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November 8, 2004

Arts Attractions 'Not Accessible To Deaf'

From: Community Newswire, UK - Nov 8, 2004

By Gemma Quade, Community Newswire

ARTS Deaf London, 8/11/2004, 8:44am

Few arts attractions around the UK are fully prepared for the country's nine million deaf and hard of hearing people, according to a Royal National Institute for the Deaf survey published today.

The study, which was carried out on the eve of the rights of access under the Disability Discrimination Act coming into full force, showed that whilst selected centres welcomed deaf visitors, most failed to be sufficiently accessible.

The survey was conducted in 75 attractions in nine cities across the UK. It found that staff in only seven visitor attractions were deaf aware, and 80% of venues visited did not have a textphone or minicom service to allow a deaf person to contact them for bookings and advance information.

It also discovered that 50% of attractions had not fitted an induction loop, which helps cut out background noise for people with hearing aids, and many that had done so (39%), failed to publicise it. Most centres (65%) lacked published information to make clear how disabled, including deaf and hard of hearing people, should access their centre.

Mark Morris, Head of RNID's Access to the Arts Campaign said: "There is still much ignorance among arts venues about how to include deaf and hard of hearing people.

"The modifications now required by law, under the DDA, are simple, affordable and achievable, and yet, many centres are failing to meet these obligations.

"In some cases, where modifications, such as fitting a loop system have been made, centres are failing to educate their staff in deaf awareness, to provide training on the use of accessible equipment, or even to publicise their accessible services, thereby rendering them useless to deaf and hard of hearing visitors."

The National Theatre, National Gallery, and National Portrait Gallery in London all proved to be beacons of excellence, where staff appeared to be deaf aware.

Mark Morris said: "When you consider that one in seven people have some degree of hearing loss, it doesn't make business-sense that arts venues are failing to capture the custom of deaf and hard of hearing people."

The RNID is calling for three simple changes to be made; for all staff at arts venues to receive deaf awareness training; for access equipment to be well displayed and the staff trained to use it; and for all venues to compile an access guide giving details of provision for disabled people, including the deaf.

The Mystery Shopper Survey was conducted by profoundly deaf people in nine cities in the UK, Bath, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Manchester.

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© 2004 The Press Association