Councillors slam plans to install hearing loop in meeting room as 'waste of money'
By kentsussex | Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 10:24
Some councillors in Edenbridge have described plans to install a hearing loop in one of its meeting rooms as a "waste of money".
Council clerk Christine Lane said she was asked by past and present councillors if there could be a hearing loop installed in the meeting room at Doggetts Barn.
Town councillors Richard Davison and Mark Robson, however, rubbished the suggestion.
Mr Robson said: "It's something we can ill-afford and it's unnecessary."
Roger Wicks, director of policy and research at charity Action on Hearing Loss, however, said: "Under the Equality Act 2010, providers are required to make reasonable adjustments for existing or potential customers who have a disability, as well as staff.
"If adjustments are not made, this is discrimination."
Mr Wicks said there were two million people in the UK who wore hearing aids and hearing loops allowed them to take part in many things, including the council meeting area.
The listed building houses the council officers on the ground floor but also has a meeting room upstairs, formerly used as the council chamber, in which the Citizens Advice Bureau, The Great Stone Bridge Trust and other organisations meet.
At Monday night's council meeting, Mrs Lane presented quotes ranging from £897 to £1,500 for the hearing loop to be installed, but the idea was met with scorn from some.
Councillor Richard Davison, who is also a Sevenoaks district councillor, asked: "Why do we have to do it?
"Only about two people go upstairs and how many of them would need a hearing loop?
"It's totally unnecessary and we're not going to be pulled up if we don't do it."
Mr Robson added: "The idea of a hearing loop is so members of the public can listen to council meetings but most of the groups meeting there are private groups.
"It may become necessary in the future, but for now I think it would be an unnecessary waste of money."
But Mr Wicks said: "I would suggest £897 is not an unreasonable price to pay so people who wear hearing aids can access future public meetings on council premises."
Rickards Hall, the main hall for council meetings, already has a hearing loop installed.
Under the Disability Discrimination Act, all organisations offering goods, facilities or services have to make "all reasonable adjustments" to help deaf or hard of hearing people use their services.
A hearing loop is a wire around a room with sound fed from a microphone into the loop. By sending a current through the system, making a magnetic field, it causes a tiny coil inside the person's listening device – hearing aid or cochlear implant – to receive the sound.
Council chairman Clive Pearman said the council would confirm what its obligations were under the Disability Discrimination Act before any decision was made.