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March 29, 2004

Businesses let hearing impaired customers down

Many British businesses that fail to take the needs of their hearing impaired customers into account now risk coming into conflict with the next part of the Disability Discrimination Act to be phased in by October, 2004.

The new law requires businesses to ensure that hearing impaired customers, among others, avoid unnecessary obstacles when purchasing products or services in shops, banks or offices.

A survey conducted among 396 businesses by the British association for deaf and hearing impaired people, RNID, showed that only 14 percent of the businesses were aware of the requirements in the new law. As many as 69 percent of the businesses have no plans to make changes or improvements to assist hearing impaired customers. From October, 2004, the companies will be more exposed to complaints and lawsuits when not meeting the requirements in the Disability Discrimination Act.

Just two percent of the businesses planned to install special equipment, such as a telecoil, and to instruct the employees how to properly serve hearing impaired customers.

"Deaf and hard of hearing customers are not expecting costly changes to be made by small businesses, but under the Disability Discrimination Act they do have the right to call for 'reasonable adjustments' to be made," said RNID Chief Executive Dr John Low to the RNID publication, OneInSeven.

As a consequence of the businesses' lack of awareness of the new legal requirements and their lack of understanding of the needs of hearing impaired customers, RNID has initiated a campaign to increase the awareness of problems associated with hearing loss.

Source: "The Countdown Begins", OneInSeven, issue 38 2004, RNID.

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