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Communication and hearing

Factsheet contents

Introduction

a wrist Pendant There is a large choice of simple communication products available, ranging from relatively simple hand-held magnifiers or telephone amplifiers to advanced video magnifiers and wireless amplifiers. The aim of this factsheet is to provide first stop information on the type of sensory communication equipment available to help with specific difficulties, and details about the useful features of some of the technology. For up-to-date product and supplier information, please contact our equipment helpline, open Monday to Friday 10am - 4pm, tel: 0300 999 0004 (calls charged at local rate); or if you use a mobile it's cheaper to ring: (020) 7432 8018 (calls charged at standard rate). Alternatively, you can write to our letter enquiry service or contact us via email at advice@dlf.org.uk To help us give you a concise and informative reply, please provide us with as much detail as possible including information on the difficulties you are having and any solutions you have considered, including equipment ideas.

Provision of sensory communication equipment

Eligibility for sensory communication equipment varies depending on where you live. Many councils apply eligibility criteria for home care packages including assistive technology such as communication equipment. You will need to contact your local social services and ask for information on their communication equipment services. They may arrange for you to receive an assessment to see if you meet their criteria to receive the equipment. Some social services may only provide communication equipment to those with ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ needs. If your social services assess you as requiring communication equipment they will also complete a financial assessment to assess the level of any contribution you may be required to make. The charges and how they work vary in different areas. Use this GOV.UK link to find your local authority equipment assessment services https://www.gov.uk/apply-home-equipment-for-disabled or use the NHS choices site to search for Care services for people with sensory impairments www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Care-services-for-people-with-sensory-impairments/LocationSearch/1820 In some areas of the country a prescription scheme for equipment is in operation. There is a 'national catalogue' of equipment that may be provided by prescription although local areas can choose which of these items they will include in their local equipment prescription schemes. This is part of the Department of Health’s Transforming Community Equipment Services (TCES) programme. There is a small range of sensory communication equipment on the national catalogue that can be provided via prescriptions. If you receive a prescription for one of these items you take your prescription to a local accredited retailer who will provide you with the item. Alternatively you can ‘top-up’ paying extra for an item that does what the specific item prescribed would do but offers extra features or perhaps you prefer its appearance. Thus the scheme is designed to stimulate and encourage choice and control. The national catalogue website sensory aids listing can be viewed at http://www.national-catalogue.org/smartassist/nationalcatalogue/national... This factsheet will go through a range of equipment and mention when there is a relevant national catalogue specification for that kind of equipment as it may be provided by prescription. If you decide to buy equipment privately, it is best to try and compare the different ranges first. You may have an equipment demonstration centre near you where you can visit to view and try out ranges of equipment. You will receive impartial advice to help choose appropriately. However, not all centres display communication equipment. You will need to contact your nearest centre to find out what they have and to book an appointment. For details of your nearest centre contact Assist UK (see Useful organisations at the back of this guide); or look on their website http://assist-uk.org

 

INTRODUCTION

The aim of this factsheet is to provide first stop information on a range of simple communication products designed to make life easier for older and disabled people.

The first two sections provide detailed information on equipment used for reading and writing. From simple solutions such as an easy-to-hold writing implements or pen and pencil holders to more sophisticated electric page turners and speech-based reading machines.

The remaining sections focus on communication aids for speech and speech replacement, equipment suitable for people with hearing loss, and products to assist people who are blind and partially sighted.

Information on telephone products that can help older and disabled people, are described in the DLF factsheet Choosing a telephone, textphone and accessories available from the Disabled Living Foundation helpline or website.

textphone

Information on accessible computer-based solutions are detailed in depth by factsheets and skill sheets produced by other organisations such as AbilityNet (all disabilities), Royal National Institute of the Blind, Royal National Institute of Deaf People, and Communication Matters (see Useful Organisations).

For up-to-date product and supplier information, please contact our equipment helpline, open Monday to Friday 10am – 4pm, tel: (0845) 130 9177 (calls charged at local rate)or if phoning from a mobile, it is cheaper to ring 020 7432 8018.

Alternatively, you can write to our letter enquiry service, or contact us via email at advice@dlf.org.uk. To help us give you a concise and informative reply, please provide us with as much detail as possible including the difficulties you are having and any solutions you have considered, including equipment ideas.

 

STATUTORY PROVISION AND OTHER SOURCES OF FUNDING

STATUTORY PROVISION

The supply of equipment depends upon the type and extent of your disability, your age and your circumstances.

