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Launch of a new helpful app for train users with hearing loss in Wales

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TRANSPORT FOR WALES (TfW) has trialled a new onboard digital service providing passengers with hearing loss with personalised journey information announcements.

The Hearing Enhanced Audio Relay (HEAR) application was successfully tested on TfW trains on the Rhymney – Penarth route for two months, with the aim of improving the journeys of passengers with hearing loss.

The application enables passengers connected to the onboard Wi-Fi to receive personalised journey announcements to their smart devices in real-time. These notifications can be specifically tailored to passengers’ preferences, for example only informing them of announcements relating to their destination, in both audible and readable formats. HEAR was funded by the Department for Transport through its £9m ‘First of a Kind 2021’ competition, delivered by Innovate UK (part of UKRI).

New train app to assist travellers with hearing loss in Wales

Michael Davies, Insight and Innovation Manager at Transport for Wales, said: “We are committed to making our network as accessible as possible. Working with GoMedia on HEAR has given us the opportunity to test a solution that could provide huge benefits to customers and encourage people to choose rail.”

It is estimated one in six people in the UK adult population is affected by hearing loss[1] and by 2031, 14.5 million people, approximately 20% of the UK population, will suffer from some form of hearing loss[2]. Over 60% of passengers with accessibility needs struggle to make their journeys independently, making it more important than ever for public transport to be more accessible for all passengers.

Roger Matthews, GoMedia’s Managing Director, added: “HEAR offers a more versatile and cost-efficient solution to installing expensive hearing loops on trains. The benefits of the solution also extend beyond improving accessibility for passengers with hearing loss – The app itself is customisable, supports multiple languages, and can give passengers an overview of previously made announcements and delay information updates, making it a useful tool for all passengers, where they are visiting from abroad, or would just like to relax on their journey without having to worry about listening out for announcements.”

GoMedia – a subsidiary of Icomera and of EQUANS – developed the technology with support from charities Hearing Link and Hearing Dogs with the aim of alleviating the difficulties passengers with accessibility needs face, using purpose-designed technology powered by real-time information.

A survey of 58 people with hearing loss conducted by charities Hearing Link and Hearing Dogs found that 96% would love to have a solution like HEAR implemented on public transport as currently, only 7% were somewhat confident that they would be made aware of changes and disruptions during their journey, while only 16% felt they were treated equally compared to people without hearing loss.

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Miracle pup finds her forever home after heart-wrenching journey

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AERIAL, a remarkable six-legged spaniel, has captured hearts worldwide, culminating in her adoption this week. Found abandoned in a Pembrokeshire car park and famously nicknamed after Disney’s Little Mermaid due to her unique condition, Ariel’s journey from despair to joy is nothing short of miraculous.

In September 2023, the then 11-week-old puppy was discovered outside a B&M store in a neglected state. Suffering from severe physical anomalies including two extra hind limbs and an additional vulva, Ariel faced daunting challenges. A subsequent medical examination revealed a more complicated internal scenario: a missing kidney and a malformed pelvis that jeopardised her mobility.

Despite the grim prognosis, Ariel’s plight touched many, leading to a worldwide fundraising campaign that raised approximately £15,000. These funds enabled her to undergo critical surgeries at Langford Vets Small Animal Referral Hospital, Somerset, where surgeons successfully removed the surplus limbs and preserved her four functional ones.

“Both procedures went well, and remarkably, Ariel was walking and eating by the next day,” explained Mikey Lawlor, founder of Greenacres Rescue, where Ariel was rehabilitated. “It was crucial that we avoided any post-operative infections, but she’s been in the best hands,” he added, reflecting on the complexities of her care.

Ariel’s recovery was supported by numerous vet visits, specialised surgeries, and extensive physiotherapy. Her resilience and endearing character garnered media attention globally, from radio and television appearances to newspaper features, highlighting her inspirational battle for a normal life.

“We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Ariel has been officially adopted,” announced a recent post by Greenacres Rescue. “Her journey of transformation from a discarded pup to a beloved family pet has been extraordinary.”

The post also extended a heartfelt thank you to June, Ariel’s dedicated foster mother, whose relentless support was pivotal during the rehabilitation process. “June’s care and energy have been instrumental in Ariel’s recovery,” the rescue centre noted.

Surgeon Aaron Lutchman, who led Ariel’s medical team, remarked on her progress, “She’s bounced back and is a happy little dog. We hope she goes on to lead a fabulous life.”

As Ariel embarks on this new chapter with her adoptive family, her story remains a profound testament to the power of community support and the unwavering spirit of animals overcoming adversity. Greenacres Rescue encapsulates this sentiment in their message, “Ariel is symbolic of everything we stand for—love, hope, and the chance for a new beginning.”

For further updates on Ariel and other rescue stories, follow Greenacres Rescue on their social media platforms.

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Burned down hotel to be used for social housing

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A SCHEME to build 38 affordable and social housing units on the site of the fire-ravaged former Cleddau Bridge Hotel, Pembroke Dock is expected to be backed by senior Pembrokeshire councillors next week.

Members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, meeting on April 22, are recommended to support a contract with developer Castell Group Ltd for the mix of affordable homes and social housing units at the site, with the actual contract details expected to be discussed in a private and confidential session.

A report for members ahead of the meeting says: “The potential development site on the former Cleddau Bridge Hotel site, Pembroke Dock has been up for sale for some time, and its purchase by Castell Group Ltd (‘Castell’) is now imminent.

“Following completion of their purchase, Castell will submit an application for planning consent to develop the land for affordable and social housing. It would see the development of a high-profile site with visual impact on surrounding areas that has sat dormant for many years.”

Castell has approached the housing service to determine whether there is an interest in working with them to bring forward the development as a housing site, the report says.

