and a past president of the American Academy of Audiology.

“Audiologists have always had a lot of faith in new high-tech hearing aids and cochlear implants, which are wonderful, but we’re coming to realize that these work primarily in relatively quiet places without a lot of reverberation and noise,” Dr. Kricos said. “In many settings, like a train station, they can’t give you the crystal-clear clarity that you can get from a hearing loop.”

In the pre-loop days at Dr. Myers’s church in Michigan, the assistive-hearing headsets were rarely used by more than a single person at any service. Other worshipers were dissuaded by the inconvenience and embarrassment, he said. Shortly after the loop was installed, 10 people told him they were using it, and the number has been growing as more people get hearing aids that work with the system.

“If we build it, they will come,” Dr. Myers said. “I see no reason why what’s happened here in West Michigan can’t happen across America.”

By Eleanor Bradford – BBC Scotland Health Correspondent

A quarter of shops and businesses in Scotland which display signs claiming to have hearing loops do not have a usuable system, according to a study.

A survey by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) sent mystery shoppers to 500 shops in Dundee, Glasgow, Paisley and Falkirk.

Some 132 shops displayed a loop sign but in 32 cases they were not working or staff did not know how to use them.

Hearing loops are a vital tool for the 168,000 hearing aid users in Scotland.

They transmit sound directly to the hearing aid user and filter out background noise.

Delia Henry, director of RNID Scotland, said: “Eighty per cent of shops were not accessible for hearing aid users at all, and in 25% of stores who promoted the fact they had a hearing loop, they either weren’t working or weren’t accessible for hearing aid users.”

A portable hearing loop system can be bought for £200 but the RNID came across some stores where good intentions had not been followed through.

Ms Henry added: “In one store the staff proudly showed us that they had a loop but it was still in a box. The company had spent money to make the store accessible but they hadn’t trained the staff how to use it. It was really a waste of investment.”

The RNID was surprised to find communication specialists performed particularly badly.

All branches of Carphone Warehouse visited by mystery shoppers were found to be inaccessible to hearing aid users.

Mystery shopper Ken Nicholson went to the company’s Union Street branch in Glasgow. The hearing loop sign was clearly visible but when Mr Nicholson switched his hearing aid to the ‘T’ position he knew immediately it was not working.

Mr Nicholson said: “Shopping can be a difficult experience if you don’t hear well, particularly in a noisy shop.

“Passing the time of day with people is OK but if you want to know something precisely and you’re buying something important or expensive, if you’re not hearing 100% it’s a big disadvantage and an inconvenience.”

A spokesperson for the Carphone Warehouse said: “All of our stores should have working induction loops installed and we will investigate the issue with this particular store immediately. We apologise in the meantime.”
Staff training

Mr Nicholson said he had a similar experience at a branch of T-Mobile in Argyll Street. Despite displaying a hearing loop sign, staff told him they might have had one at some time but “probably hadn’t got one anymore”.

In a statement, T-Mobile said: “All T-Mobile’s retail stores have hearing loops in place for customers with impaired hearing and we’ve set this as an internal requirement for all new store builds.

“We’re sorry to hear about the incident in the Argyll [Street] store, where it’s been reported that the hearing loop was not in service.”

It added: “We’ve just recently completed a thorough staff education programme to ensure all employees are familiar with how the technology works and every customer has the best in-store experience.

“We will also be undertaking additional disability awareness training across our retail stores over the next few months.”

The RNID is warning businesses they may be breaking the law by not having working hearing loops.

The Equality Act of 2010 places a duty on retailers to allow equal access to disabled and able-bodied shoppers.

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