5 Ways to Support Deaf Employees in Accountancy Practices

Victoria Williams

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5 Ways to support deaf employees in Accountancy firms

In this article we will explore 5 advantages of engaging with your deaf employees, specifically for accountancy firms. 

You may think that this is unnecessary as you do not have any deaf team members, but 1 in 12 people in the workforce is either deaf or has a hearing loss.

We will start by looking at how you can empower your teams to disclose a disability, the benefits of deaf employees working in the branch, and then discuss how this can improve your internal communications, gain an understanding of deaf customers and build an inclusive team.

Deafness is a hidden disability, so unless someone is wearing a hearing aid or using sign language, it is very difficult to spot.

In fact, 2 million people in the UK wear hearing aids, and 6.7 million could benefit from wearing them.

54% of employees with a hearing loss are also reluctant to tell their employer, so you will have colleagues who experience a hearing loss but have never disclosed this.

We will now share five ways to support deaf employees.

 

1. Disclosing Deafness

Based on the number of people who choose not to wear hearing aids and then do not disclose hearing loss, you would be right in guessing that this means you have numbers of employees who are deaf or have a hearing loss that you do not know about!

Some people may have a fear of disclosing deafness, concerned that this may affect their chances of employment within a large accountancy practice.

For you to put measures in place, you first need to know your deaf employees.

So, let’s help you find out how to identify those in your workplace who require adjustments for an accessible employee experience.

The best way to find this out initially is through employee surveys and supervision/1:1’s…

 

…and here are some example questions you can ask:

How can we make your working life at YOUR COMPANY NAME the best it can be?

Is there anything we can do/put in place to help you at work?

You will see in these questions, that we are not asking directly if someone has a disability, instead we are asking about their experience in the workplace.

The next step will be for you to identify the different touchpoints in the employee journey/s and incorporate similar questions, as well as looking closely at your recruitment process.

This offers your teams multiple opportunities to start a conversation with you.

2. Hiring Deaf Talent

By employing deaf people, you are creating a more diverse workforce made up of a range of individuals who see the world differently.

This offers you a superpower when it comes to problem solving as deaf people bring unique and valuable perspectives.

Remember that the clients you serve will also have a diverse workforce, so if your colleagues are reflecting this in your client’s business, this instantly brings added value.

If you are interested in seeking more deaf talent into your business, you can:

  • State on job adverts that you are an inclusive employer.
  • Share the icon for the Disability Confident Scheme if you are signed up.  Include this on both the job advert, your website and recruitment pages.
  • Advertise roles on deaf job sites so that you are welcoming deaf people to apply.
 

3. Reasonable Adjustments

Employers must make reasonable adjustments to make sure workers with disabilities, or physical or mental health conditions, are not substantially disadvantaged when doing their jobs.

www.gov.uk

For a deaf employee, a reasonable adjustment could be providing a Communication Professional to enable access. 

Click here to take a look at another one of our articles that shares the different types of Communication Professionals.

A reasonable adjustment could be ensuring you provide a BSL Interpreter, or an Electronic Notetaker to produce live captions in a remote team meeting so that the content of the meeting can be followed.

It may also be making a change to a particular activity so that your colleague can undertake this.

It is the duty of the employer to make a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010.


4. Accessible Internal Communication

British Sign Language (BSL) is the language used by 150,000 deaf people in the UK as their first or preferred language.

BSL’s grammatical structure varies from English.

Here is an example of the language structure:

Due to the English language structure, for some deaf BSL users this can make it challenging for them to understand. Therefore, having information in Plain English can be helpful. 

Plain English means using headings, bullet points and keeping sentences short.

You can use Plain English for your internal communications, processes, policies and even in the way that you speak with customers.

It may be the case that you do not have any deaf colleagues who use BSL but making these considerations in your language use and choices makes it much more accessible for a wide range of people, not just deaf people. 

This is especially true in global practices like yours.

5. An Inclusive Team

To create an effective and cohesive team, it really helps if colleagues understand each other’s needs.

This is where Deaf Awareness Training comes in.

The biggest barrier that deaf people face is access to communication.

Imagine turning up to the office, and a group of your colleagues are talking across their desk and smiling and laughing.  It would be very isolating if you had no idea what they are talking about.

This is the experience that deaf people face every day.

Deaf Awareness Training is the perfect solution to give your teams confidence in communicating with deaf colleagues and deaf customers.

 

Where we have seen this work

The team at Legal and General were looking to gain a better understanding of their deaf customer journey and ensure that deaf employees were supported in the workplace.

WHY:

To improve the deaf customer and deaf employee experience.

 

WHAT:

Review of their existing deaf customer and employee experience and identification of key areas of improvement along with detailed instructions on how to make these improvements.

We’ve made improvements to our IVR system. We’ve also amended out core scripts and added more questions to capture any vulnerability at the start of the customer’s journey. Because what we recognised, and appreciated, was that the audit wasn’t only useful for our deaf customers: it made us more aware of other vulnerabilities too. The terptree team was  so knowledgeable about this, which was very helpful. As a result of the audit, we have also updated our Vulnerability Training for our teams. For example, using triggers such as: what would our team do and how would they react when hearing a verbal trigger identifying a customer was deaf?

terptree has allowed us to improve the service we offer to our vulnerable customers massively. We’ve seen how everyone now feels included and wants to play an active part getting it right for our vulnerable customers.

Elizabeth Elphick, Customer Outcomes manager, Legal and General 
Victoria Williams

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