IM this article to a friend!

November 8, 2004

Arts venues 'failing deaf people'

From: BBC News, UK - Nov 8, 2004

Arts attractions in the UK are failing to cater for deaf people, according to a charity's survey.

Of 75 attractions in nine cities, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) found only seven to be what it called "deaf aware".

There was an "endless catalogue of patchy access" for the deaf or hard of hearing, the charity said.

Among those that scored poorly were the London Planetarium, the Tower of London and St Paul's Cathedral.

But London's National Theatre, National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery were singled out as "beacons of excellence".

The research was carried out ahead of the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), which came into force on 1 October.

While there were venues that had equipment to cater for the deaf such as infra-red loops or textphone systems, staff were not trained to use them, the report 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," said Mark Morris of RNID.

"There is still much ignorance among arts venues about how to include deaf and hard-of-hearing people."

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

A London Planetarium spokesman said he had not seen the report when contacted by BBC News, while the Tower of London said the report provided "extremely useful guidance and advice", and said it would be taking steps to implement the RNID's recommendations.

'Mystery shoppers'

St Paul's Cathedral said it was "wholeheartedly committed to providing access to all people".

"We are disappointed with the RNID survey results but since they have not yet provided any detailed observations it is difficult to make a substantive response," a spokeswoman said.

"Once we have more details we will review all of our procedures and improve staff awareness should that be necessary."

Another venue criticised was Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre, which has an induction-loop facility available.

The RNID said staff were unaware the facility was available, but a Royal Exchange spokeswoman called the claim "nonsense".

"We apologise to the person involved if they received the wrong information, but all our front-of-house staff know about the facility," she said.

The survey was conducted by profoundly deaf "mystery shoppers", who visited the venues to test the facilities.

They found 80% of the 75 venues did not have a system that enabled deaf people to make bookings.

About 50% of attractions did not have infra-red induction loop systems which helps cut out background noise, while 39% that did failed to publicise it.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/11/08 17:16:54 GMT