RNID, a charity representing nine million deaf and hard of hearing in the UK offers its guidelines to help businesses ‘take reasonable steps’ to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) regulations.
The deadline for organisations to be compliant with the DDA is upon us. Many organisations remain in the dark about their obligations under the Act and it is not until discrimination cases are brought to court, that the requirement for ‘reasonable adjustment’ will be tested.
The RNID guidelines offer practical steps to help businesses comply with aspects of the DDA regulations. For those who meet the criteria, the RNID are offering a ‘Louder than Words’ kite mark, branding compliant organisations as ‘deaf friendly’.
If frontline staff do not have basic deaf-aware skills, it gives the impression that the service or product you offer will not consider their needs.
There are a number of deaf and disability awareness training courses available.
RNID has been funded to run free training for small businesses. Telephone 020 7296 8060 to find out more or email [email protected]
The Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACPD) also runs disability awareness courses and e-learning programmes and further information is available at CACPD
2.Prepare a deaf aware policy
Sound policies can protect an organisation by providing clear and consistent guidelines for staff to follow.
Organisations should review all their policies such as customer charters and equal opportunity policies to ensure that accessibility for disabled people is included wherever possible.
This could for example be a clause saying that communications support is available.
3.Provide accessible information
For many people who use sign language, English is a second language with a completely different grammar. Complex sentences and difficult vocabulary will isolate many deaf people.
Organisations can easily make information accessible by keeping all written material in plain English, making provision for contact by e-mail and ensuring that advertisements are not exclusively on the radio.
There is a range of equipment that can improve deaf people’s experience of an organisation. For example, induction loops make hearing aids more effective.
Other technologies are available as well as equipment to help with safety requirements including flashing fire alarms.
5.Ensure a good listening environment is available
Many deaf and hard of hearing people rely to some extent on lip reading. By placing a light in front of a reception area the environment for lip reading is improved. Offering a quiet meeting room, away from an open plan office, will help reduce background noise for persons with hearing aids.
This is something that can cost organisations very little while making a dramatic difference to the experience a deaf person has of the organisation.
6.Establish clear health and safety procedures
Any warning signal such as a fire alarm, needs to be visual as well, such as with a flashing light.
All health and safety procedures must be written in plain English and as far as possible, illustrated as well. Emergency exits should be clearly marked. This would obviously be beneficial to all customers and staff and not just those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
7.Meet requests for communication support
Communication support for deaf people does not always necessitate a sign language interpreter. There is a range of communication support available that organisations can offer:
* Video interpreting: Anyone with access to a videophone and ISDN2 Line can book a video interpreter at very short notice to translate sign language into English.
* Electronic notetakers: They type a summary of what is being said on a computer. This information appears on a screen in front of the deaf person who can then read it.
* Speech-to-text reporter: They offer a full word-for-word report of what is being said using a system similar to a Stenograph.
8.Consider a telephone system
RNID Typetalk provides a free service which links deaf or hard of hearing persons using a textphone to a hearing person using an ordinary phone.
An RNID Typetalk operator relays the textphone user’s typed message in speech to the hearing person and types what is said back to the textphone user.
Ordinary phone users dial direct using the 18002 prefix before the number of the person they would like to speak to and RNID Typetalk Operator joins the line to relay the conversation.
9.Consult with stakeholders
Carry out frequent consultations with stakeholders about the quality and extent of your businesses deaf awareness programme.
10.Audit recruitment policies
Employers should ensure that recruitment opportunities are advertised with an e-mail and well as a telephone number. In addition, employers could look to target deaf people specifically.
11.Provide communication support when being interviewed for a job
Under the Access to Work programme, deaf people can apply for free communication support when being interviewed for a job. The scheme is run by Jobcentre Plus.
It provides financial assistance towards the extra costs of employing someone with a disability. It is available to unemployed, employed and self-employed people and can apply to any job, full or part-time, permanent or temporary.
12.Provide supervision and support from a line manager who is deaf aware
RNID offers a free ‘Don’t Panic Pack’ giving employers advice on recruiting and developing deaf and hard of hearing employees. This gives straight-forward and practical advice with case studies and contact details of useful organisations.
Applications for promotion should be encouraged for all members of staff and any adverts should be easily accessible to all.