It’s our goal to make sure the government understands, and responds to, the needs of people who are deaf or have hearing loss during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis.
Since the beginning of lockdown in the UK, almost every aspect of society has been affected. Our daily lives have changed beyond recognition.
We’ve seen dramatic changes to public services in response to the pandemic. New services are quickly being designed, and huge changes have been introduced to how settings such as hospitals, shops and workplaces operate.
The government must consider the access needs of the 12 million people who are deaf or have hearing loss when they create new guidance, information and services.
What we’ve been calling for
Our Policy and Campaigns Team has been lobbying the government to make sure:
- accessibility is considered in its response to coronavirus, and
- new or altered public services meet the needs of people who are deaf or have hearing loss.
We’ve also worked closely with coalitions of other disability charities to raise the specific concerns of people who are deaf or have hearing loss with government, MPs and the press.
The issues we have prioritised are set out in our coronavirus position statement.
We’re continuing to work closely with our communities to understand what issues are affecting you most and to decide where our focus should be. Find out how to take part in our social research.
Our progress so far
Thanks to insight and support from our communities, we have already seen excellent progress and positive changes to policy from the UK government. We think these policy changes will improve the way people who are deaf or have hearing loss take an active part in society and get support from public services.
- In response to our letter to the PM, a senior official has been made responsible for making sure that all government communications on coronavirus are accessible for disabled people.
- Our communication advice for health and social care professionals is being sent to all GP practices in England and The Royal College of GPs has added our communication guidance to their coronavirus resource hub. Visit the Royal College of GP’s coronavirus hub.
- The NHS Volunteer Responder line is now available via video relay and Relay UK and we can now refer people to the service directly through our Information Line. Find out how to use the NHS Volunteer Responder line.
- The government has amended its guidelines for workplaces to become COVID-secure, to highlight the need to keep workplaces accessible and make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff. Read the government’s COVID-secure guidelines for workplaces.
- The Department for Work and Pensions has made changes to the Access to Work scheme:
- you can get your support changed if your working routine has changed due to coronavirus
- you can now make claims for equipment or support workers services when working from home
- more people are eligible for travel to work elements to reflect the risks around travelling.
- In response to us calling on the government to assess the safety and viability of transparent face masks, a type 2R transparent mask has been approved for use in the UK in health and social care settings. Read about the type 2R transparent mask.
- Following concerns we raised about the availability of clear face masks, an initial 250,000 were distributed to frontline NHS and social care workers in September. Read about the government’s plan to deliver the type 2R transparent mask.
- Appropriate guidance has been issued to clinicians using PPE, highlighting communication barriers presented by masks and how to overcome them.
- We worked with government to create and raise awareness of exemption cards that include deaf awareness messaging. Visit GOV.UK to download the exemption cards.
- We secured changes to government guidance on public face coverings. The guidance now makes it clear that coverings can be temporarily lowered to communicate with someone with hearing loss – with social distance maintained. Read the government’s guidance on wearing and making face coverings and exemptions from use.
- We have created guidance on face coverings which covers:
- how to communicate with others while wearing a face covering
- information on exemptions and how they might apply to you
- tips on wearing a covering with a hearing aid or cochlear implant.
- We’ve secured press coverage to raise awareness of the extra barriers our community faces because of coronavirus. The coverage spans a number of issues, such as:
- We teamed up with the Police Federation of England and Wales to help officers understand how to communicate with members of the public who may have difficulty understanding them due to mandatory face coverings. Read about our work with the Police Federation of England and Wales.
- Due to the barriers created by face coverings, we have created and shared communication tips for the general public and for people with hearing loss.
- We launched our Access for All in Retail campaign. We are sending our open letter to major retailers across the UK, calling on them to take simple steps to make their stores accessible for our community. Over 1,700 of you have signed the letter so far.
What we’ll do next
We know that the changes we’ve secured so far aren’t enough, and that the impact of the coronavirus crisis will be with us for some time. We will continue to work on the issues our community faces, collaborating with the government over its response where we can, but also calling out their failures where necessary.
Read more in our coronavirus position statement.
We also want to progress our existing campaigns that are not related to coronavirus. Learn about our ongoing campaigns and sign up to our Campaigns Network.