Are hotels out of the loop?

Eastbourne’s hotels have been accused have been ignoring hearing aid users by being being reluctant to install hearing loops.

Ian Westgate, chairman of the Eastbourne Access Group which represents disabled organisations in the town, admitted he was frustrated by the lack of action despite holding talks with individual hotels and meeting the Eastbourne Hospitality Association (EHA).

The claims come at a time when there is a move to improve facilities in the town as part of a “Let’s Loop Eastbourne” campaign, which coincides with the staging of the International Hearing Loop Conference this October.

However, Jerome Farrow, chairman of the EHA, believes there is not sufficient demand for hearing loops in hotels. “Unless there is an increase in demand, this is unlikely to change,” he said.

Ian Westgate said that a number of Eastbourne hotels do have hearing loops installed. A few, very few, have excellent fully functioning hearing loop systems while others have loops that do not work and have no plans for repair,” he said. Sadly a large majority do not have hearing loops, do not want to install them and most worrying of all cannot see the need to address this issue despite the duty of care clause in the Equality Act 2010.”

Mr Westgate also accused the town’s hotels of ignoring the best practice element of rating organisations such as the AA, RAC and Visit England who hand out star ratings.

“All this in a year when Eastbourne plays host to hearing impaired conference delegates from around the world. What does that say about the welcome offered by the most prominent industry in our town?” he asked.

Jerome Farrow, who runs the 29-room Marine Parade Hotel, said he was sympathetic to the hearing loop campaign and pointed out how many of the larger hotels have hearing loops installed.

“The problem is that installing a hearing loop system is very expensive,” he said. “When hearing loops first came on the scene 15 or 20 years ago, many hotels made the investment but the loops didn’t work well so people stopped asking for them. My own hotel has had a portable loop for 10 years and it has only been asked for once. My dad had a hearing aid and he said the portable loop didn’t work that well.

“I’m not aware that there are any subsidies, so for smaller hotels such as ours there is a lot of investment when there’s not a lot of demand. We’ve not been asked for the loop at our hotel recent. The Eastbourne Hospitality Association has a portable loop system for hire among our 110-member hotels, and that’s not been asked for once. Unless there is justification, many hotels will ask why should we need to invest?”