A lack of deaf awareness amongst employers and society at large holds people with hearing loss back and costs the UK economy £24.8bn, says charity Action on Hearing Loss.
Despite the fact that employers are legally obliged to make any reasonable adjustments to support people in the workplace, the charity says its Working For Change report shows how many employers lack both the awareness and the confidence to employ someone who is deaf or has hearing loss.
During Deaf Awareness Week (15-21 May) the charity wants to highlight simple and cost effective ways of making work environment more hearing loss friendly.
Paul Breckell, chief cxecutive at Action on Hearing Loss, says: “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. When employers invest in equipment and deaf awareness training for themselves and other staff members, people with hearing loss can thrive.”
The charity says that reasonable adjustments employers can make include: 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.
The charity’s research found that 63% of business leaders had never heard of the Access to Work scheme, a publicly funded support programme aiming to help more disabled people start or stay in work.
“Small changes can have a big impact,” says Breckell. “We want to encourage everyone 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.”