Colleagues can feel anxious or unsure about how to communicate with someone with hearing loss in their team, which can result in colleagues with hearing loss being excluded – both during meetings and social interaction. Deaf awareness training and, if applicable, basic sign language training, would be extremely beneficial for all team members who will be working with someone with hearing loss on a regular basis.
Action on Hearing Loss runs a wide variety of sign language and deaf awareness training course across the UK that can help build staff confidence and enable staff to develop the skills they need to communicate with people who are deaf or have hearing loss. Training can sometimes be paid for by Access to Work.
Simple communication techniques, such as speaking clearly and not covering your mouth when speaking, should be used by all those working with staff who are deaf or have hearing loss.
Sign language involves a combination of hand shapes and movements, lip patterns, facial expressions and shoulder movements. It has its own grammar and is structured in a completely different way from English.
If you work with someone whose first language is British Sign Language or Irish Sign Language (BSL/ISL), it means a lot to be able to learn a few signs. We've put the finger spelling alphabet below.
The important thing about using sign language, like learning any new language, is to not be afraid to give it a go. Your colleague who uses sign language will greatly appreciate you trying, even if you get something wrong.
If an employee who uses sign language joins your organisation then it can be really useful to organise sign language training so that your team can get the basics. Action on Hearing Loss runs BSL training. Also see our section on communication support.