For adults

At present, most reading and writing aids are not regarded as a daily living need, and are therefore not supplied via a community occupational therapist.

If you have difficulty with verbal communication, you may be eligible for an assessment by a speech and language therapist at a communication aid centre. A referral is needed which can be made by your GP or hospital consultant. Each communication aid centre has a range of communication aids to try and, if appropriate, may be supplied to you through the National Health Service (NHS).

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, equipment may sometimes be provided by your local social services department (social work department in Scotland). For further information, you should contact your local authority social worker dealing with deaf people.

If you are blind or partially sighted, and have some useable sight, it is worth asking your GP or hospital consultant for an assessment at a low vision clinic. These services often provide small reading aids, such as magnifiers, or pocket binoculars on a free loan. These are often provided at NHS hospitals, but a few centres are independently run by the Partially Sighted Society (see Useful Organisations). Sometimes, smaller items of daily living equipment may be provided by a social worker at your local authority who deals with sensory impairments.

If you are in paid employment and need equipment to assist you with communication at work, then you may be entitled to help with the cost and provision of equipment through a scheme called Access-To-Work (ATW). The scheme is run by the Department for Work and Pensions, and is designed to pay for the additional cost of aids and adaptations needed because of your disability. In some circumstances, a part-time support worker may be funded to perform these tasks if you are unable to do them for yourself. For more information, contact the Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) at your local Job Centre or JobCentrePlus office.

For children at school

If a child has a disability and is under the age of 18 and still at school, access to funding for equipment may be available if he/she has a statement of special educational needs. For further information contact your local education authority.

For students in further or higher education

If you are a student in higher education, you may be entitled to a disabled students’ allowance, it is awarded by your local authority (LA) to cover the additional cost of your disability. If you are a student in further education, you may be entitled to funding through a scheme called the Access To Learning Fund.

For further information on help available to students, contact an organisation called SKILL – the national bureau for students with a disability (see Useful Organisations).

OTHER SOURCES OF FUNDING

Charitable trusts may sometimes provide funding for equipment. The Disabled Living Foundation produces a very useful factsheet entitled Sources of obtaining funding for equipment for older and disabled people, which is available free-of-charge from our website and helpline. Many other disability organisations also offer useful advice about applying to charitable trusts for help.

Most libraries hold directories of suitable funders in their reference section, such as the The Directory of Grant Making Trusts and The Guide to Grants for Individuals In Need. Charities will only give awards in accordance with a predetermined criteria, so it is important that you carefully select the trusts you apply to.

DISABLED LIVING CENTRES (DLCs)

If you decide to purchase equipment privately, it is best to try and compare the different ranges first. You may have a disabled living centre near you

There are 52 disabled living centres in the UK. Their role is to offer solutions to practical difficulties in daily living to disabled people, their carers and people who work with or for them on a professional basis. They provide unbiased, expert advice and information about equipment, how much it costs, and where to get it, and offer the opportunity to try out a wide range of products. Advice and information about other issues related to daily living can also be given.

For details of your nearest centre, contact Assist UK (see Useful Organisations). It is always advisable to contact the centre first to check that it has a display of the specific products you are looking for. Some may also operate an appointment only policy

 

READING EQUIPMENT AND ACCESSORIES

View our impartial list of reading equipment ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

A number of products are available to assist people who have difficulty with reading. A summary of the products that may be able to help you are listed and described below:

LINE-FINDERS AND PAGE MARKERS

Line-finders

line finder

These are small plastic reading aids that are designed to assist you if text ‘jumps’ around on a page when you try to read it. This condition may be the result of a visual perceptual difficulty, or a learning disability such as dyslexia.

The line-finder is simply placed upon the page to be read to mask out unwanted text. Some styles have an aperture to form a ‘reading window’; other models are placed beneath the text to be read to act as an underline. All line-finders help you to keep your eyes focused on a single row, and an indicator arrow is often featured to help you with left to right orientation. This is particularly useful if you have dyslexia.

Page markers

These are small clips that are inserted into the spine of a book; they are designed as bookmarks and to keep the pages in an open position when pressing on the centre of the clip using your thumb. The product allows for one-handed reading.

BOOK RESTS

Price range: £21 - £489 View our impartial list of cantilever tables ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

If you find it difficult to hold a newspaper, book, or magazine because you experience pain or have limited dexterity or motor skills, you may find it beneficial to place the reading material on a book rest, music stand or copyholder.

