In the UK alone there are 11 million deaf or hard of hearing people. It is important that we understand how to support colleagues and employees who are deaf or hard of hearing, as they have a lot to add to your organisation. Supporting your colleagues does not have to be complicated or cost you much, but is vital for ensuring that they are able to do their job.
Communicating with your hard of hearing or deaf colleagues can be made easier for them in a few very simple ways. The first thing to remember is that you have to gain their attention and ensure you have it before speaking to them. If you start speaking to someone before you are sure you have their attention, they may miss the start of what you are saying. Tapping them gently on the shoulder, or waving, and ensuring you are in their line of sight, are all good ways of ensuring that you have their attention before you speak.
The second thing you can do to ensure that they understand you is to speak clearly and at your normal pace. Try not to speak with exaggerated lip movements, or raising your voice. This actually distorts the shapes that your lips make when speaking and will make it more difficult for your colleague to ready or lips. Try not to cover your lips or face either when you talk. Pens and hands are the most common culprits of this.
It is important to consider lighting and background when setting up your colleague or employees work station. Ensuring good lighting and low background noise can greatly help your deaf or hard of hearing colleague when communicating with others.
You can also ensure that their set up at their desk is adapted with simple items such as a text phone. A text phone is usually attached to a keyboard and a screen that displays messages. This allows them to work without having to worry about how to do basic things like communicate with colleagues and clients.
Check in with them
Your colleague will be the best person to tell you what they need. Check in with them when talking that they are still on the same page as you, and ask if they require training materials with closed captions, or an interpreter in meetings etc so that they can keep up better. Ensuring that they know they can rely on you for support means you will cultivate a better working relationship, where they can work more efficiently and confidently.