Hearing Loop Legislation
Hearing Loop Legislation
It is vital that businesses provide an inclusive environment where possible so that all visitors and customers can participate in or access the service provided. There are several documents that state where hearing loops should be installed in order to comply with recent regulations and it is often difficult to understand what applies to you. We’ve summarised a few of them here to help you figure out what solution you need to have available in your building or as part of your service.
The Equality Act 2010 combines a number of laws including the Disability Discrimination Act and states that everyone should be treated equally. It serves to protect certain groups of people from discrimination and improve public services.
"Service providers are required to make changes, where needed, to improve service for disabled customers or potential customers."
It is important to note the reference to “potential customers”, and ensure you are not just addressing issues within your business but providing an environment that is inclusive and accessible for everyone. The Act stipulates that service providers are legally required to provide information in an accessible format to everyone, and therefore “provide auxiliary aids and services”, including hearing loops.
Part M is an Approved Document by the Department for Communities and Local Government providing guidance on compliance with building regulations. It states that in order to obtain the full benefit of a situation such as a discussion or performance, “a person with hearing loss must receive a signal that is amplified in both volume and signal to noise ratio”, and provision must be made for a permanent system in larger spaces.
“The aim is for all people to have access to, and the use of, all the facilities provided within buildings.”
Entertainment and Social Venues
Everyone should “be able to participate in the proceedings at lecture/conference facilities and at entertainment or leisure and social venues, not only as spectators, but also as participants and/or staff.” In all buildings with entertainment or leisure functions and conference facilities, a solution such as a hearing loop must be provided for those with hearing loss to be able to participate. This applies to hotels, schools, universities and community centres, as well as theatres and sports stadia.
A solution supporting people with hearing loss must be investigated for all buildings where service or reception counters are found. This includes many types of buildings, i.e. retail, places of worship, healthcare, transport, government and education.
Service and Reception Counters
It is not often sufficient to just address one area. When trying to meet the requirements laid out in Part M, it is important to consider that there may be many locations within a building where conversations or listening interactions take place. Focus on providing a good customer experience instead of simply providing the minimum required to comply with the regulations.
Induction loops, infrared and radio frequency systems are listed as commonly used solutions. The document emphasizes that the requirements of Part M are only met if “the presence of an induction loop or infrared hearing enhancement system is indicated by the standard symbol”, demonstrating the importance of clear signage in buildings.
BS 8300 is a code of practice compiled by the British Standards Institution detailing the required design of buildings for meeting the needs of disabled people, and promotes equal access to services and buildings. Whether you’re an architect, tender manager, store fit out provider, retailer or designer, the updated 2018 BS 8300 provides greater clarity on the appropriate level of provision and installation for hearing loops.
A complete annex is included within the BS 8300-2 standard detailing hearing loop requirements. This annex covers hearing loop specifications, provisions, location variations, applications, best practice installation and maintenance, and staff testing and training.BS 8300 also gives guidance on where hearing loops should be used, such as at help and refuge points, meeting rooms, halls, public sector buildings, cinemas, sporting venues, anywhere with points of sale and many more locations. It also provides instruction for microphone inputs and the various sound sources that can be selected for applications.
Specialists & Maintenance Required
There is now a requirement for reactive and preventative maintenance of hearing loop systems, using a provider with specialist knowledge. Staff training should be given to ensure staff knowledge of hearing loops, ensuring they can engage with individuals with hearing loss, and there should also be proactive staff testing using an appropriate testing meter.
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