What are environmental aids?
Environmental aids are sometimes called “technical aids to hearing” or “assistive devices”.
Environmental aids are equipment which is designed to help people with hearing sounds or being alerted to sounds in their daily life. Some equipment is for people who are hard of hearing and others are for people with more profound or total losses.
An example of an environmental aid would be a loop system to help hear the television. Another example would be a flashing doorbell system to alert the deaf person to someone at the door.
Technology is advancing all the time. Although some basic ideas have been around a long time (such as flashing lights to alert people to the doorbell) the technology has changed. So you may find it useful to keep yourself informed of new technology – the RNID and Hearing Link websites often have information of this kind.
Multi-Alert Pager Systems
Before deciding on an environmental aid that does just one job (i.e. tells you there is someone at the door, consider if there are any other household sounds that you need to be alerted to. If so, then perhaps a Multi-alert system is more suitable.
Multi-alert systems have a series of transmitters or triggers (e.g. doorbell-push, smoke alarm, telephone transmitter, baby alarm, etc, which are all linked into a receiver that the deaf person has. The receiver is a vibrating pager which the deaf person wears. The pager has different symbols so that the deaf person knows which trigger has set the alarm off.
Obtaining environmental aids
i. Obtaining environmental aids from the Local Authority: Some environmental aids are supplied free by Local Authority Social Services. The names of the departments which you need to contact may vary form authority to authority. (E.g. Some of the departments people mentioned having obtained environmental aids from include: Social Workers with Deaf People, Sensory Impairment Teams, Technical Aids Officers, Occupational Therapist.) However, at present different Social Services supply different environmental aids and so what you can get free depends on which area you live in.
Someone said, “I find out what things we are entitled to in my area and I don’t take ‘No’ for an answer”.
Even if the social worker asks you to buy the aid yourself you may still benefit from the advice given by the social worker (providing that they are knowledgeable) on which aid to buy. NB. If you are asked to buy the aid yourself please do not feel that you shouldn’t have asked because you will be helping others by making your presence felt as a hearing impaired person in the area. Hopefully next time another deaf person may have a greater chance of getting an environmental aid free. Also, in some areas social workers are knowledgeable about other useful services and organisations and are willing to either refer you on or provide you with valuable information about these services and organisations. So please do not hesitate to get in touch with social workers for deaf people as they may be able to help. Some people have said that in some areas social workers seem to work predominantly with sign language users.
ii. Obtaining environmental aids through Access to Work and Disability Employment Advisers (DEAs): Environmental aids may be supplied free to people who are totally or partially deaf and working if they are needed by the person to help them with their work. DEAs are usually based at the job centres.
Disability Employment Advisers (also called DEAs) provide specialist support to people who are recently disabled, or those whose disability or health condition has deteriorated and who need employment advice.
They provide support to disabled people who are having difficulty in getting a job because of their disability, and also to employed people who are concerned about losing their job because of a disability.
Access to Work Advisers have specialist knowledge of the Access to Work programme which provides support to disabled people and their employers to help overcome work related obstacles resulting from a disability. (Source: www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk)
For more information about Access to Work click on the following links:
iii. Obtaining environmental aids from the Hospital: In a few areas environmental aids are given out by the hospital. You may find it useful to make enquiries at your local audiology clinic as to what advice they have on available environmental aids or obtaining environmental aids.
iv. Buying an environmental aid: There are several things to do when buying an environmental aid:
1. It is worth reading as much as you can about environmental aids if you have to buy one. (Even if you are hoping to get an environmental aid free it is probably worth reading up about them.)
2. It pays to shop around when buying an environmental aid. You may find one supplier is less expensive than another.
3. If you are purchasing an environmental aid you may not have to pay VAT if you have a hearing loss – check with the supplier before you buy as you may need to fill out a VAT exemption form.
4. In some areas you can contact Social Services for advice.
5. It is vital never to purchase anything unless you make sure beforehand that you can get it on approval and return it if it does not work for you. Some suppliers allow you to try equipment for between 14 to 28 days. Always check when ordering how long you have to try things out and how you go about returning it should it not be suitable for you.
Below are some websites of companies that sell environmental aids.
To visit Sarabec’s website click on the following link: http://www.sarabec.com/
To visit Gordon Morriss’s website click on the following link: http://www.gordonmorris.co.uk/
To visit Connevans’s website click on the following link: http://www.deafequipment.co.uk/