Supporting deaf and hard of hearing colleagues

We all have a responsibility to ensure that the University is an accessible and inclusive space for everyone. Line managers are encouraged to proactively, yet discreetly, discuss any required adjustments and communication preferences with employees.

The University provides a range of support for deaf and hard of hearing staff. Read more information from the Equality Policy Unit about Support for Disabled Staff at the University.

Types of adjustments and support available;


 Advice for line managers

Line managers can be an important source of information and support for colleagues. Below are some points to consider;

  • Provide reassurance and information to disabled staff about the range of support offered by the University to remove barriers and ensure all staff are treated equally.
  • Encourage deaf and hard of hearing employees to declare their disability on their staff record and provide opportunities during annual reviews and regular supervision meetings to discuss any requirements or reasonable adjustments. Deaf and hard of hearing employees may experience fluctuations with their condition and new situations or work duties may result in new barriers, therefore there is a need to regularly review their support needs.
  • Ensure that reasonable adjustments are discussed, agreed where appropriate, and implemented. Many adjustments will be straightforward and low cost.
  • Read the online guidance available about Deaf Awareness and encourage your colleagues to do so too.
  • Further advice can be provided by your HR manager.

 Types of adjustments and support available;

 Working environment

  • It may be helpful to change the position of a workstation for improved lighting and therefore increased visibility for visual cues and lip-reading.
  • Where possible, ask the employee if they would prefer to be positioned in an area where they can view the rest of the room with clear a line of sight for who is entering the workspace or approaching their desk. This may help to reduce feelings of isolation and improve effective communication for everyone in the team.
  • Sometimes a carefully placed mirror can help deaf and hard of hearing employees maintain visuals of the workspace behind them.
  • If your employee uses a communication professional such as a sign language interpreter, consider where they will sit and discuss these options.
  • Where possible, reduce background noise such as that made by air conditioning units, projectors and music. Soft furnishings can help to improve acoustics. Cubicles or dividing screens may be helpful for reducing noise levels in open plan workspaces, but care should be taken to ensure these do not create visual barriers.

 Assistive technology

  • It can be helpful to start by discussing with the employee what type of assistive technology they may already be using or what they have found beneficial in the past.
  • As with all employees, ask whether a personal emergency evacuation plan (PEEP) is needed and communicate any important information to fire wardens. A PEEP may result in a vibrating fire alarm pager, the installation of flashing light fire alarms and/or the appointment of a ‘buddy’ to alert a the employee when an alarm sounds.
  • It may be that equipment can be installed, such as amplified telephones or a hearing loop system, which can be beneficial for hearing aid users.
  • Sometimes a portable hearing loop, or other listening device, can be useful for deaf or hard of hearing employees when work duties take place away from their usual workspace.
  • Alternatively a smartphone can be useful to allow access to the Relay UK service, enabling deaf and hard of hearing staff to call hearing people via an assistant.
  • Bear in mind that different contexts may require the use of different types of technology and that specialist equipment may not always be needed. Smartphones, commonly used software, and built in functions can often help to enhance the accessibility of a meeting or event.
  • Where needed, Access to Work may be able to fund specialist assistive technology and equipment in the workplace.

 Interpreters

  • Deaf or hard of hearing employees may require different communication professionals depending on their needs, their preferences and the work situation.
  • Some examples of communication support finclude sign language interpreters, human captioning, lip-speakers, electronic notetakers and speech-to-text-reporters.
  • Access to Work may be able to fund communication support in the workplace.
  • Find out more about how to book British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters for your meeting or event.

 Access to Work

  • Disabled staff can request a workplace assessment with Access to Work. This is a Government scheme that can fund specialised assistive technology, equipment, communication support and can recommend reasonable adjustments.
  • Even if an employee has an Access to Work agreement from a previous role, they should request a new assessment when moving to a new role so that any changes to the environment and their duties can be considered for potential new barriers.
  • Access to Work may also be able to cover the cost of Deaf Awareness training for your team so colleagues can understand how best to support deaf and hard of hearing staff.
  • In addition to Access to Work, the University’s Occupational Health Service provides confidential advice and guidance to employees and managers. They also offer work-place assessments, including advice on temporary or permanent adjustments.

 Health and Wellbeing

  • Encourage employees to consult their GP or the University Occupational Health Service if they are concerned they may be developing hearing loss e.g. difficulties using the phone, communication challenges in meetings.
  • Ensure deaf and hard of hearing employees are aware of the range of mental health and wellbeing support offered by the University.