Grand Central Enhances Accessibility with New SmartLoop Hearing Solution

Grand Central Enhances Accessibility with New SmartLoop Hearing Solution

In an exciting move to enhance accessibility, Grand Central Shopping Centre in Toowoomba has recently acquired a Portable SmartLoop Counter Hearing Augmentation System from LoopMe by Better Hearing Australia.

This acquisition marks a significant step towards making the centre more inclusive and user-friendly for individuals with hearing loss.

The SmartLoop will improve communication between staff and Centre visitors with T-Coil hearing aid functionality.

The Journey to Enhanced Accessibility

Feedback from disability advocates highlighting the need for a hearing augmentation solution influenced the decision to install a telecoil hearing loop.

Georgina Bayly, Community Relations Manager at Grand Central, explained, “We had spoken to several disability advocates that pointed out that we didn’t have any options for those with hearing loss, and so we started investigating the technology and how we might be able to get one installed.”

Consultations with an audiologist working at the centre led to the exploration of different telecoil technology options.

The discovery of an article about the Portable SmartLoop at Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads customer service centres, also provided by Better Hearing Australia, spurred further action.

“I thought if they can do it across the state, surely we can get one for our customer service desk,” Bayly added.

This proactive approach culminated in reaching out to BHA and setting the wheels in motion for the acquisition.

Overcoming Challenges

The large and noisy shopping centre environment and limited knowledge about hearing loss posed barriers in providing accessibility for individuals with hearing loss at Grand Central.

However, the portable hearing loop presented a quick, effective, and impactful solution.

“The portable hearing loop was a high-impact piece of technology that we could acquire quite quickly,” noted Bayly.

Enhancing the Shopping Experience with Hearing Loops

Introducing the portable hearing loop has already begun transforming the shopping experience at Grand Central.

This device significantly improves the ability of visitors with hearing loss to access assistance at the customer service desk despite the loud ambient noise.

“This is something that they did not have access to before here, and so they may never have been able to seek assistance within the centre,” Bayly said.

Early feedback from users has been overwhelmingly positive with one user commenting, “The speaking sounds were extremely clear, and the loop cut out all the background noise so she could very clearly hear staff.”

Commitment to Community and Accessibility

The hearing loop installation aligns perfectly with Grand Central’s commitment to corporate social responsibility and community engagement.

Bayly emphasised, “The portable hearing loop fits well into Grand Central’s Community Action Plan, where we are working toward several goals across key areas including health and wellness; culture and inclusion, education, and social welfare.”

Centre Manager Tracey Ford echoed this sentiment, highlighting the centre’s dedication to accessibility. “The portable hearing loop will benefit those in the community who may not have been able to seek assistance from our customer service team in the past due to the external noise of the environment,” she said. “We are proud to have worked with Better Hearing Australia to find a solution for the betterment of our centre.”

Shopping centre team and BHA representative at the hearing loop handover

Tony Whelan, BHA Business Manager with the Grand Central team at the hearing loop handover.

Looking Ahead

Grand Central is committed to continuing its efforts to enhance accessibility and inclusivity.

Working closely with local disability advocates, the centre aims to create an inviting and enjoyable environment for all visitors.

“Although we comply with the Australian standards, we want to make the centre more enjoyable and easier for all to utilise. It may take us some time, and we cannot do everything at once, but we are working on it each day,” Bayly concluded.

The acquisition of the SmartLoop Portable Counter is a testament to Grand Central’s dedication to improving the shopping experience for everyone, especially the one in six Australians experiencing hearing loss. As Bayly stated, “BHA has been great to work with and assist us in increasing accessibility at Grand Central. The portable SmartLoop has been a fantastic piece of technology to introduce to the centre, and we think it will benefit our community well in the coming years.”

With this innovative step, Grand Central Shopping Centre continues to lead by example, fostering a more inclusive community where everyone can enjoy a seamless and supportive shopping experience.

Accessibility Action Commended

With 1 in 6 Australians experiencing hearing loss, BHA’s Business Manager Tony Whelan commended Grand Central for this initiative.

“The portable SmartLoop Counter Pack is a quick win with meaningful impact for all businesses where face-to-face communication is integral to the customer service experience,” Whelan said.

“Working to provide better accessibility for the large cohort of Queenslanders with hearing loss is always commendable, and we congratulate Grand Central on their swift action to acquire and install the system.”

BHA Brisbane, a not-for-profit organisation, was established in 1946 by members of the local community who were hard of hearing and couldn’t find the support they were looking for in existing services.

BHA Brisbane maintains this strong self-help philosophy and draws on the value of lived experience in all its services, from informal, volunteer-led support groups to comprehensive workplace training programs.

BHA provides portable and permanent hearing augmentation solutions through LoopMe by BHA. Contact us today to increase accessibility for your customers and clients.

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