Getting it right for hearing
Getting it right for hearing

Could pointless meetings and events become a thing of the past for people with hearing loss?  Perhaps …

For the 11 million people across the UK who have hearing loss, attending meetings and events can be a stressful and frustrating experience.

Common issues such as poor acoustics, a presenter who is hard to understand and background noise can all act as barriers to participation.

Soon that might all change thanks to the new Hearing Access Protocol for meetings and events, which has been produced by Ideas for Ears, with support from deafscotland.  The document explains how meetings and events can be made more accessible, setting out good practice that everyone can benefit from, whatever their hearing ability.

Launch event: 2nd August in Volunteer Scotland’s CommUnity Bubble

The Hearing Access Protocol will be launched on Thursday 2 August at Go Live at the Green. The event will be hosted by Volunteer Scotland in their CommUnity Bubble Tent, the first of a series of discussions and events that will take place relating to community-led action.

Follow the activities at on Twitter:  @CommBubble #CommunityBubble.

Sally Shaw, director of Ideas for Ears, comments: “One sixth of the UK population has hearing loss of some degree and the number of people with hearing loss is growing as the population ages. We’re also seeing an increase in the number of younger people with hearing loss due to noisy lifestyle choices.

“Despite how common hearing loss is, little attention is paid as to how people will hear and follow things in meetings and events. It means that many individuals are having poor experiences and being placed in situations that are frustrating and stressful.

“If you cannot properly follow the proceedings, it’s difficult or impossible to contribute, which makes it pointless attending in the first place. This undermines the value and purpose of meetings and events, especially those that are about public consultation and community engagement.”

UK-wide adoption

Although developed and supported primarily in Scotland, the Hearing Access Protocol is relevant right across the UK.  Awareness and uptake of the Hearing Access Protocol by organisations and businesses throughout the UK could substantially change the experiences of millions of people with hearing loss.

No single adjustment will suit everyone

The huge variation in the way people that hear means that there is no single adjustment that can be made that will adequately meet the needs of everyone.  However, it also isn’t as complicated as it may seem.

The Hearing Access Protocol sets things out in a clear and practical way, covering everything from speaking clearly and facing the audience, to hearing loops and support from BSL/English sign language interpreters.

A community-led piece of work

The idea for the protocol came from a community Hearing Hub in Stirling, which meets regularly to talk about the challenges and solutions for hearing loss.

Alan Blue, one of the Stirling Hearing Hub members, said: “As someone who has hearing difficulties, I have experienced first-hand how it feels not to be able to follow a meeting because I have missed what someone said. What started as a chat with Sally at Ideas for Ears over a coffee a couple of years ago, led us to create a local hearing hub to address these issues and ultimately to help develop the protocol that we are launching today. We hope the guide will transform standards everywhere and bring real benefits to the millions of people with hearing loss living in the UK.”

Warmly welcomed

The Hearing Access Protocol is building its support base.  Amongst others, it is being welcomed by the Health & Social Care Alliance Scotland, deafscotland (formerly Scottish Council on Deafness), Disability Equality Scotland and Volunteer Scotland.

Janis McDonald, Chief Officer of deafscotland, said: “Businesses and organisations often fail to have even basic procedures in place for providing essential adjustments for people with hearing loss. There needs to be much wider and better awareness of hearing and deafness issues. There also needs to be much fuller compliancy with equality and human rights legislation, because far too many people with access requirements related to their hearing ability are being excluded. The Hearing Access Protocol provides guidance that will help businesses and organisations to deliver what people want and need.”

George Thomson, Chief Executive of Volunteer Scotland said: “The Hearing Access Protocol evolved out of a small, local group sharing the common experiences they have with hearing loss. It’s a great demonstration of what can happen when people get together to solve big issues around inclusion and participation. We are delighted to be one of the first organisations to start implementing the protocol. We’ve already used the guide to improve standards at our Stirling HQ from replacing the hearing loop in our main meeting room and installing noise absorbing panels, to creating new procedures around microphone use and room lay-out.”

Professor Ian Welsh OBE, Chief Executive, Health & Social Care Alliance Scotland, said:  “The Hearing Access Protocol is designed to enable organisers of work related meetings and other events to comply with their own organisational policies around access and inclusion in a way
which recognises language and communication as fundamental rights and unlocks these enablers, enshrining equality and human rights legislation for all.  I am delighted to welcome this protocol which sets out a concise and practical toolkit for organisations and event planners to follow.”

Find out more and read the Hearing Access Protocol

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