If you are blind or partially sighted using a book rest may enable you to bring reading material physically closer to you, and have the effect of enlarging it. Alternatively, if you also need to use a hand-held magnifier, a book rest will make it unnecessary to hold both the book, newspaper, or magazine, and the magnifier at the same time.

In some circumstances, using a cantilever table with a bed or with a chair, can be a suitable alternative to book rests, music stands or newspaper holders, as long as the table has a lip.

Types of book rests

  • Free-standing book rests
  • Book rests and reading lights on a clamp
  • Floor-standing book rests

Free-standing book rests

Price range: £7 - £103 View our impartial list of Free-standing book rests ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

free standing book rest

These products are often portable and rest on a flat surface such as a tabletop. They are sometimes designed to be angle adjustable, enabling you to achieve a more comfortable reading position. If you need a method of holding pages open, some models are fitted with securing cords, other designs may use metal clips. Some holders may be large enough to take magazines and broadsheet newspapers.

Some book rests are designed to be used on your lap. These may be also fitted with a neck cord to provide extra support.

Some designs may also be used as writing slopes. Other useful features may include: a carrying handle, a carousel for holding more than one book and, if the book rest can be used for reading and writing, holders for pens and writing materials.

Book rests on a clamp

clamped book rest

If you need a book rest to be clamped to a table-top, bed-head or clip over the upper edge of an angled work surface, it is possible to buy a bookstand, mounted on a support arm.

Floor standing book rests, newspaper holders and music stands

Price range: £94 - £164 View our impartial list of floor standing book rests ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

floor standing book rest

If you do not have a convenient tabletop, or clamping surface suitable for a freestanding model or book rest on a clamp, it is possible to buy a stand-alone floor standing book rest.

The height and/or angle of many designs are adjustable to provide you with a more comfortable reading position. Other options may include a fixed round base, or cantilever base on casters for use alongside chairs and beds. Some models may be large enough to accommodate music scores, magazines or newspapers.

MANUAL PAGE TURNERS

Price range: £13 - £16 View our impartial list of manual page turners ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

Head pointers and some mouthsticks may be used to turn pages.

ELECTRIC PAGE TURNERS

View our impartial list of electric page turners ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

If you are physically unable to turn pages yourself, it is possible to get electric page turners that can do it for you. Some help may be necessary to fit the book into the machine but, once this has been done, turning the page is achieved by a simple switch operation.

They may be either mains operated or battery powered to turn pages of books, magazines and/or newspapers. Some models may be table-top mounted, others may be floorstanding and stand-alone. They may also be push-button operated or, in some cases, voice activated.

One of the drawbacks of electric page turners is that they are expensive items to buy, most costing over £2,000. Some suppliers offer reconditioned models at a reduced cost, and others offer them for hire.

READING LIGHTS

Price range: £42 - £109 View our impartial list of reading lights ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

If you find it difficult to see details on a page clearly, one useful accessory is a reading light that attaches to a book cover, or the spine of a page, shining a bright light onto the page.

Some magnifiers have built-in lamps to offer increased illumination over the subject to be read. Some lights on a clamp are available for use with book rests.

RECUMBENT SPECTACLES

View our impartial list of recumbent spectacles ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

If you find it difficult to bend your neck, recumbent spectacles fitted with prism mirrors, may enable you to read, or watch TV whilst laying flat. They are sometimes known as prism glasses, and can be worn over ordinary spectacles.

 

WRITING EQUIPMENT AND ACCESSORIES

View our impartial list of writing equipment and accessories ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

writing equipment

If you have difficulty writing a number of products that are designed to help you are available. For example, if you only have the use of one hand, then you may need equipment to anchor a piece of paper onto a writing surface. If you have limited gripping ability, or have other difficulties in holding a standard pen, then you may need a differently designed writing implement, or some form of holder for a standard pen or pencil.

Details of different types of writing boards and writing slopes are also described.

TYPES OF SPECIALIST WRITING EQUIPMENT:

  • Writing slopes
  • Paper holders, clipboards and magnetic boards
  • Writing implements
  • Pen and pencil holders
  • Magnetic tape, symbols and letters
  • Weighted cuffs and wrist holders
  • Geometry instruments.

