Guide advises retailers on legal obligations to customers with hearing loss

A recently introduced guide details the legal obligations of retailers to make their premises accessible to those with hearing loss.

The ‘Right to Hear’ guide covers the technology available to help businesses comply with the terms of the Equality Act 2010 and the hearing support they should provide to meet building regulations.  It also covers the revised British Standards that detail best practice for creating accessible environments.

The guide, produced by assistive hearing technology specialists Contacta Systems Ltd, also provides practical advice on selecting and installing a listening system, the types available and the potential impact on both customers and staff. 

Assistive listening technology amplifies the sound a person with hearing loss wants to hear above distracting background noise. The most commonly used is a hearing or ‘induction’ loop, which allows hearing aid wearers to hear a sound source clearly when they switch their hearing aid to the ‘T’ position.

One in six of the UK population (11 million) lives with hearing loss and almost a quarter of them using a hearing aid.

Contacta Systems Ltd has, over the last 49 years, installed hundreds of thousands of assistive listening systems for some of the best-known names on the high street as well as major supermarket chains, bus and rail stations, theatres, attractions and entertainment venues.

“Everyone has a right to hear,” said Andrew Thomas, Contacta’s Market Development Director.  “By not providing technology that could enhance communication for a person with hearing loss, you are potentially excluding them from your premises or the service you offer.  You may be compromising their safety – without assistive technology they may not be able to hear emergency announcements – and you may also be breaking the law.”

The guide also reminds companies of their obligation to test and maintain technology once it’s been installed, and for staff to be trained in how to use it.

“We released this guide because we want retailers to be aware that putting technology in place to allow people to hear clearly is an important as installing an access ramp for a wheelchair-user. People with hearing loss are the largest disabled group in the UK – more than 11 million people – not being able to hear can leave them at a disadvantage as well as feeling frustrated and isolated. Creating inclusive environments makes good business sense.”

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