Ask the Chicken: What rights do deaf people have to accessible fire alarms in hotels?

Posted on April 13, 2016

In an uncertain world, there’s one person you can turn to for dependable advice: the limping chicken, offering tips on common deaf-related problems from its Yorkshire coop. 

One of our readers asks:

Dear Chicken,

I’m deaf and I often stay in hotels and I worry about whether I’d wake up if a fire or smoke alarm went off. Do you know what deaf people’s rights are for vibrating fire alarms in hotels?

The chicken replies:

If you think that deaf people have it bad, try asking a farmer for a chicken-accessible alarm! All too often, farmers are more worried about keeping foxes out than protecting us from fire or smoke. Anyway, I digress…

From the chicken’s anecdotal experience, accessible vibrating or flashing alarms are provided in many hotels  nowadays, especially the bigger chains.

But worryingly, we still hear stories of hotel staff telling deaf people that they will “come and get you” if a fire or smoke alarm breaks out. That’s not something that tends to fill us with confidence.

Just picture it – a huge fire breaks out in the reception area of the hotel, and within minutes, people are streaming down the lifts and fire exits to safety. Can you see a staff member on the minimum wage fighting their way against the tide, upstairs to heroically break into a deaf person’s room and save them? Hmmm.

As ever, any ‘rights’ we have to accessible alarms come down to how the Equality Act 2010 is interpreted. We asked disability adviser Brian Seaman for his advice, and he told us:

The Equality Act 2010 places obligations on service providers to ‘anticipate’ the needs of disabled people.
So I guess that would include hotels providing a flashing light linked to the fire alarm in bedrooms and bathrooms in designated accessible accommodation.
I’m not aware that there has ever been a tribunal about the non-provision of this useful kit.
My advice is always to provide suitable systems to enable anyone with a hearing or sight loss to be alerted by an alarm for emergency evacuation purposes at hotels.

This would suggest that the bigger the hotel or hotel chain, the more obligation they have to anticipate that some of their customers will be deaf and make sure that they are kept safe through an accessible alarm.

The chicken suggests not leaving it to chance. When booking a hotel, find out beforehand what kind of alarms they offer and how you’d be kept safe in an emergency, and get this in writing. Then demand it, when you check in.

After all, this could be a matter of life and deaf. Sorry, death!

Sleep safe on your travels, readers.

Do you agree with the chicken’s advice? Tell us what YOU would do below!

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Posted in: ask the chicken