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Case Studies on Accessibility of Meetings

1 Audio Provision

Person one: "At the moment the background noise in this event is absolutely horrendous.  We are all struggling anyway, and when we are using Hearing Aids, it picks up all the background noise as well.  In this room there is a Loop, and they are supposed to be separate systems.  So when we have a Workshop like this in a public meeting unless there are break-out rooms for the separate workshops, the background noise makes it impossible to participate properly.  Quite often there is a lack of paperwork, or too much paperwork, if it’s at the last minute it is not helpful, and if you are at a meeting with a Signer, you often do not know where to look, at the Signer, or at the paperwork, or at the Screen.”

Invigilator:  Question:  "Would it help to have a PowerPoint Presentation alongside the Signer?”

Person One:  Answer: "It would probably assist in having a visual clue, yes.”

Person Two:  "We don’t go to public meetings because we can’t participate, so our views are not heard.”

Invigilator:  Question: "How do you improve things?”

Person Two:  Answer: "At work we can’t access training, so how can we move on in our careers.”

Person Three: "The problem I have if I get the Speaker to wear my microphone then I can’t hear when other questions come from people, even if the person is a couple of feet from you.  Even if you ask the Speaker to repeat the question, they forget so you don’t hear it.  Everyone seems to be clued up on the physical access to meetings, but they don’t give the Hearing Impaired People any thought, and even if they do, they don’t understand a Deaf person’s needs and they all have different levels of need.”

Person Four: "Just because a disability is not seen it does not mean that it is not there.  Often it is the Trainers, or the Chairperson who does not appreciate the needs of others.”

Person Five: "One of our colleagues gets bad headaches due to having to concentrate so hard on listening to Speakers.  The Woman at the start of this day was very difficult to hear, and I had to concentrate really hard to make sense of what she said.  The man who introduced this Workshop was much easier to listen to, and really had a clear voice, so it was easy.  It puts you off going to long events if you have to concentrate hard all the time.”

Person Six: "If we attend training we should be told exactly what is available to assist us in meetings.  Or, if the question is asked and information given then it does not always get to the right person who can make provision for the needs identified.”

2 Facilities Maintenance

"I am a wheelchair user and have been to meetings in a venue in Buxton and found that the accessible toilet has been closed for maintenance purposes.  No prior warning was given about this.  I have then had to use the non-accessible toilets with help from others which is humiliating. Meeting organisers need to check that accessible facilities are available when they hold their meetings. ”

3 Learning Disabilities

Person One: "I have been involved in meetings where they invite representatives with Learning Disabilities to attend, but they are ignored or talked over, so they can’t participate.  Nobody makes it easy for them it makes me completely mad.”

Person Two: "There is a problem with lack of transport to meetings as well.  People with Learning Difficulties can’t drive.  I only use public transport if I have someone with me to assist, and so it is not always possible.  If transport was provided it would help me get to meetings.”

4 Mobility Problems

"I attended a meeting in the High Peak where a Buffet Lunch was served.  However, there were no tables and chairs available, thus, I was expected to stand and eat.  This created problems for me, as I walk with a mobility aid, and therefore, cannot stand for any length of time, and only had one free hand.  I had to find another person to bring me lunch (which, was of their choosing).  I had to eat my lunch off of my lap in the meeting room, which proved too difficult, and thus, I gave-up.  

"Tables and Chairs should be provided at lunch-time.  Also, organisers need to recognise that disabled people find it difficult to access refreshment facilities during the limited and congested lunch period.  Therefore, organisers should consider operating a refreshment order service, for example, ‘Helpers’ (who are identifiable) to assist disabled people.”

5 Inaccessible Information

"At a meeting held in the High Peak, someone brought leaflets, but, forgot to include a Braille copy.  I think in this day and age Braille for Blind and Visually Impaired People should be available, especially when people are regular members of a committee. The leaflet was not even read out, so we were unable to participate fully.  This happens with a lot of meetings, even when we have put in the invitation, that our special needs are that, any print documents should be transcribed into Braille.”

6 Support for Hearing Impairment

"I went to some training on Autism awareness and the trainers had not made any provision for me being hearing impaired.  Being hearing impaired I found it very difficult to participate in any of the group activities or hear what the tutor was saying or the responses.  In the end I had to leave the course half way through.  I had to re-arrange to have the course on a different date so that I could have the ‘lip speaker’ there so I could do the course.  Having the lip speaker there made such a difference and I was able to complete the course. ”

7 Loop System in New Mills Town Hall

A few years ago, members of the Public brought to the attention of the Access Group, the fact that hearing-aid users were not able to hear speakers up on the platform in the main hall, and were therefore unable to participate in any discussions.  Upon investigation, it was discovered that the decision had been made to try an ordinary domestic loop system around the walls of the hall and the resulting system was completely under-powered and ineffective.  I contacted the Contracts Department of the RNID.  They installed an excellent loop system in the main hall, and a flexible system for use in other rooms, with roving microphones for members of the public, and a boundary microphone on the table to pick up the voices of councillors.  The system was not cheap, but has achieved its aims for total inclusion for almost all in discussions taking place in virtually any part of the New Mills Town Hall.  I believe this has made a huge difference from the previous inadequate system tried.

8 Hearing Impairment

I was invited to attend a local public meeting.  It was a meeting that I wished to participate in, since I had numerous good points to raise on a particular subject, and I felt that my contributions would make a difference.    The venue does have a Hearing Loop System, but it soon became apparent to me, that the Hearing Loop had not been switched on, or was not working.  I felt too embarrassed to speak out, and ask the organisers to test it to see if it was working, thus, I was excluded from taking part in the meeting.   I felt upset, that the organisers had not tested the Hearing Loop System before the meeting took place, to see if it was switched on, or working.  They had not given a thought about Deaf people or those with a Hearing Impairment attending the meeting. 

Last Modified: 2 Dec 2014