The Eastbourne Hospitality Association (EHA) has hit back at claims that the town’s hotels are not doing enough to support deaf and hard of hearing customers
Jerome Farrow, owner of the Marine Parade Hotel on the seafront and chairman of the 102-strong EHA, insisted: “Far from being the uncaring monster portrayed within the Eastbourne Herald, Eastbourne’s hHoteliers are very much aware of the need to cater for as large a part of the community as possible, and our track record is generally very good, within the constraints of cost and the limit to external modifications to our buildings.”
A recent snap survey of Eastbourne’s hotels, conducted by Contacta who are sponsoring a major hearing loop conference in the town this autumn, revealed many did not have hearing loops available.
Mr Farrow pointed out that the EHA had met with the charity Hearing Link, along with Eastbourne Borough Council to discuss the issue of hearing loops. He is angry that was is being portrayed are hoteliers who have failed to invest in the systems for hearing-impaired guests.
“What it actually highlights is that most of the large hotels have invested in portable hearing loop systems, yet due to lack of demand these are no longer working or locked in cupboards,” explained Mr Farrow. “It is obvious that if hotel users were requesting the use of a portable hearing loop, having seen a sign stating its availability, then the devices would be available and in good working order.”
Mr Farrow explained that at the Marine Parade Hotel, they have had a portable loop in place since he took over in January 2005, but it has never been asked for.
“Regrettably, it is quite likely that if a guest walked into my reception to ask about it, they may not get the proper assistance,” added Mr Farrow. “Having trained staff in its use for the first few years, its importance obviously went lower in the pecking order, although I will rectify this for the current staff members.
“This isn’t because I am unsympathetic to the cause of those with hearing difficulties – it is just a fact.
“Many hearing aid users, including my father, who tried to get on with it but couldn’t, do not like using hearing loops, as it shuts out all other sound.
“The same is true of the EHA office, which has a portable system available to its members that has never been requested. The demand for hearing loops simply doesn’t appear to currently exist.”
Mr Farrow said that he has tried to cost a properly-installed loop system, with solutions ranging from £99 to in excess of £2,500.
“Most hotels simply are not in a position financially to loop all their rooms, or even all their meeting rooms,” he pointed out.
“I have recently been made aware of a prestigious Eastbourne hotel that offers a loop to visiting conferences as an optional extra as they have to hire the system (quotes to purchase their own loop system proved to be too expensive), but following quotation being offered to the organisers it has never been booked.
“As an association, we will of course start discussing with this hire company to see if we can arrange favourable terms for our members so that all future conferences can be offered the facility, then they have the option to ‘add on’ or not.
“It does have to be reiterated though, that so far this option has not been utilised.”