Loblaw: Looped In

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By Natalie Wilkinson

Do you know what a hearing loop is?

I sure didn’t until a couple of years ago, when I needed to use the technology to fully enjoy a play on a school trip. I did not even know what a T-coil was.

So, I went to my audiologist, asking about hearing loops and if my hearing aids came with T-coils; they sure did!

The experience was amazing: background noise was reduced so I could hear the actors’ voices better.

I figured, why aren’t more places equipped with hearing loops? I couldn’t tell you!

When I joined CHHA as their Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) Assistant, I was so excited to help implement hearing technology for Canadians. I did not realize how incredible hearing loops can be in everyday situations. In July, I was asked to join the HAT Group with Marc and Stephanie to assist them on an installation visit at Loblaw’s headquarters in Brampton, Ontario.

ABLE at Loblaw

Loblaw is a huge corporation. I did not realize how many of my favourite places to shop were under the brand, such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Fortinos, and Superstore.

Figure 1- Hearing loop signs showing that you can use T-coil here.

They’re also committed to accessibility! They have policies in place centred around equal access and accessibility training. Plus, they are incredibly open to feedback about how they can improve their standards for disability accommodation and access in their consumer stores and employee work sites.

This makes me 100 times more likely to shop at these stores knowing they care so much about folks like me and they put action behind their commitments.

ABLE is a division within Loblaw committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This division has worked with CHHA and the HAT group to launch a pilot program to install hearing loops in multiple store locations and their headquarters.

Figure 2- ABLE at Loblaws signage showing hearing loops in the HQ lobby

During installation day, we spoke to many Loblaw members, and it was so heartwarming to see how excited everyone is about making accessible and inclusive spaces.

We installed hearing loops at their sandwich bar, convenience counter
(“C shop”), and both lobbies, so anyone entering Loblaw’s HQ can see the hearing loop signs and ask about it, increasing conversations about inclusivity and promoting public awareness about available hearing technology.

The pilot program has also launched loops in various Ontario Loblaw locations in Ottawa, St. Catherine’s, Rockland, and Ridgeway.

Marc Gagnon from the HAT group, who installs these devices, commented on ABLE at Loblaw’s commitment to accessibility:

“Over the past year, we have seen more and more organizations install one-to-one hearing loops, making their service counters accessible for people that are hard of hearing. The commitment to installing hearing loops in various Loblaw stores is evidence of this – the Able at Loblaw resource group is most certainly executing on their accessibility plan.”

Gaining Independence

I feel like I can talk for hours about the benefits of loops, but the key highlight for me is the independence they provide.

As a hard of hearing individual, I must ensure I have someone with me when doing important things such as receiving instructions from a doctor or therapist. When I travel, I’m constantly being worried not being able to hear the announcements in the airport. What if I miss my flight!?

Everyday activities such as going to the movies, using the train, or going to dinner with my friends can be difficult.

I think you can see where I am going with this.

Hearing loops can provide solutions for all of these situations! There are various hearing loop solutions depending on your needs.

Within Loblaw, we are installing are 1:1 loops, so conversations with customer service representatives, receptionists, and cashiers aren’t a stress point during a Hard of Hearing individual’s day.

These loops are very low maintenance and T- coils are highly universal.

Hearing loops remove barriers to my independence, allowing me to do something as simple as ordering a sandwich become stress-free in a noisy environment.

So, will you be looped in?

Learn more here: www.getinthehearingloop.ca