A person unable to walk is clearly and visibly disabled. Someone who is blind is equally clearly disabled. But people afflicted by whole range of invisible disabilities – from tinnitus to GAD (general anxiety disorder), from misophonia and dystonia to autism, from presbycusis to hyperacusis to ME – often do not appear disabled. Yet in important ways they are. For such people piped music is no mere irritant but a crippling torment. This applies also to those with general hearing problems (one in six of the population, according to Action on Hearing Loss). All these people in effect suffer from an Invisible Disability. And almost nothing is being done for them. Recent moves to provide the odd Quiet Hour by ASDA and Morrisons are still little more than tokenism. Many organisations, from banks to hospitals to restaurants, are arguably breaking existing law.
According to the Department for Work and Pensions, the Equality Act of 2010 “requires service providers to make a reasonable adjustment for disabled people to make sure that they are not places at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people. This may include such actions are accommodating requests for communications to be conducted in a particular format. A failure by a service provider to make reasonable adjustment for a disabled person could amount to direct disability discrimination under the Act. (My italics.) What is ‘reasonable’ will vary from one situation to another because of factors such as the practicality of making the adjustment, the cost of the adjustment and the resources available to different providers.”
As the cost of adjusting – i.e. turning off – piped music is almost nil, and it is very easy, there seems no valid reason why all organisations should not be expected to turn off their piped music when requested to do so. Those who fail to do so are guilty of discrimination.
The DWP adds: “If a person feels they have been discriminated against, the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) provides free bespoke advice and in depth support to individuals with discrimination concerns.” The EASS can be contacted: email@example.com or Freephone 0808 800 0082 or FREEPOST EASS HELPLINE FPN 6521
The DWP concludes: “The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has a monitoring and enforcement role in relation to the Equality Act 2010. It has a power to enforce a breach of any of the Act’s provisions, including the disability discrimination provisions, and to challenge organisations where required.”
Any individuals who fall into one of the ‘invisibly disabled’ categories ought to challenge places with piped music, utilising this and other information. Do tell Pipedown of your experiences – setbacks as well as victories – so that we can collate information and approach the Department of Health and the Noise Team at DEFRA with our findings.
(Many thanks to Anne Brown who winkled out this information and suggested the phrase.)