19 May Deaf Awareness Week is only the beginning
Monday 3rd May saw the start of the annual Deaf Awareness Week with the theme for this year being ‘Coming Through it Together’ – a reference to the COVID pandemic and the challenges it presents to people with hearing loss.
The Week is always an opportunity for us to work alongside organisations such as the RNID to make, particularly businesses in our case, more aware of hearing loss and the need to provide assistive technology.
The Covid Pandemic has created unprecedented new challenges for people with hearing loss, which has made this years’ Deaf Awareness Week especially important. Communication is a basic need and one that has grown in visibility due to face masks muffling speech and blocking lip reading, with visors and screens limiting our ability to hear clearly.
The pandemic has certainly seen a huge surge in demand for our window intercom systems. With many businesses installing screens to limit the spread of infection, they have also recognised the need to transfer speech clearly from one side to another.
Our systems come with hearing loops installed so provided signage is displayed on or near the screen, hearing aid users can benefit easily.
Unfortunately, provision of assistive technology beyond the screens, isn’t as ubiquitous.
During Deaf Awareness Week, we heard both good and bad examples from Guildford Hard of Hearing Support Group member, Ted Pottage.
The Week coincided with elections across the UK and his experience of trying to confirm his details at his local polling station was frustrating but, he says, unsurprising.
The estimated spending power of people with disabilities is £249 billion pounds a year. As the most common disability in the UK, people with hearing loss represent a significant proportion of that. And Ted says, hearing loop provision and the attitude of staff, certainly for him, have a great deal of impact on if and where he shops.
Happily, there are positives too. Lockdown has been an opportunity for many public-facing organisations to install assistive listening technology while their premises have been closed. Together with our installation partners, we have been working in schools and universities, village halls and hospitals, as well as making maintenance visits to supermarkets and high street banks.
But as Ted’s experience shows, Deaf Awareness Week is just one tiny part in making the needs of people with hearing loss better understood. Then comes the next step of encouraging action to ensure venues provide them with clear communication.
With face-to-face communication more difficult in these current circumstances, there has never been a better time to make an investment that could develop brand loyalty for years to come.