Writing slopes

Price range: £20 - £103 View our impartial list of writing slopes ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These are table-top rests designed to hold paper at an angle to help you maintain a good writing position, and reduce strain on your neck. The height and angle of some models are adjustable to make them easy to use. They are fitted with a bottom ledge to prevent the page from slipping off. Some metal writing slopes are also available with magnetic paper holders.

Paper holders and magnetic boards

If you have limited dexterity or can only use one hand it may be necessary to use some form of paper securing device to prevent the sheet from moving about as you write. Various kinds of paper holders are available, and the choice depends upon the writing surface you are using. If you have a wooden surface, such as a writing slope, a metal clip may be used. An alternative may be to use a clipboard.

Some metal clips and clipboards may use a spring-mechanism, which could make them difficult to operate, especially if you have limited hand movement or pain.A more suitable solution may be to use magnetic boards or metal writing slopes. These use either metal or magnet holders that are simply placed on top of the paper, securing the page by magnetism.

Writing implements

Price range: £5 - £52 View our impartial list of writing implements ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

There is a wide range of writing implements specifically designed for people who have difficulty holding standard pens and pencils. Some require very little pressure; others are moulded to make them easier to handle. If you have a tremor, a weighted pen may help you to reduce involuntary hand movements.

If you find it difficult to bend your hand, there is one model designed to be used with a straight finger.

If you are blind or partially sighted and unable to identify colours, a set of scented coloured pens is available.

Pen and pencil holders and grips

Price range: £1 - £110 View our impartial list of holders and grips ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

writing grip

These make a standard pen easier to grip. Products include pencil grips to improve or facilitate grip, palm grips, stabilisers to keep a pen upright, and holders for use with a mouth/head pointer.

Magnetic tape, symbols, letters

These products are useful for communicating messages or attaching materials, such as paper, to metal surfaces. They are particularly useful if you are unable to use writing equipment and have speech difficulties.

Weighted cuffs and wrist holders

View our impartial list of weighted cuffs and wrist holders ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These are used to reduce involuntary movements of the hands and/or the lower arm, thereby stabilising, for example, the hand for writing and teeth cleaning.

 

EQUIPMENT FOR SPEECH AND SPEECH REPLACEMENT

Sometimes known as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), this section provides guidance on simple ways in which you can supplement or replace spoken communication. This includes information on some kinds of communication aids and strategies that may help you if you have difficulty speaking. More complex or hi-tech solutions are not covered in any depth here, as these are dealt with by another organisation called Communication Matters (see Useful Organisations).

TYPES OF EQUIPMENT USED FOR SPEECH AND SPEECH REPLACEMENT

  • Letter, word, picture charts, folders and/or books
  • Eye pointer boards
  • Rotary pointer boards
  • Scanning communication boards
  • Specialist switches for communication aids
  • Communication strategies.

Letter, Word, Picture Charts, Folders and/or Books

Price range: £1 - £60 View our impartial list of letter, word, picture charts and accessories ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These items offer a simple solution for basic communication if you have little or no speech. They can also be particular useful if you are unable to write things down easily. Letters, words, or pictures are shown to you in a folder, book or on a chart. You can then select individual letters, words, pictures or symbols to convey your respective needs to another person.

They may also provide an aid to basic two-way communication if you are deaf or hard of hearing. If the product contains a page of alphabet letters and numbers, you can construct words and sentences by pointing at one letter or digit at a time.

Larger systems may contain over 300 picture cards to represent words, food and drink, people or feelings. They may be categorised using colour codes or be arranged in a pocked-sized presentation folder to make them easy to use.

It may also be possible for you to create a folder of your own using a photograph album. This could include pictures of everyday objects such as a clock face or cup of tea with corresponding words or phrases written underneath This can have the added advantage of being personalised to meet your own specific requirements.

Eye Pointer Boards

Price range: £50 - £576 View our impartial list of eye pointer boards ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

eye pointer board

These boards are communication displays that are designed for access by 'eye gaze'. Your communication partner is positioned facing you on the other side of the board and will be able to see where your eyes are focused. This is because the board is either transparent or made with a square cut out in the centre.

At a basic level the user indicates/builds up a message by gazing at the appropriate item (letter, word, symbol, picture) on the display. At a more complex level, colour coding allows more items to be displayed.

Rotary Pointer Boards

View our impartial list of rotary pointed boards ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These products are battery powered pointer boards that can help you to communicate a message. They work by using a switch to rotate a pointer. As it turns, you stop its movement as it points to a chosen picture, word or symbol, to indicate the required message.

