A night out – sorry, I’d like to hear SOMETHING!

When you attend a music concert or a live performance of a play, or a comedian, or when you go to the cinema, or to listen to a topical speaker, I dare say you think it “fairly important” that you can actually hear what is being said/ played, etc.

Acoustics are important – as is the sound system. Small fortunes are spent on making venues suitable. The artist deserves the best showcase for her or his talent, and with prices being so high for tickets now, so does the paying public.

Despite an ill-informed (and some would say “ill-mannered”) politician’s recent comments about all disabled people staying home and being grateful for her tolerance that we are allowed to breathe (step forward, Rt. Hon. Nadine “Attila” Dorries, MP for Mid-Bedfordshire), I still try to have something approaching a social life.

I know I shouldn’t Nadine, but in my defence, I have worked – in full-time employment – since 1969, and – unlike some of your Political parties best supporters – have always paid my taxes via PAYE, so have failed to avoid or evade a frigging penny of what is due. No doubt you think I’m mentally defective for that, not just deaf.

At public access venues – concert halls, theatres, cinemas, halls, etc. – there is a statutory requirement to make “reasonable adjustments” to facilitate the needs of the disabled. Some are still catching up, but most have little excuse if not now accessible.

This means the provision of access ramps, of wider doors or adapted toilets, of braille signage and – for me, and for many thousands of others (remember, the RNID says “1 in 7” are hearing impaired to some extent) – an induction loop.

Great. BUT . . . .

Did you know that some venues charge a deposit for using the loop?

Did you know that many rarely service their loop, then look surprised when someone complains about it not working?

Did you know that some units rely on a rechargeable battery to work (the clue there is the word “REchargeable!”) and – surprisingly – don’t work if no one recharges it!

Yes, I know. I’m a picky sod. I don’t know my place and I complain far too much; but consider this – I pay the same price as you do for my ticket usually, so am I not entitled to – at least – hear to the best of MY ability, not theirs?

A deposit: word is that deaf people are notorious thieves and steal the portable units. (When I ask for actual statistics, I’m usually not offered any though!). We clearly stupid too, because the bloody things don’t work anywhere else, so they are no use, but – ok, if we are not thieves, we are just feckless, irresponsible and lazy.

Now I’ve been in full-time employment since 1969, and am grateful that I receive a reasonable wage, so – yes, if honest – I can easily afford the £10 or £5- deposit requested. That, however, is not the point. An awful lot of disabled people, and hearing impaired especially, will be elderly or on a limited, fixed income.

That £10- could be their interval drink or ice cream. I know they will get it back at the end of the performance, but they have to queue and quite possibly miss the last bus home, whilst the person entrusted with the money sorts it out.

Maintenance: well, it would be nice if it was conducted! All too often, it isn’t carried out. The individual units are stored inappropriately and often are not clean. You want me to put THAT on my head? !! I have seen a major concert venue’s staff rummage in a tatty carrier bag for my loop unit, fills me with confidence!

Mind, at least they found one for me to use (sadly, it didn’t work because it hadn’t been charged!). In many cinemas, the staff simply have not a clue what I am talking about. I once waited 20 minutes in Cineworld whilst a perfectly lovely teenager went hunting for one. Bless him, he eventually found one. It didn’t work . . .

Similarly, the equipment that produces the signal requires maintenance and servicing too. I remain somewhat cynical about that too.

I live in the beautiful and wonderful City of Cardiff. Here is my list of loops that I am aware of and what happens at the venue. If I am wrong, if it has been improved, please tell me and I will gladly print a correction; I’ll even apologise.

St. David’s Hall – units kept at front desk in tatty carrier bag and system erratic in its effectiveness. I heard Ed Byrne fine; barely heard any of Reg D Hunter. If you sitting anywhere but in the front stalls, forget it;

New Theatre – system works well, and is kept in good condition. However, they charge £5- deposit, and you really need to be sitting in stalls, and not under the balconies for best effect. Needless to say, these are the dearest seats!

Wales Millennium Arts Centre (The Armadillo!) – friendly staff, no charge and system works (usually) well. Again, you need to be nearer the stage for best effect. “Spamalot” was brilliant!

Cardiff International Arena – they charge £10 deposit. When we saw Eddie Izzard the system didn’t work at all. In their defence, the chap I communicated with was lovely and gave a full refund of full ticket prices. He advised that the equipment had been disabled by stage crew. i haven’t been back to test since, because I will not pay £10 deposit on principle.

Glee Club – no induction loop installed but staff fantastically helpful and immediately moved me closer to front when informed. Advise you tell them when you book. they also had no problem with me using my own mini-loop system.

Cineworld/Odeon/Vue cinemas – staff frequently don’t have a clue about what an induction loop is; very friendly, very helpful, but these venues need to take this much more seriously.

Chapter Arts Centre – I have saved the very best for last. What can I say; the staff are brilliant and equipment is well maintained and kept clean. They have special subtitled screenings and often show excellent “foreign language” films, again subtitled. Add to that, best coffee in town and fabulous food and . . .  well, you’ve guessed, I am a fan of the place.

Elsewhere in the City, I am appalled that “new builds” have gone up without induction loops being installed. Both the SWALEC Stadium (home of Glamorgan Cricket) and the Cardiff City Stadium (home of both Cardiff Blues Rugby and Cardiff City FC) have conference facilities they hire out but have to access external loops for the day.

Cardiff County Hall‘s meeting rooms are now much better than they were, following a total review of loops via a RNID-approved survey and some essential improvements. Rumour has it, that this is as a result of a particularly goby Trade Union steward having a hissy fit about it. I can’t comment, being a Trade Union steward working at Cardiff Council . . .

Remember – things only get better when we ask, lobby, demand, embarrass, pressure, campaign, make a fuss, etc. 🙂 x

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Imagine how much money the NHS would save if all a doctor had to ask his patients, in order to ascertain whether he is ill or not, ‘Have you recently twittered?’ ‘Have you recently arranged a night out in a pub?’ ‘Yes to both? Then you’re not ill. You’re just a lazy, workshy scrounger.’ simples

    Reply

  2. Imagine how much money the NHS would save if all a doctor had to ask his patients, in order to ascertain whether he is ill or not, ‘Have you recently twittered?’ ‘Have you recently arranged a night out in a pub?’ ‘Yes to both? Then you’re not ill. You’re just a lazy, workshy scrounger.’ simples

    Reply

  3. Imagine how much money the NHS would save if all a doctor had to ask his patients, in order to ascertain whether he is ill or not, ‘Have you recently twittered?’ ‘Have you recently arranged a night out in a pub?’ ‘Yes to both? Then you’re not ill. You’re just a lazy, workshy scrounger.’ simples

    Reply

  4. This is so bloody appalling. Every one is an equal citizen and should be treated that way. Expecting people to pay a deposit for an induction loop is beyond belief. Absolute crap!

    “We are just feckless, irresponsible and lazy”…

    Gosh…. that reminds me of blast from the past…James Purnell

    “Remember – things only get better when we ask, lobby, demand, embarrass, pressure, campaign, make a fuss, etc”..

    Damn right there comrade!

    Reply

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