A lack of deaf awareness amongst employers and society at large is holding people with hearing loss back by creating unnecessary barriers, and it is costing the UK economy £24.8 billion. During Deaf Awareness Week (15-21 May) the UK national charity Action on Hearing Loss highlights simple and cost-effective ways of making the work environment more hearing-loss friendly.
Despite the fact that employers are legally obliged to make any reasonable adjustments to support people in the workplace, the charity’s Working For Change report shows how many lack both the awareness and the confidence to employ someone who is deaf or has hearing loss.
Paul Breckell, Chief Executive at Action on Hearing Loss, says: “Our research strongly suggests there are a number of barriers preventing people who are deaf or have hearing loss from gaining and remaining in employment. There are almost five million people of working age in the UK who have some form of hearing loss, and with people working later on in life, it’s vital that attitudes change.
“During Deaf Awareness Week we’ve been highlighting a number of ways people with deafness and hearing loss can overcome barriers they face in different situations. When employers invest in equipment and deaf awareness training for themselves and other staff members, people with hearing loss can thrive.
“Small changes can have a big impact and we want to encourage everyone this week to consider things they can do to enable people with deafness and hearing loss. Having people retire early or give up work because their hearing loss is not accommodated is costly to businesses and the country at large.”
Reasonable adjustments employers can make include simply adjusting the layout of meeting rooms and workspaces to help aid lipreading, allowing employees to correspond solely through email, installing equipment such as amplified phones and loop systems, and having provision for communication support, such as speech-to-text reporters.
Businesses are also encouraged to offer staff Work-Based Assessments, which can be provided through the government’s Access to Work scheme and through Action on Hearing Loss. A specialist assessor will look into each employee’s unique communication needs and will recommend the most appropriate support and equipment in a detailed report.
The charity’s research found that 63% of business leaders had never heard of the Government’s Access to Work scheme, a publicly funded support programme aiming to help more disabled people start or stay in work by providing practical and financial support where someone needs help or adaptations.