Although the Equality Act 2010 states that businesses are required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure their premises are accessible to all, the ‘Hearing Loops in Central Southampton’ report by Lets Loop Southampton reveals that of the 295 locations audited, only 39 were fitted with a hearing loop. A full breakdown by location is included in the report.

Lets Loop Southampton founder Steve Beal said “It’s disappointing to note that none of the stores at Marlands Shopping Centre are looped. The recently built West Quay Watermark was included in our audit and although new buildings are expected to be built in line with Equality Act 2010 regulations, frustratingly only 4 (14%) of the 29 newly built stores were fitted with a loop.”

It is currently estimated that 33,500 residents of Southampton are affected with some degree of hearing-loss. Research shows that individuals with hearing loss have double the risk of developing depression, social anxiety/isolution and other mental health conditions.

Following our audit, both New Look and Cath Kidston have now installed a hearing loop and signage with Cath Kidston promising to install hearing loops at all their stores. The Body Shop have also committed to auditing all their stores nationwide.

In addition, following dialogue with Lets Loop Southampton, we’re really pleased that Southampton Football Club have now fitted St Mary’s Stadium with over 20 hearing loops:

Khali Parsons, Supporter Relations Manager for Southampton Football Club said “Let’s Loop highlighted a need for us to improve the loops that we had and to expand our coverage to different areas. Their help and advice was invaluable, and we are delighted that we are even more accessible for our visitors with a hearing loss condition. Thank you to Steve and the team!”

Lets Loop Southampton believe that hearing loops remain the best way to improve living conditions for those living with a hearing-loss condition. In addition to continuing to monitor premises already audited, we intend on extending our coverage, with audits planned for the wider areas of Southampton, including Shirley, Portswood and Woolston. Furthermore, we will be partnering with Healthwatch Southampton to carry out audits of GP surgeries in Southampton.

Rob Kurn, manager of Healthwatch Southampton added “By not looping our City, we are creating barriers for those affected to get out and integrate within our community. Over time these barriers disencourage our residents to engage, increasing social isolation and loneliness. Healthwatch Southampton is committed to continue working with Lets Loop Southampton to help to tackle this growing issue.

Lets Loop Southampton has also been endorsed by local Business Improvement District (BID) provider GoSouthampton!, who have agreed to support Lets Loop Southampton by establishing a grant for independent businesses inside the BID to accquire funding for hearing loop systems.

Spencer Bowman, GoSouthampton! Vice Chair and owner of Mettricks Coffee added “This initiative can make such a difference for the experience of visiting the City and Go Southampton is fully committed to supporting this scheme and will help promote more businesses to consider a Loop system that will benefit their customers.”

Lets Loop Southampton has reached out to local councillors and MPs for their comments, which are below:

“We’re supporting the Let’s Loop Southampton campaign as it will help to make the city’s retail district more open and welcoming to all. We fully support the traders who have already installed hearing loops and maintain them, and are looking forward to more retailers following their excellent example.”Cllr Warwick Payne, Cabinet member for Housing and Adult Care

“Let’s Loop Southampton have done a fantastic job identifying some of the stores and facilities in the Southampton that currently do not have loops installed.  But better than that they have persuaded some to install or repair existing loops.  It is so important that we all continue to work to support the hearing impaired community and encourage others to do likewise.” Caroline Nokes MP, Romsey and Southampton North

The full report can be read here