By Dan Williams.
Dan Williams is the Founding Director of BDF Member Visualise Training and Consultancy – the workplace accessibility and inclusion experts. In this blog, he looks at how challenges faced by employees with hearing loss or visual impairment can be overcome.
Hearing loss, deafness, tinnitus and sight loss affect 14 million people in the UK. Being fully aware and catering for the requirements of any staff members with additional needs is essential for inclusive employers.
As these disabilities are often invisible, employers need to be aware of the barriers colleagues may face, so speaking openly about how hearing or sight loss affects their ability to work is vital.
This may cause inhibition, embarrassment and anxiety – it is common for employees to pretend all is fine and to understate the effects.
Encouraging employees to speak out in a relaxed face-to-face environment helps.
Hearing and sight checks should accompany regular staff health reviews in a reassuring way to communicate that support is available. If any changes to hearing levels or sight are identified, employees may need to be granted time off to attend follow-up appointments.
When conducting online or face-to-face Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessments, do you ask employees if they experience hearing or sight difficulties? With hearing loss, these may include problems with background noise, hearing on the phone or in meetings and not hearing the fire alarm when in isolated areas such as bathrooms and stairwells. Sight loss challenges may include difficulties with reading small print or text on the screen, glare, dry eyes and increased instances of trips and falls.
For most employees with one or more of the above conditions, there should be no need to change jobs as extensive support and adjustments are available.
A workplace assessment will identify any issues that may be worrying an employee and the follow-up report will recommend implementing often quite simple adjustments to ensure employees can perform their roles more effectively.
As you’ll know, employers are under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that employees with health-related barriers can perform their roles without unfair disadvantages.
Employers are sometimes concerned about this, expecting dramatic change and huge costs, yet a few easy-to-implement adjustments which are often free or relatively low cost can make a significant difference.
With today’s assistive technology, there is an excellent range of devices designed to facilitate accessibility and communication for colleagues.
Visualise has produced two videos to highlight the barriers and potential solutions:
As well as helping employees successfully develop their careers, workplace assessments can also help colleagues to feel included and valued as part of the team.