If you have difficulty using a standard switch, several alternatives are available to suit your individual requirements.

Scanning Communication Boards

scanning communication board

These products contain a number of squares which can be lit sequentially or, in some instances, in programmable patterns, to facilitate communication. Symbols, real or miniature objects can be placed on the areas to be illuminated and you can stop the light when the required object or symbol is illuminated.They can be either mains or battery powered and are operated by switches chosen to suit your specific needs.

Some of these products may be further enhanced with sounds or speech selection. Speech based communication boards may have press keys that operate spoken words or phrases.

Specialist Switches for Communication Aids

View our impartial list of Specialist Switches for Communication Aids ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

If you have limited dexterity or motor function, and find it difficult to operate conventional switches, you may need an alternative type of switch to enable you to control your communication equipment.

Before buying a device ensure that you can operate any switches easily. If you require an alternative style of switch, check it is compatible with the product you are buying.

Alternative types of switches include:

View our impartial list of suck or blow switches ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

Price range: £16 - £160 View our impartial list of plate or foot switches ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

Price range: £25 - £120 View our impartial list of micro or chin switches ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

  • Suck or blow switches - These are simple switches that you operate using your mouth with a suck or blow action. The switch can be stand mounted on a bed or wheelchair, or to a wall or floor stand.
  • Plate switches- These devices consist of a large active plate area and a low operating pressure which enable you to easily activate a communication aid using your hand, knee, chin, elbow and head. They can be mounted on a flexible bracket stand for use in a wheelchair, bed or chair. Some models can be fitted with guards to prevent accidental activation.
  • Foot switches - These are strongly made switches that are operated by moving your foot.
  • Micro switches - These are easy-to-use, light-to-the-touch switches mounted on a flexible stand, which you can activate by using your hand, head or chin. The flexible stand makes it easy to position and move them on a bed, chair or wheelchair, using a clamp.
  • Chin switch - This is a single switch mounted on a tube that you can operate simply using your chin.

COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES

View our impartial list of communication aids ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These techniques are designed to help you overcome communication difficulties. Some are published resources which are useful for developing alternative or augmentative communication skills, but not necessarily tied to any specific equipment.

They may include vocabulary selection and sets of signs or symbols.

Makaton Core Vocabulary system

The Makaton Core Vocabulary is a language programme system aimed to develop your communication, language and literacy skills. It is suitable for both children and adults with communication difficulties.

It features 450 specially selected concepts or ideas which are graded in complexity, and a vocabulary resource of approximately 6,000 words. The vocabulary is generally used with speech, manual signs and graphic symbols.

The signs are derived from British Sign Language (BSL). Training courses, resources and publications are also available through the Makaton Charity (see Useful Organisations).

Multi-fit hook and loop wrist bands

These are a simple inexpensive low cost solution designed for basic communication. The bands are in three colours: GREEN for ‘Yes’, RED for ‘No’ and BLACK for ‘Mixed’. Self-adhesive symbols can also be attached to the bands using a hook so that the basic message is enhanced. They are mainly used in environments where symbol books or VOCA (Voice Output Communication Aids) cannot be used, such as in a swimming pool, or on a bus. One advantage of this system is that it can be easily understood by an unfamiliar communication partner.

Using the Deaf-Blind Manual

Although it is a language designed for people with sight and hearing loss, the Deaf-Blind Manual may also be a useful communication tool for some people with speech difficulties.

Communication is made by using one of your hands to touch various parts of your partner’s hand, to represent letters of the alphabet to form words. Some hand movements are similar to British Sign Language (BSL). The basic alphabet is quick and easy to learn, and has the advantage that it can be used anywhere with your interpreter. For further information and an instruction leaflet on the Deaf-Blind Manual alphabet, contact an organisation called Deafblind UK (see Useful Organisations).

Using objects of reference

With someone you know it may be possible to devise your own basic communication language or strategy using everyday objects. For example, you could pick up a fork to indicate that you are hungry or that it is time to eat; or perhaps a towel to say that you want to go swimming.

 

EQUIPMENT FOR PEOPLE WITH HEARING LOSS

View our impartial list of equipment for people with hearing loss ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, this section provides some guidance on a number of products that can make life easier for you. This includes equipment to help you with one-to-one or group conversation, and items to enable you to hear TV and audio equipment more easily.

More detailed information on these products is available in factsheets and leaflets from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (see Useful Organisations).

