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RNID guidelines for DDA speak louder than words

The deadline for organisations to be compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act (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.

RNID, the largest charity representing the nine million deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK, is helping businesses ‘take reasonable steps’ stipulated by the DDA by drawing up 13 cost-efficient criteria which can easily be implemented. RNID is confident that by fully following these guidelines, organisations will meet their obligations under the DDA for deaf and hard of hearing customers and staff.

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Organisations meeting these criteria could be awarded an RNID Louder than Words kite mark. This logo will brand the organisation deaf friendly and highlight to one in seven of the public with a degree of hearing loss that they can confidently do business with you.

1. Train staff to communicate effectively with deaf and hard of hearing people

If frontline staff do not have basic deaf-aware skills, it is giving the impression that the service or product you offer will not consider their needs either.

There are a number of deaf and disability awareness training courses available. The RNID has been funded to run free training for small businesses. Information on whether your organisation is eligible is available from 020 7296 8060 or training.services@rnid.org.uk.

In addition, the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACPD) runs disability awareness courses and
e-learning programmes and further information is available at www.cacdp.org.uk.

Communication tips

If you're deaf or hard of hearing

  • Have you thought about learning to lipread? Everyone lipreads to some extent, especially in noisy places.
  • Be open. Tell the person you're speaking to that you lipread, before you start a conversation.
  • Ask people to get your attention before they start talking to you.
  • Don't stand too far away from the person who's speaking to you.
  • Try to keep calm and don't panic. If you become anxious or flustered, it might be harder for you to follow what's being said.
  • If your hearing isn't the same in both ears, try turning your better side towards the person speaking to you.
  • If you don't catch what someone says first of all, don't be afraid to ask them to repeat it or say it in a different way.
  • If necessary, ask people to slow down and speak more clearly.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself. No one hears correctly all the time.
  • Make sure you can see the speaker's face and lips. Their gestures and facial expressions will help you understand what they're saying.

If you're speaking to someone who's deaf

  • Even if someone is wearing a hearing aid, it doesn't mean that they can hear you. Ask if they need to lipread you.
  • Make sure you have the listener's attention before you start speaking.
  • Speak clearly but not too slowly, and don't exaggerate your lip movements.
    Use natural facial expressions and gestures.
  • If you're talking to a deaf person and a hearing person, don't just focus on the hearing person.
  • Don't shout. It's uncomfortable for a hearing aid user and it looks aggressive.
  • If someone doesn't understand what you've said, don't just keep repeating it. Try saying it in a different way.
  • Find a suitable place to talk, with good lighting, away from noise and distractions.
  • Remember not to turn your face away from a deaf person. Always turn back to your listener so they can see your face.
  • Check that the person you're talking to can follow you. Be patient and take the time to communicate properly.
  • Use plain language and don't waffle. Avoid jargon and unfamiliar abbreviations.

A nicely formatted two-page .pdf document containing the communication tips listed above can be downloaded for printing from the RNID website.

2. Prepare a clear, visible and easy-to-read 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 (see point 7) is available. RNID provides a consultancy service to help organisations review policies to ensure they are inclusive.

3. Provide easily available and accessible information about products and services

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 very 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. RNID can also provide advice to organisations who would like to make their websites more user-friendly.

4. Install appropriate equipment correctly and regularly update and test it

There is a range of equipment that could greatly improve deaf people’s experience of the organisation. For example, induction loops make hearing aids more effective and further information is available from the RNID website. These need not be expensive and a portable loop system costs as little as £140.

Other technologies are available as well as equipment to help with safety requirements such as flashing fire alarms. A list of equipment organisations can consider is available from the RNID website.

5. Ensure a good listening environment which is well signed and well lit

Many deaf and hard of hearing people rely to some extent on lip reading and by placing the light in front of a reception area could improve the environment for lip reading. Offering a quite meeting room, away from an open plan office, will help reduce background noise for person wearing 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 whenever possible

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.

The RNID Information Line can give further advice on the full range of communication support available and the best option in a given situation.

8. Be aware of RNID Typetalk, the telephone relay service funded by BT, to give a choice of telephone access

RNID Typetalk provides a free service which links deaf or hard of hearing person using a textphone to a hearing person using an ordinary phone.

A highly trained 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.

For further information on Typetalk, how to join for free and how to obtain a textphone, please e-mail: helpline@rnid-typetalk.org.uk, call 0800 500 888 (textphone), 0800 7311 888 (voice) or visit the Typetalk website

9. Continuously consult deaf people about the quality and extent of the organisation’s deaf awareness

RNID can undertake a poll amongst staff and customers on behalf of an organisation. Alternatively, RNID can provide a template of survey questions for organisations to carry out the poll themselves.

10. Ensure information about employment opportunities is readily available and fully accessible

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 by placing jobs on http://groups.yahoo.com/group/deaf-uk-jobs/

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. Deaf applicants apply for it under this government funding scheme 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-time 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.

Information with advice and information for employers can also be downloaded from the RNID website.

RNID offers free deaf and disability awareness training to small businesses. This helps ensure that staff do not inadvertently discriminate against disabled colleagues and customers due to misunderstandings of what disability is. It also encourages managers to think for themselves what they could individually do to make their area of work more accessible.

13. Equal access to professional development and promotion opportunities

Applications for promotion should be encouraged for all members of staff and any adverts should be easily accessible to all.

If organisations would like to gauge how close they are to meeting deaf-aware requirements, RNID can assess them on all the above points for only £500. Once an organisation has acted on all the recommendations RNID makes, they could be eligible for a Louder than Words kitemark which, at a glance, tells the UK’s nine million deaf and hard of hearing people that their experience of the organisation will be a positive one.

For further information please call 0207 296 8060 (voice and textphone) or e-mail training.services@rnid.org.uk.

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