Written by Victoria Cotton
This week is National #DeafAwarenessWeek in the UK. Deaf Awareness Week has the aims to consider the communicational needs of deaf and hard of hearing people. Its purpose is to encourage people and services to work together to create a more inclusive society where deaf people have equal access to communication.
In day to day working environments this can be challenging for people who are hearing impaired. From things like background noise to talking over computers, aspects like this can prove difficult. AI Global Media aim to eradicate these issues by talking with our employees and understanding their needs. Our only aim is to make everyone’s time in the office as comfortable and straightforward as it should be.
Natalie Harrison our HR Manager says, “We believe it is important to ensure equality in the workplace for everyone. Allowing for a few reasonable adjustments can create an accommodating environment that allows for maximum productivity from everyone.
We believe the general set-up of our office can make accommodations for those who need extra support in their work. If an employee has a preferred method of communication, we can ensure that colleagues are aware, alongside any other necessary information so that they know how to interact with them, thereby creating an inclusive environment.”
With this year’s theme being ‘Access to Communication’, we interview our Research Executive, Hayleigh Burns who talks about her experiences.
What was your experience being hearing impaired in previous jobs?
“I discovered I was Hearing Impaired in my previous Job as a Hairdresser. I have always struggled to communicate with my clients when another stylist was using a hairdryer or there was any other background noise, my colleagues didn’t seem to have this issue.
Being hearing impaired in that business was a hurdle. Communication is key in hairdressing and if I mishear or interpret what someone has said incorrectly because I have lip read them wrong then a client could leave very unhappy. In hairdressing your reputation is everything and a bad review will really affect you negatively. I was also embarrassed to have to explain to every new customer that I didn’t hear well and if they needed to talk to me, they would have to get my attention by tapping me. I navigated this for a while but whilst I was hairdressing, Covid hit and we were made to wear face masks. Even with my hearing aid I really struggled to hear what people were saying to me. I couldn’t lip read anymore and I began to feel increasingly isolated. “
How did you manage these challenges?
“I spoke to a few people on online forums and eventually e-mailed a charity for advice. My father was kind enough to offer to get me what is called a Roger Select. This is a directional Microphone I can connect to the TV and to my mobile phone etc. I could take it to work and place it in front of the client and the sound would travel directly into my hearing aid. Like my own personal loop system. Again, it isn’t perfect, but something is better than nothing.
What is it like working at AI Global Media?
“AI Global Media has been a breath of fresh air. From my first day I have felt considered. I have been given the opportunity to express what I need. I work with the most wonderful team of people who have never made me feel like there was anything different about me. They have been so comfortable around me which is refreshing. If I don’t hear them, they always repeat themselves without getting frustrated with me.”
What does Deaf Awareness Week mean to you?
Being considerate. You can’t see that someone is deaf or hearing impaired, therefore I quite often have to announce that I have a problem which gets humiliating. The reactions I have to this are varied from people shouting in my face (this comes from a good place) to people walking away from me and avoiding me (normally shop assistants). Just having someone speak clearly facing me so I can see your mouth makes communication so much easier. It’s a good idea to ask the person what will make communicating easier for them. My cousin was born profoundly deaf, and I don’t sign so we communicate via text even if we are sat next to each other. Ask questions, try to understand the impact it has on their life.
Advice for any businesses with employees who are hearing impaired.
Be aware of the environment. If a person with hearing aids is sat between people, that can be quite overwhelming because you have noise from all directions. Hearing aids point backwards so consider if the noise behind the person will affect them. Just because a person has hearing loss doesn’t mean that they can’t hear some sounds and may be more affected by them so be respectful of not causing too much noise that may make them uncomfortable. It is easy to feel like a burden when you can’t hear so patience is imperative. If there is a meeting, make sure they are in a position to lipread if that is something they do.
#DeafAwarenessweek is so important to employees like Hayleigh, and we have been truly lucky to have her as a part of AI Global Media. For more information go to Deaf Awareness Week – Deafness Resource Centre