PERSONAL SOUND AMPLIFIERS FOR ONE-TO-ONE OR GROUP CONVERSATION

These products are portable amplifiers for use in one-to-one or group conversations. They generally consist of a hand-held microphone, table-top amplifier (placed near the sound source) and headphones. It is usually unnecessary to use a hearing aid with these amplifiers.

If you find it physically difficult to hold the microphone, it may be possible to get a clip-on microphone instead, or use it with a floor-standing or table-top microphone stand.

Styles and sound quality of headsets or headphones may vary. Make sure that the one you choose is comfortable and works well for you. If you normally use a hearing aid and cannot hear the amplified sound clearly using a headphone or headset, you may find a neck loop or ear loop a more useful device.

A neck loop or ear loop are small inductive couplers which should be used with your hearing aid in the ‘T’ position. The amplified signal is received by your hearing aid directly from the loop by electrical induction.

PERSONAL SOUND AMPLIFIERS FOR AMPLIFICATION OF TV AUDIO EQUIPMENT AND CONVERSATION

Price range: £52 - £105 View our impartial list of audio-visual amplifiers ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These are portable amplifiers designed to amplify TV and audio equipment. They generally consist of a microphone - which is placed near to the loudspeakers of a TV or audio equipment - and amplifier, and an earpiece for the user. They have dials to alter volume and allow high and low tone selection. Some amplifiers are also useful for amplifying conversation. There may be the option of a loop receiver version for people who use hearing aids with 'T'position switch. Some amplifiers connect directly to TV and audio equipment using connecting leads instead of using a microphone.

PERSONAL OR DOMESTIC LOOP SYSTEMS - INCLUDING THOSE FOR USE IN A CAR

Price range: £30 - £326 View our impartial list of domestic loop systems ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

If you use a hearing aid, domestic loop systems provide an alternative to listening through a headset or ear-pieces. These systems consist of an induction loop placed around the room or car, and a microphone and amplifier placed near the sound source. Anyone sitting within the loop system with their hearing aid on 'T' will receive amplified sound from the source without background noise. This device eliminates the need for any wires between the user and the apparatus.

PUBLIC LOOP SYSTEMS FOR USE WITH HEARING AID ON ‘T’ POSITION

These are more powerful versions of the personal loop systems described above, and are used in public buildings, meeting rooms, conference halls, or across the counter in banks and other organisations (they are illustrated by the symbol below). They consist of an induction loop wire which encircles the room. The unit then provides amplified sound to anyone within the loop system who has a hearing aid switched to the 'T' position.

INDUCTION LOOP RECEIVERS FOR PEOPLE WITHOUT ‘T’ POSITION HEARING AIDS

T position hearing aid

If you do not use a 'T' position hearing aid, an induction receiver enables you to benefit from a loop system using light, cordless headphones, earphones or behind the ear receivers, instead of a hearing aid. They are battery powered, and can be pocket-sized, with built-in amplification and volume controls.

RADIO MICROPHONE SYSTEMS

Price range: £77 - £625 View our impartial list of radio frequency audio-visual amplifiers ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These are radio microphone units designed to be used in conjunction with hearing aids or headphones. They consist of a transmitter and microphone worn by the person talking, and a receiver worn by the person who is hard of hearing. Sound is amplified using a neck loop or can be input directly if the user has a direct input hearing aid. The system helps the listener to hear the speaker's voice without unwanted background interference. Since the system uses radio waves to transmit sound, it allows complete freedom of movement and is particularly useful in educational settings.

Radio microphones can also be used with amplification systems and public loop systems for group use.

INFRA-RED AMPLIFIERS FOR AMPLIFICATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL SOUNDS AND CONVERSATION

Price range: £49 - £249 View our impartial list of infra-red audio-visual amplifiers ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These are cordless systems consisting of a small infra-red transmitter which plugs directly into the headphone socket of the TV, radio or hi-fi or, if fitted with a built-in microphone, placed adjacent to the sound source. Sound is sent through an infra-red signal to a receiver which is hand-held or connected to headphones/earphones or to a hearing aid in the 'T' position. These can be used for group listening with one transmitter and several receivers with headsets.

 

EQUIPMENT FOR BLIND AND PARTIALLY SIGHTED PEOPLE

This section details some useful products to help you with reading and written communication if you are blind or partially sighted. These items include magnifiers and stand-alone reading machines and some Braille writing equipment and accessories to make reading and writing easier.

This section also identifies some alternative ways of accessing information in standard print and the services available.

