Deaf Travel12th October 2013
Listen Up is a Visit England initiative to to improve accessibility in businesses
‘Listen Up!’ is the name of a new publication produced by Visit England in association with Action on Hearing Loss. ‘Listen Up’ is designed to help businesses become more accessible for customers with hearing loss, and the free resource is available online at www.visitengland.org/access.
It is estimated that more than 10 million people in the UK (one-sixth of the population) have some form of hearing loss, and Listen Up! is packed with information, advice and examples of best practice for providing these customers with a warm welcome and an excellent visitor experience. It also highlights key issues for business owners when accommodating Deaf or Hard of Hearing visitors, including:
• Safety – How to put adequate evacuation procedures in place to alert guests with hearing loss in case of an emergency.
• Communication – Advice for staff when speaking to someone with hearing loss, and information on disability awareness and sign language training courses.
• Facilities – Information on equipment that can assist guests with hearing loss such as hearing loops and text phones, as well as advice on completing an Access Statement - a written description of a venue’s facilities and services, to inform people with access needs.
The national tourist board has also released a series of short videos highlighting the experiences of Deaf guests when staying in hotels in England. The videos are designed to alert business owners to a range of issues affecting Deaf guests, from wake up calls to ordering room service. They can be found on the VisitEnglandBiz YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/VisitEnglandBiz .
Listen Up! is designed to help tourism businesses become more Deaf aware, and attract even more Deaf or Hard of Hearing visitors. Following the advice and improving the enjoyment of guests is expected to build customer loyalty and subsequently improve business prospects.
Chief Executive of Action on Hearing Loss, Paul Breckell, said, “People with hearing loss are a significant force in the economy, travelling both for business and pleasure. We are delighted to be working with Visit England to publish the Listen Up! guide. It will help tourism businesses improve the accessibility of their services for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, invest in hearing loss support and generate more income.”
In addition to being available free of charge at www.visitengland.org/access, copies of Listen Up! will be included free in the Summer issue of Quality Edge (July/August), VisitEngland’s bi-annual magazine for its 16,000 quality scheme participants, containing the latest industry news, case studies, articles, advice on marketing and best practice and much more.
This is just one of a new stable of informative guides aimed at the tourism industry, who still, in some cases, have a very rigid view on what ‘access’ means for guests, usually revolving around the image of a wheelchair! This is because it is the international symbol of disability, but at the same time, it probably only represents about 6-8% of people who need adjustments to feel safe, secure and welcome when visiting hotels and guest houses..
When I spoke at the conference of the National Association of Deafened People (NADP) in Durham last year, some of the issues that are in ‘Listen Up!’ were covered, as can be seen in the NADP newsletter: www.nadp.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/network/nw107.pdf At the conference, the principal concerns of delegates were those of safety and communication – understandably - and roughly in that order.
Some guests with a hearing loss might be prepared to share their mobile number so that they can be texted, with their phone on vibrate, in the event of an emergency. You might like to suggest this if no other device is available.
When visiting hotels I recommend that anyone who might be unable to hear the fire alarm let staff know at check-in. This will allow the staff to put a device in place to protect you. During my visits I have noticed that some general managers do not like clutter on their reception desks, so the ‘hearing ear’ signage is dispatched to the bin – or hidden - without a thought about how informative it might be for some guests on arrival.
I am very supportive of VisitEngland’s campaign to help educate the tourism industry about the needs and requirements of guests with a hearing loss. If you have the inclination and are visiting a hotel or staying at accommodation, do point them towards ‘Listen Up!’ - it could be their first introduction to a whole new world!
Brian Seaman is an Associate at Access New Business; an Access Advisor to Tourism for All; and has also developed www.accessibleoutlook.com - a website to support tourism business when they wish to become more accessible. He is also a member of the Access Association.
Article by Brian Seaman
posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Deaf Travel
12th October 2013