Lets invest in equality

images7GN0ZKPBYesterday at work illustrated for me the extent to which priorities get skewed depending on ones point of view, or should that be ones point of listening. In the morning we had a presentation from a well known manufacturer of microphones showing us how they ensured that all of the radio microphones in use during the opening ceremony of London 2012 worked reliably. All of us have been in settings where a radio or wifi link has failed, even if only for a few seconds. Clearly this would have been completely unacceptable in such a major event. The mechanism employed ensured by this company is to ensure that at any one time each radio microphone was linked to the rest of the public address system using 4 separate channels of radio link. Whilst in such a ‘noisy’ environment it would have been possible to see one or even two fail at any time, albeit temporarily, for all 4 to fail at the same time would have been almost impossible. In addition the sophisticated software which is provided for the equipment monitors the battery life for all of the microphones in use throughout the event so no last minute battery changes. In the afternoon in the same office we were discussing the quality of equipment used and of the installation of hearing loops in public buildings in one of the Home Counties. It is entirely to the credit of this local authority that they have asked for an independent assessor to test their 100’s of loop systems against the exacting requirements of the current British Standards for such equipment. These standards like the radio microphone system require almost perfection, and this is in part a challenge of its own. Most buildings present too much of a challenge for the standards to be met fully in all areas. The risk of having standards that are too high is that an expectation sets in that they cannot be met, ever. However whilst it seems that only a few percent of loop systems installed are of a standard to pass the test fully, sadly a substantial proportion simply don’t work at all or are so poor a condition to be worse than useless. Because these loop systems cannot be seen by any of us, and cannot be heard by around 83% of us, the attention given to them falls well below the attention paid to the microphones in use at a major event such as the Olympics. However the same principles apply. Rubbish in = Rubbish out. If the system is poorly designed, using cheap components, completed to an unrealistic budget by engineers who are not qualified for the task, then it is almost inevitable that the people who wish to use the system will be dissatisfied. However getting it right (even if it is a borderline pass on the standards) is not hard, by investing in good quality microphones and a reputable loop amplifier or driver and ensuring that a trained engineer installs the equipment. Sadly all too often a hearing loop is an afterthought by professionals designing buildings, in a way in which physical access to the building would not be tolerated by any of us. Lets ensure that when we are involved in running events or managing buildings that we invest as much time in checking on the loop system as we do on the sound system or the catering. In the light of the current election campaign, the need for all to hear the words before they cast their vote is particularly vital as not all political parties actually support equality legislation if their spokesmen are to be believed!


About ianchisnall

I have a passion to see public policy made accessible everyone who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as in policies on health services and strategic planning.
This entry was posted in Deaf & Hard of Hearing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Lets invest in equality

  1. Great article Ian. There is a simple guide we put together to help installers/specifiers meet the hearing loop performance Standard available on this link: http://www.ampetronic.com/write/Documents/Whitepapers/UP30054-2_best_practice_guide.pdf

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