MAGNIFIERS

View our impartial list of magnifiers ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

If you have low vision, magnifiers may help you to either optically or digitally enlarge reading and writing material including labels, instructions, controls, correspondence, books and magazines. Using the wrong magnifier for a significant period of time can cause eye fatigue and physical problems. For help choosing the right magnification device consult a low vision service. Contact your local social services department or the RNIB Helpline 0303 123 9999 email helpline@rnib.org.uk, or use their find an organisation database to locate a voluntary group near you.

Before purchasing a magnifier consider the magnification and size of the lens, generally a larger magnifier will have lower magnification and a high powered magnifier will have a small lens. Higher magnification magnifiers tend to show you less of what you are looking at, perhaps only a word or few letters at a time. (The Partially Sighted Society Hand Magnifiers, Available from: http://www.partsight.org.uk/pdfs/Hand magnifiers.pdf [Accessed 24th July 2009]) For more information visit the RNIB's magnifier page or the Partially sighted society www.partsight.org.uk

The most common types of magnifiers available are:

Hand-held magnifiers

These devices can be used for most everyday needs and are held directly over the subject to make it appear larger. The strength of magnification may vary between about 1.5 times (x 1.5) to 12 times (x 12). They are available in a range of physical shapes and sizes. How much bigger you see the item will also depend on the distance you and the magnifier are from the object you are looking at. Some hand-held magnifiers are fitted with a built-in battery powered lamp or LED to improve lighting and enhance the text. Hand-held magnifiers are not suitable if you have a shaky hand or find a hand-held device difficult to grip and as they are held close to the page they are generally unsuitable for use when writing.

Price range: £2 - £88 View our impartial list of Hand-held magnifiers ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

Magnifiers with a stand used directly on or over subject

Price range: £5 - £135 View our impartial list of Magnifiers with a stand ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

If you have weak or shaky hands, using a magnifier on a stand may be ideal for reading and, if the stand is tall enough, also for writing.

Magnifiers used directly on the page can only be used for reading. Some may be designed as full-sized sheets - other products may be designed to magnify a single line at a time or a smaller area. Sheet magnifiers are sometimes made of plastic and have a relatively low level of magnification, which is determined by the thickness of the lens.

Magnifiers attached to spectacle or headband

Price range: £14 - £74 View our impartial list of magnifiers attached to spectacle or headband ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These products are built into a spectacle frame, attach or clip to existing spectacles or are supported on a headband. Some lenses are designed to tilt away from the eyes when not in use. It is advisable to seek the opinion of a qualified ophthalmologist if additional magnification is required to prescription lenses. Alternative magnifiers may be required to meet differing requirements.

Magnifiers with neck attachment

Price range: £6 - £63 View our impartial list of magnifiers with neck attachment ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

neck attached magnifier

These products have a neck cord or attachment which enables the magnifier to rest on the chest leaving the hands free. Some incorporate a second lens, giving greater magnification.

Magnifiers mounted or placed on furniture, floor or wall

View our impartial list of magnifiers mounted or placed on furniture, floor or wall ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These magnifiers are designed to be either all-mounted, attached to furniture by clamp, or free standing on table-top or floor. They facilitate hands-free use. Many are mounted on an adjustable arm allowing variation of angle and position. Some incorporate a light.

Magnifiers to fit over screens

View our impartial list of magnifiers to fit over screens ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

Magnifying equipment included in this section is designed to be attached externally over a TV or computer screen.

Video magnifiers

View our impartial list of video magnifiers ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These are portable closed circuit television systems which provide partially sighted people with a magnified image. They consist of a VDU, TV or computer screen and a camera with zoom lens attached. Text is placed under the camera and is viewed, much enlarged, on the screen.

Your ability to read and/or write may also be enhanced by bringing the subject closer to your eye level using suitable stands or holders.

ELECTRONIC READING EQUIPMENT AND BOOKS

View our impartial list of text to speech converters ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These are reading machines which convert printed material into synthesised speech. The scanner may be able to read from books, newspapers, magazines and A4 sheets. Other equipment available includes portable talking dictionaries and thesauruses.

MANUAL BRAILLE EQUIPMENT

Price range: £35 - £535 View our impartial list of Braille manual machines ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

Price range: £2 - £50 View our impartial list of Braille frames and styles and accessories ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

A number of hand-held products are available to enable you to write using Braille, including frames and styles, alphabet blocks and small items bearing identification in Braille.

