Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd believes there is more work to be done if the town is to be considered a beacon of excellence for those with a hearing disability.
The 55-year-old Liberal Democrat MP has been substantially deaf since contracting measles at the age of six. He is deaf in his left ear and has 60 per cent hearing in his right ear, and has been championing the disability for a number of years since being a trustee of the old Royal National Institute for Deaf People - now known as Action on Hearing Loss.
Mr Lloyd is now a vocal supporter of Let’s Loop Eastbourne, a campaign driven by the Eastbourne-based national charity, Hearing Link, for whom he is a patron. The charity is campaigning for greater awareness of hearing loops, and to encourage more public buildings in the town to have the systems installed.
“The ‘Let’s Loop Eastbourne’ campaign is a brilliant idea,” explained Mr Lloyd. “It gives a specific focus to those with hearing loss with the aim of making Eastbourne known as the best looped town in the UK.
“To do this make enormous business sense. We are one of the top visitor places in the country and surely this is something we could sell as a unique selling point for Eastbourne by having more of the hotels properly looped.
“We are a big conference town, so the ‘Let’s Loop Eastbourne’ campaign has identified conference facilities as important. If you are a middle-aged person with age assisted deafness coming to Eastbourne for a conference, or coming here on holiday, you are not going to be happy if there is no hearing loop system. We are now of a generation where people will complain if they are not happy. We need to have the loop system widespread to attract business to the town.”
Mr Lloyd said he was enormously pleased with the progress being made in Eastbourne where loop systems were working. He is concerned that there remains a number of businesses and public buildings where loop systems have been installed but are not working correctly. Often, this is down to electricians not fully understanding how the equipment should work, he explained. There are specialist hearing loop companies which fit them well.
The town’s MP was speaking at the Eastbourne Centre, the 126-bedroom complex on Grand Parade which has conference rooms fitted with hearing loop equipment. He would like to see more hotels hitting the gold standard for hearing loop systems.
Eastbourne is due to host a major international conference on hearing loops later this autumn, Mr Lloyd said he would currently score Eastbourne four out of 10 for hearing loop provision, but he would like it to be eight out of 10 by the time of the conference.
“I am probably a lot more deaf than people realise but I have learned to manage my deafness” added Mr Lloyd, who has bee instrumental in driving forward changes within the Palace of Westminster to improve facilities for the hard of hearing.
“I hear a lot better when I can see people. I don’t lip read perfectly, but I am used to it.
“Deafness has made me a good listener and it has helped me to understand some of the difficulties many people have to live their lives on a daily basis.”