What The Law Says

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. In terms of accessibility, the Equality Act does require “reasonable adjustments” to be made when providing access to goods, facilities, services and premises.

Accessible Information Standard

The Accessible Information Standard aims to make sure that people who have a disability, impairment or sensory loss get information that they can access and understand, and any communication support that they need from health and care services. The Standard tells organisations how they should make sure that patients and service users, and their carers and parents, can access and understand the information they are given. This includes making sure that people get information in accessible formats.

The Standard also tells organisations how they should make sure that people get support from a communication professional if they need it, and about changing working practices to support effective communication. By law (section 250 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012), all organisations that provide NHS care or adult social care must follow the Standard in full from 1st August 2016 onwards.

BS8300 (2002)
British Standard BS8300 is the code of practice for the design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people. The standard recommends that:

“a hearing enhancement system, using induction loop, infra-red or radio transmission, should be installed in rooms and spaces used for meetings, lectures, classes, performances, spectator sports or films, and used at service and reception counters where the background noise level is high or where glazed screens are used”
(9.3.2).

It pinpoints the following areas for consideration:

  • seated waiting areas
  • ticket sales and information points
  • fitness suites and exercise studios
  • churches; crematoria and cemetery chapels
  • educational, cultural and scientific buildings.

Copies of BS8300 can be viewed at your local reference library or purchased from the British Standards Institute, Customer Services Dept, 389 Chiswick High Road, London, W4 4AL. Tel: +44 (0)20 8996 9000. Web: www.bsi-global.com

Building Regulations Part M1: Access to and use of buildings (2000)
Current building regulations for England and Wales state that newly erected or substantially reconstructed non-domestic buildings should make reasonable provision for people to gain access to and use their facilities (Requirement M1).

In particular, the regulations state that reasonable “aids to communication’ should be provided for the hearing impaired in auditoria, meeting rooms, reception areas, ticket offices and at information points. One of the aims of Requirement M1 is to ensure all people can participate in proceedings at lecture/conference facilities and entertainment, leisure and social venues. According to the regulations, aids to communication will satisfy {part of} this requirement if ‘a hearing enhancement system is installed in rooms and spaces designed for meetings, lectures, classes, performances … and at service or reception counters when they are situated in noisy areas or behind glazed screens’
(section 4.36/4.36b)

The regulations acknowledge that a person with a hearing disability needs to receive a signal that is amplified in both volume and signal-to-noise ratio and that induction loop, infrared, radio and sound field systems can provide this advanced level of sound (section 4.35, Design Considerations).

The Care Standards Act (2004)
The Government’s new Care Standards Act demands that care homes in England provide certain adaptations and equipment for residents, including:

“Facilities, including communication aids (e.g. a loop system), and signs to assist the needs of all service users, taking account of the needs, for example, of those with hearing impairment, visual impairment, dual sensory impairments, learning disabilities or dementia or other cognitive impairment, where necessary.”
(standard 22.6).

These requirements apply to all care homes providing accommodation and nursing or personal care for older people in England. Regular inspections of homes and enforcement of the new legislation will be carried out by the new Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) which took over the social care functions previously carried out by the National Care Standards Commission on 1 April 2004.