BRAILLE MACHINES

Price range: £1,550 - £4,550 View our impartial list of Braille machines ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These include equipment for printing Braille and binding documents. Output options include Braille typed on paper, tape, Dymo Tape or plastic sheet and two or three dimensional Braille displays.

EQUIPMENT FOR TRANSLATION INTO BRAILLE OR TACTILE DISPLAY

Price range: £70 - £695 View Braille translator software on Living made easy ► or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

Price range: £899 - £4,543 View our impartial list of Braille tactile displays ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

There are a number of services and items of equipment available that provide translation of visually presented material (text, maps, diagrams, pictures) into tactile, Braille, or Moon formats.

AUDIBLE AND TACTILE MARKINGS, LABELLING AND DISPLAYS

Price range: £6 - £35 View our impartial list of Braille labelling equipment ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

There is a range of labels available with tactile or audio output to facilitate the identification of individual items, such as tins of food.

READING AND WRITING ACCESSORIES

Reading frames

These are placed on the page to identify/isolate areas of text. They may also be designed to magnify text and/or reduce glare. In some cases an arrow indicator on the left side promotes left to right tracking.

Stationery

View our impartial list of stationery ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

Products include exercise books, notepaper, grid paper or music manuscript with raised lines. They are available in a range of sizes and/or line widths, postal bags and boxes used to send Braille manuscripts through the post.

Signature, paper and envelope guides

Price range: £1 - £10 View our impartial list of Signature, paper and envelope guides ►or call our Helpline on 0300 999 0004 for details about this equipment

These products are templates designed to help you maintain a correct writing position when using a pen or pencil. These include guides to assist you to write a letter, sign your name, or address an envelope correctly. Some banks will supply you with a guide template to assist you when writing a cheque.

 

USEFUL ORGANISATIONS


Logo of AbilityNet
AbilityNet
PO Box 94, Warwick
Warwickshire, CV34 5WS
Tel: (01926) 312847
Fax: (01926) 407425
Helpline 0800 269545
Email: enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk
Website: http://www.abilitynet.org.uk

Logo of ASSIST UK
ASSIST UK (formerly DLCC)
Regional Disabled Living Centre
Redbank House
4 St Chads Street
Manchester M8 8QA
Tel: 0161 832 9757/ 0161 832 4014
Email: general.info@assist-uk.org
Website: www.assist-uk.org

Communication Matters
Catchpell House
Carpet Lane
Edinburgh, EH6 6SP
Tel: 0845 456 8211
Fax: 0845 456 8211
Email: admin@communicationmatters.org.uk
Website:http://www.communicationmatters.org.uk

Deafblind UK National Centre for Deafblindness John and Lucille van Gesst Place Cygnet Road, Hampton Peterborough, PE6 8FD Tel:(01733) 358100 Fax:(01733) 358356 Email: info@deafblind.org.uk Website: http://www.deafblind.org.uk


Makaton 31 Firwood Drive Camberley Surrey, GU15 3QD Tel: 01276 606 760 Email: info@makaton.org Website: http://www.makaton.org


Partially Sighted Society 7/9 Bennetthorpe Doncaster DN2 6AA Tel: 0844 477 4966 Fax: 0844 477 4969 Email: info@partsight.org.uk Website: http://www.partsight.org.uk/

Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) 105 Judd Street London WC1 9NE Tel: 020 7388 1266 Fax: 020 7388 2034 Helpline: 0303 123 9999 Email: helpline@rnib.org.uk Website: www.rnib.org.uk


Skill: Information for Young Students with Disabilities Disability Rights UK 12 City Forum 250 City Road London EC1V 8AF Helpline: 0800 328 5050 Fax: 020 7247 8765 Email: skill4disabledstudents@disabilityalliance.org Website: http://www.skill.org.uk/youth/


AskSARA
If you would like further advice regarding daily living equipment related to choosing equipment for everyday living you could try relevant sections of AskSARA. AskSARA is our free online guided advice tool. AskSARA will ask you questions about yourself and your environment and then offer relevant advice, product suggestions and supplier details.

AskSARA's Communication section


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Disabled Living Foundation, Tel: 020 7289 6111, Fax: 020 7266 2922, Helpline: 0300 999 0004 10.00am-4.00pm, Email: helpline@dlf.org.uk, Website: www.dlf.org.uk Reg. Charity No: 290069, VAT Reg. No: 226 9253 54

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