The Charity Hearing Link has adopted this week (12th-20th July) as Hearing Loop Awareness Week. The intention is to create greater awareness and access to hearing loops. One of the activities that they hope will take place is an audit of the provision of loop systems in towns and cities across the UK of the provision of hearing loops. Ideally this week needs some support from the Government, perhaps offering to ensure that the Government estate would be included within such an audit. The Cabinet Reshuffle this week means that at the beginning of the week the Minister of State for Disabled People was Mike Penning and the week ends with Mark Harper in his seat. According to the website of Disability Rights UK “Mark was shadow Minister for disabled people before the 2010 election and we worked with him closely, which was a good experience. Mark pushed legislation through Parliament to scrap archaic laws debarring people with mental health problems from being MPs (if sectioned), company directors, serving on juries etc.” Before the end of this week it would be encouraging for those of us who are keen to extend this sort of provision if the new Government Minister took the time to make a statement.
It is clear that there is plenty of work to do. According to the minutes of the House of Commons Administration Committee, which Mark Harper was a member of which met on 24th March this year, the Committee Rooms in Westminster were to be fitted with hearing loops during the Easter Recess. This is despite the very expensive audio equipment that had already been fitted to these rooms to allow the speakers to have their words recorded. To have made such provision for one purpose and not for those who rely on hearing aids to hear what is being said is contrary to the Spirit of the Disability Discrimination Acts and Equalities Act legislation.
The need for change is vital in the private sector too, many people have hearing aids fitted without the option of a ‘T’ setting being explained to people spending substantial sums for their hearing aids. Some modern aids have an induction loop setting that needs to be selected at the point of purchase, and not all audiologists emphasise this. In addition those of us who are invited to speak in settings which include a sound system need to use the amplification provided, even if we don’t feel we need the use of the microphone to be heard, there may be people in the audience who are reliant on the hearing loop in order to hear any of our words, no matter how well we project our voices.