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Hearing loss pair given payouts after bias cases against public bodies

By Laura Abernethy

Published 29/07/2015

Miss Boyce and Mr Arnett were each awarded £2,500
Miss Boyce and Mr Arnett were each awarded £2,500
Miss Boyce and Mr Arnett were each awarded £2,500

Two people with hearing loss who claimed they were discriminated against by public bodies in Northern Ireland have received thousands of pounds in settlements.

One woman, who has lost 40% of the hearing in both ears, had asked if she could bring a friend to hospital appointments as she found it to be a daunting experience and had difficulty hearing her doctors.

Miss Boyce said this wouldn't cost anything but these requests were refused.

In the other case, Mr Arnett, who has severe hearing loss, alleged NI Courts and Tribunals didn't write everything down for him when he was defending himself in a small claims case.

He said he told court staff before the case began and he had been assured that arrangements would be made - but he did not receive the help he needed on the day.

With support from the Equality Commission, both Miss Boyce and Mr Arnett brought cases as they said they had suffered discrimination as a result of their disabilities.

Miss Boyce claimed that as she was not allowed to be accompanied, the Western Health Trust did not fulfil its duty to make reasonable adjustments for her.

She was awarded £2,500 by the trust who did not accept liability but said they "regretted any perceived injury to feelings, upset and distress experienced". The trust is now working with the Equality Commission to review its procedures and the commission will provide deaf awareness training for staff.

The Courts Service acknowledged that reasonable adjustments were not provided for Mr Arnett and this was a breach of its duties under the Disability Discrimination Act. It agreed to pay him £2,500.

It also apologised for any injury to feelings, upset and distress suffered by Mr Arnett and reaffirmed its commitment to equality.

Equality Commission chief Dr Michael Wardlow said: "These cases highlight some of the issues faced by people with hearing loss, when others make assumptions about what they can and cannot do.

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

Jackie White of charity Action On Hearing Loss added: "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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