After making anonymous phone calls to 232 hotels across the capital, the charity Action on Hearing Loss discovered that one in 10 hotels admitted they don’t have a specific procedure or equipment for deaf guests in the event of an emergency. Of the hotels that do have a procedure, 13 per cent just have flashing alarms.
“We’d be delighted to work with hotels throughout the UK to help them improve access and meet the individual needs of guests with hearing loss,” said acting chief axecutive of Action on Hearing Loss Paul Breckell.
“People who are deaf or hard-of-hearing have the legal right to enjoy the same level of service as other guests and, it is absolutely essential that hotels put procedures in place to safeguard their wellbeing during emergency situations.”
Some of the responses from hotel staff showed extraordinary levels of poor deaf awareness or lack of concern for guests with hearing loss. One receptionist said: “The alarm is very loud – it wakes everyone up.”
Another revealed their hotel’s shocking lapse of care for deaf guests by saying that in emergency situations ‘if there is an alarm, everyone vacates and then, when we know it is safe, we can check the rooms – but we can't help otherwise.’
The experience of Tanvir Ahmed, a senior trainer at Action on Hearing Loss who communicates through sign language, illustrates the problems often faced by deaf and hard of hearing guests.
Tanvir said: “I’ve stayed in hotels where there has been a shocking lack of deaf awareness which has left me feeling extremely frustrated. For example, a hotel in Brighton didn’t have a way for me to contact room service so I ended up texting my daughter in Walsall and she called the reception to place my dinner order.
“She then text to let me know the room service was at the door. Hotels often just need to make simple adjustments to ensure their services are accessible for me and it’s about time they met their legal requirements.”
Under the Equality Act 2010, businesses must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to be accessible to people with disabilities so not only are inaccessible hotels missing out on potential income, they’re also putting their customers’ safety at risk.
Top tips to help hotels meet the needs of guests with hearing loss:
- Train your staff in basic deaf awareness so that they can communicate effectively with guests who have hearing loss.
- Make sure you have a hearing loop at your reception desk and there is a regular process to check that is works.
- Make sure you have alternative ways for people with hearing loss to contact your hotel other than telephone. For example, offer SMS or email contact, or train your staff how to use the Text Relay service.
- Have clear procedures for staff to alert people with hearing loss when the hotel’s fire alarm is activated, and invest in alerting systems designed for guests with hearing loss.
- Consider providing amplified telephones with an in built hearing loop for your guests with hearing loss so that they can contact reception.
- Check that subtitles are available on your televisions.
- Set aside a quiet area in the hotel’s restaurant where people with hearing loss can have a conversation without too much background noise.
- Visit Action on Hearing Loss’s website www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk for additional advice on making your hotel accessible for people with hearing loss.