Let me ask you a question. As a business, are you deaf accessible? I don’t mean just deaf aware, I mean deaf accessible?
In this COVID-19 world, general accessibility for people with deafness or hearing loss became worse, notably with the introduction of face-masks that stops lip-reading. In this post-lockdown situation, people with deafness or hearing loss - 1 in 6 people in the UK (equals 11 million people) - are finding businesses, restaurants, medical centres and other venues increasingly difficult to access due to measures placed to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The potential business outcomes faced with difficult accessibility for people with hearing loss are:
- decreased brand loyalty
- Higher dissatisfaction
- Reduction in referral
- No return to business
So, how can businesses be deaf accessible in these COVID-19 times? Here are five tips for businesses to be accessible:
Make your face clear if you can
The biggest barrier to deaf accessibility is the face masks that cover your lips. Many people with deafness or hearing loss struggle to comprehend the essential communication said by staff members causing anxiety, miscommunication and a potential risk to their safety.
Wherever they are, they will find this in shops, restaurants, hospitals and more. It is essential that businesses offer alternative measures that still adhere to COVID-Secure guidelines.
Following COVID-secure guidelines, if possible, think about using these alternative and inclusive ideas:
- Clear see through masks
- Clear Visors
- Perspex screens
- Notepad and pen
- If all else is not possible, try to stand at least 2 metres away and bring down your mask for the person with hearing loss to lip-read you.
Clearer signage and directions
Think of your signage as your FAQs. Pre-empt any usual questions by displaying answers and directions around your workplace.
Enhanced deaf awareness
Train your staff to consider deaf awareness in the context of COVID-19 pandemic. Have you thought about what happens with a potential customer or client comes into contact with your workplace?
Consider the noise in your environment. Turn off the music in the background and create quiet spaces in your business where you will come into contact with a customer who has deafness or hearing loss.
Ensure your website, email, online chat facilities and social media channels has all the accessibility information for people with deafness and hearing loss. If you just provide a telephone number for contact, how about promoting an online chat facility, text messaging service or email contact too?
With the above tips in place, you can take your first steps in demonstrating good deaf accessibility, especially in this COVID-19 Pandemic.
You can take a further step by promoting your business as accessible for those with deafness or hearing loss on the AccessAble website.
But why should you do this?
Not only you demonstrate your accessibility, but you also have a higher chance of retaining and attracting customers with deafness or hearing loss to spend in your business.