Ever since Councillor Peter Craske failed to use his microphone (and hence disabled the hearing loop) in the old Civic Centre and the Mayor said he didn’t have to, Bexley Council has been a little more responsive to the needs of the hearing impaired. Mick Barnbrook reported them to the Equalities Commission.
Human Resources Manager Nick Hollier promised that a hearing loop would be provided and to be fair it usually is. The main chamber has one ‘plumbed in’ and in smaller rooms portable equipment is sometimes provided. Not that it is well received by Mick or his friend Elwyn who both suffer from deafness.
At the Code of Conduct Committee meeting last Wednesday they complained about being unable to hear anything despite the presence of the equipment pictured. I thought I should do some research to find out why.
The portable panel includes a boundary microphone, which is good, and radiates an electromagnetic field for the benefit of suitably equipped hearing aids.
Unfortunately it is unfit for the purpose to which it is put. The device shown radiates that field over a maximum of one square metre - or 1·2 square metres if it is the latest top of the range model.
So now we know why Mick and Elwyn can’t hear at the small meetings, they are made to sit too far away. The equipment is intended for use in one to one discussions across a small desk, an interview with a financial adviser in a bank for example. Utterly useless in the circumstances to which Bexley Council habitually use it.
Perhaps the Council should have bought some more (or better) hearing loop panels instead of wasting our money on barriers. Their hearing loop is £99 on Amazon.