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New technology has helped to make Forestry Commission Wales offices and visitor centres more pleasant places for the hard of hearing.
All the Commission's main locations have been fitted out with “soundshuttles” – compact portable devices which can be moved to any room to ensure people with hearing difficulties don’t miss a thing.
With one in seven people in the UK being registered as deaf or hard of hearing, the devices are set to benefit many people who visit the Commission's offices or visitor centres every year.
The soundshuttles – or Audio Frequency Induction Loop Systems, to give them their technical name – use induction loop technology and are universally compatible with T-coil hearing aids.
The soundshuttles comprise a microphone, amplifier and loop of wire and work by converting a magnetic field into sound for the listener, while reducing the amount of background noise that the hearing aid picks up.
They are available in all Forestry Commission Wales reception areas and can be easily set up in any other meeting room or office where there is a mains power socket.
The soundshuttles have been installed in time for Deaf Awareness Week, which runs from 28 June to 4 July.
"They are easy to use, you simply plug it in and place it on a table between the parties, turn it on and talk normally," said Alex Welnitschuk, FC Wales lead building advisor.
“Coupled with the recent access improvements we have made to our offices, these soundshuttles are a clear sign that we are committed to ensure our offices are becoming more accessible and user-friendly places for everyone.”
The soundshuttles are the latest addition to Forestry Commission Wales buildings designed to make them more accessible to people with disabilities.
Ramps have been installed to make offices more wheelchair-friendly and the Commission has also embarked on a review of all its offices with a view to making them more environmentally-friendly, too.
Alex said, "These improvements demonstrate that we are managing the business of FC Wales in a professional manner and in a way which enables everyone to benefit from the services we provide."
NOTES TO EDITORS
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages the 126,000 hectares/311,000 acres of woodlands owned by the Assembly Government.
Forestry Commission Wales buildings equipped with soundshuttles include the four district offices, in Resolven, Llandovery, Welshpool and Dolgellau, offices in Clawdd Newydd near Ruthin and Cantref Court in Abergavenny, sub-offices in Gwydyr, The Hafod, Rudry and Itton, workshops in Chirk and Crychan and Visitor Centres at Garwnant, Bwlch Nant-yr-Arian and Coed-y-Brenin.
One in seven people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing and 72,000 people in Wales are severely/profoundly deaf, according to the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.
In Wales, approximately 16% of the population has some degree of hearing difficulty (about 475,000 people), and the numbers are rising.
Media enquiries to Forestry Commission Wales Information Officer Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922.