Castell Construction Ltd, the delivery arm of Castell, specialises in the construction of affordable / social housing, typically for registered social landlords across south Wales.

An initial proposal says the development, if backed, would see 12 one-bedroom flats, 15 two-bed houses, five three-bed, two four-bed, and four two-bed bungalows, the report adding: “This site would help towards both the council’s 300 new home target and also Welsh Government’s 20,000 new homes target.”

It adds: “The proposal by Castell Construction Ltd is for a development programme of 18 months following planning permission being secured. Castell Construction Ltd estimate commencing the development in March 2025, which would mean completion in autumn 2026.”

Delegation of the decision to enter into the works contract to the Director for Social Services and Housing is sought, and Cabinet is also being asked to delegate the decision to proceed with the land acquisition to the Assistant Chief Executive.

The development package would be part-funded from the housing revenue account, the remainder from the Social Housing Grant and/or second homes premium for affordable housing if it becomes available for the Housing Service to use in this manner.

The proposals would be subjected to an as-yet unsubmitted planning application; if granted Castell Construction Ltd hopes to start the development in March 2025, finishing in autumn 2026.

In 2023, an unrelated application by a different applicant, to demolish the remnants of the hotel and replace it with a care home was approved.

In a prime location at one of the entrances to Pembroke Dock the former Cleddau Bridge Hotel has been derelict since a fire in March 2019, which brought emergency services from as far afield as Ammanford, Aberystwyth and Swansea.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service previously said the fire was started by a deliberate act.

Following a fire investigation, Dyfed-Powys Police said they found there to be insufficient evidence to identify a suspect.

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Tesco shoppers in Pembs called to help raise funds for food allergy charity

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SHOPPERS in Pembrokeshire are being encouraged to help an in-store fundraising campaign from Monday 22nd to Sunday 28th April to support medical research into food allergies.

For the fifth year running, Tesco is working with The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, the UK’s food allergy charity, to help raise awareness and support clinical research into food allergies by contributing 10p from every own brand Free From product bought in stores and online, as well as providing customers with the opportunity to round up their shopping at self-service tills throughout the week.

All money raised will help Natasha’s Foundation to continue its research into reducing the risks of food allergies and further developments into the management of allergies.

In addition to the funds being raised, the campaign aims to increase awareness in Pembrokeshire about the importance of understanding food allergies and clearly highlighting ingredients in food which can cause allergic reactions.

Natasha’s Foundation was founded in 2019 by Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse following the tragic loss of their daughter Natasha who had a fatal allergic reaction to a baguette that contained sesame seeds that were not listed on the packaging.

Tanya Ednan-Laperouse OBE, said: “We’re thrilled that Tesco is supporting us for the fifth year running. Allergen awareness is so important, and money raised in previous years has helped to fund clinical research exploring the management of food allergies.”

Oonagh Turnbull, Head of Health Campaigns at Tesco, said: “The work that Natasha’s Foundation has done to date has been fantastic and we are delighted to be able to support this for a fifth year.

“There are now 175 products in our Free From range, from meals and desserts to snacks, all created with great taste but without any of the allergens. We welcome any shoppers in Pembrokeshire to try these products or kindly round up their shopping at the self-service tills to help raise money for a fantastic cause.”

Natasha’s Foundation is committed to raising awareness and funds for critical food allergy research. But the real impact of the charity’s work lies in the lives it can change.

Millions of people live with food allergies in the UK and must navigate a world where seemingly simple acts, like grabbing a quick bite to eat, can become fraught with danger. It can affect anyone, at any age.

Billie Hoque, a commercial manager for a maritime security company, from Luton, has three allergic children – Jess, aged 7, Jude, 4, and Jayde, three months.

Billie, 35, said: “Food allergies first entered our lives when my son Jess was born in February 2017. From birth, Jess was presenting symptoms of allergies, yet I didn’t know it at the time. His constant discomfort and breathing troubles led to numerous doctor visits only to be dismissed as new-mum worries, and I felt unheard and alone.

“The switch from breastmilk to formula was a turning point. After initial acceptance, Jess refused all feeds for three days. When he finally ate, he became violently ill and struggled to breathe. Calls to an emergency doctor offered little help, and when he was prescribed “thicker milk” it triggered a terrifying reaction. This was his first anaphylactic reaction, and the first time the doctor diagnosed him as having a severe milk protein allergy.

“The loneliness and isolation I felt from becoming an allergy parent were all-consuming. The family and friends who I had been closest to, quickly became the ones who made me feel the most alone. They didn’t understand or seem to take seriously what I was going through.

Billie continued: “Life changed for me in June 2021 when I found The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation. I found a community – parents united by the fight for awareness. Meeting Nadim and Tanya, who lost their daughter Natasha to allergies, laid bare the heartbreaking truth of this condition. Yet, their strength resonated deeply.

“Though every single allergy story and experience shared through Natasha’s Foundation was different, the community all had one thing in common; we understood the fear, the loneliness, and the exhaustion of the continuous battling needed to keep our children alive. This community transformed me. No longer alone, I found strength and inspiration among these incredible people.

“Today, my purpose is clear. With this supportive network and a collective voice, we can raise awareness and fight for a future free from food allergies. This journey not only saved my sons, but it has also saved me too. I’d urge everyone to support the fantastic work of The Natasha Allergy Research Foundation and their goal of making food allergies history through research and raising awareness of food allergies.

“Tesco’s Free From range offers my children a chance to be included in all the tasty treats other children enjoy. Their clear labelling on the front of the packaging is not only helpful to me but is easy enough for my 7-year-old to clearly see that a food is safe for him. This limits the anxiety he has around eating new foods.”

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