The 4th May to the 9th May heralded Deaf Awareness Week, which is an annual event aimed to raise awareness of deafness but also "acquired deafness", which relates to people who lose hearing during their life (as opposed to being born with hearing loss or deafness).
Over the past year of pandemic pandemonium, you may be forgiven for looking past certain things: bad haircuts, unexpecting pets in zoom calls, and other associated eccentricities that have presented themselves since the working world was upended over a year ago. However, as we inch back to a sense of normality and potentially begin re-entering an office environment and face-to-face contact, it is important to remember to be receptive to both colleagues and customers/clients who may have hearing loss and deafness, which is classified as a hidden disability.
In the UK alone there are millions of people living with some form of hearing loss, ranging from mild to profound. The challenges faced by these individuals can be great, as when your ability to communicate is impacted, your working life or ability to engage with others in general can be altered.
At Foot Anstey LLP we were visited recently by Simon Houghton, Deaf Awareness advocate and founder of a deaf awareness campaign designed to promote knowledge of this area and train organisations. The #WeSupportDeafAwareness campaign provides hearing/deaf awareness training to staff and helps improve awareness of our own communication skills and also those of others.
What should an employer do?
Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace for disabled employees, as set out in the Equality Act 2010.
Reasonable adjustments could include modifying a job to account for the needs of an individual with hearing loss and will be dependent on the resources your business has (or is expected to have). However, being inclusive goes beyond merely ticking the box under the legal rules. By making your business an attractive and welcoming place for all people, you could increase your ability to hire talent and allow staff to reach their full potential.
Here are some simple steps that an employer can adopt in respect to creating an inclusive workplace for those who are deaf/hard of hearing:
If an employee or customer/client is struggling to keep track in meetings (whether virtual or in-person) consider the following simple steps: