News in the loop - New standard calls for AV expertise to aid hearing impaired

News in the loop - New standard calls for AV expertise to aid hearing impaired

People with hearing loss are the largest disabled group in the UK. One in six of the population (11 million) live with a hearing impairment and almost a quarter of those wear a hearing aid. But there has been little specific guidance on how to make an environment accessible to them – until now.

Before the BS 8300 Standard was revised in January of this year it offered limited detail and premises were largely guided by the Equalities Act 2010 and Part M of the building regulations. The Act states service providers must make “reasonable adjustments” to enable people with a disability to use their services and obliges them to “provide auxiliary aids and services” including hearing loops.

Complying with Part M of current building regulations requires an environment to provide a solution to enable everyone to participate – “The aim is for all people to have access to, and the use of, all the facilities provided within buildings.” But what these, and the previous edition of the BS 8300 standard, did not do was to give detailed examples of what constitutes best practice.

This left a grey area open to interpretation and meant AV installers could do little to justify their expertise over an electrician who could fit a loop system. It also meant end users weren’t properly served.

‘Accessible’ vs ‘inclusive’

It is useful to understand the change in focus contained in the new Standard. The committee responsible for creating and revising British Standards recognised there was a need to take the onus away from the person and to be clear about service providers’ responsibility to offer an “inclusive” rather than “accessible” environment to all.

For hearing aid wearers this means a shift from having access to one designated checkout at the supermarket to being able to use any checkout because they all have loops. Given the advances in design and technology, people should no longer be separated because of their disability but “included” in the environment as a whole.

Although hearing loss is so prevalent amongst the UK population, it is an “invisible” disability and clear standards for induction loop systems were a glaring omission. This is why the latest edition of BS 8300 now includes, for the first time ever, a complete new annex covering all aspects of induction loops from specification to staff training, best practice installation and signage.

To read the full article please click the following link -