Belfast Telegraph

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Hearing loss discrimination cases settled

Published 29/07/2015

Both cases were related to people who had hearing impairment
Both cases were related to people who had hearing impairment

Health and courts bodies have settled disability discrimination cases with people with hearing loss in Northern Ireland, the Equality Commission said.

One woman, who did not want to be identified, has lost 40% of her hearing in both ears. She requested a friend attend hospital appointments with her to help her understand everything her doctor said, but that was refused.

Willie Annett was due to defend himself against a small claims case but the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service did not make adjustments for his severe deafness.

Chief Commissioner Dr Michael Wardlow said: "Responding to requests for reasonable adjustments, such as those highlighted in these cases, are often done without showing due regard for the law or taking on board the person's individual needs.

"Both of these cases would have been avoided had simple and non-costly solutions been put in place as requested by the individuals."

The Western Health and Social Care Trust agreed to pay the woman £2,500 without acceptance of liability in respect of any matters alleged, but said it regretted any perceived injury to feelings, upset and distress experienced.

T he courts service has agreed to pay £2,500 to Mr Annett, who was due to defend himself in a small claims case and had advised staff that he would need everything to be written down.

Despite assurances that all arrangements were made, he did not receive adjustments needed to defend himself.

In settling the case, the Courts Service acknowledged an error constituting a breach of its duties under the Disability Discrimination Act.

The Courts Service apologised for any injury to feelings, upset and/or distress suffered by Mr Annett and reaffirmed its commitment to the principle of equality.

Jackie White, Northern Ireland director of charity Action on Hearing Loss, said t he level of discrimination on the grounds of disability remains a source of considerable concern, with approximately 300,000 people in Northern Ireland (or one in six of the population) deaf or having some degree of hearing loss or related conditions.

"These individuals are fully entitled to expect and to receive, the same standards of service, care and support, as their hearing peers.

"Settlements such as these make it clear that people can successfully challenge unfair treatment based on any form of disability."

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