If you work at Jobcentre Plus, find out how you can offer support and communicate with people with hearing loss as they find work.
How to contact someone who is deaf or who has hearing loss
People who are deaf or have hearing loss have a range of communication needs. For some people, a phone call may not be difficult but for a British Sign Language (BSL) user, this would be impossible. It’s important that you know how to contact each individual and that you tailor the way you communicate to suit their needs.
If a basic phone call isn’t appropriate, some of the other contact methods available include:
- Relay UK – Relay UK has replaced Text Relay. When someone with hearing loss makes or receives a phone call, a relay assistant converts speech to text and vice versa. Find out more about Relay UK on their website.
- Text message to a mobile phone
- Email or letter. Bear in mind that these may still present a barrier to someone who uses BSL as their first language. You can see tips on writing in Plain English below.
Communicating in writing
It’s important to use plain English when writing for somebody who uses BSL as their first language.
Here are some basic guidelines:
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short and to the point.
- Always use short words instead of long words where possible. For example, say ‘use’ not ‘utilise’ and ‘buy’ not ‘purchase’.
- Avoid jargon.
- Break up the writing with headings and bullet points
- Think about using clear diagrams to replace long written descriptions.
- Use photographs to illustrate your points. These can be especially effective if they’re real people and not models.
Communicating at appointments
- When someone who’s deaf or who has hearing loss arrives, ask for their name and continue the process of ‘signing on’ as normal. Remember, people with hearing loss may find it more difficult to hear because of poor acoustics or background noise. See our communication tips for more advice.
- If the jobseeker wears a hearing aid, ensure that the hearing loop system is working, switched on, and that all staff know how to use it.
- If they are a BSL user, explain that if they want to discuss anything at more length, a separate meeting will need to be arranged. You will also need to book a BSL Interpreter.
- If the jobseeker is a BSL user, and you want to discuss their current job searches, a BSL Interpreter will be needed to discuss the job details.
- There’s a range of communication support services available. Be aware that not all people with hearing loss access English through BSL Interpreters. You should check their preferred method of communication (for example, lipspeaker or notetaker).
Providing communication access
If someone’s hearing loss means that they require communication support to access Jobcentre Plus services, it’s your responsibility to provide this. We advise using registered communication professionals. For more information, read our information on working with communication professionals.
Jobcentre Plus’s obligations
As a public sector organisation, all Jobcentre Plus locations have obligations under the Equality Act 2010 to make adjustments to meet the needs of disabled people. People who are deaf or who have hearing loss must be given equal access to the service the Jobcentre provides.
Public sector organisations are also required to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty. This requires public bodies to take account of disabled people’s requirements when making decisions on policies or services.
Access to Work
Access to Work is a government-funded scheme delivered through Jobcentre Plus. It helps people with disabilities gain equal access to the workplace.
Access to Work could pay the cost of the communication support and equipment necessary to provide equal access to the workplace. This can include the cost of communication professionals such as interpreters.
Access to Work is available to people aged over 16 in Great Britain who are:
- in work
- about to start work
- have an interview for a job
- trying out a new job which has been sourced by the Jobcentre.
Supporting people with hearing loss
If you work at Jobcentre Plus, there are various ways you can support people with hearing loss.
- You can refer jobseekers with hearing loss to a Disability Employment Advisor (DEA) who has specialist knowledge of local services, training and support. If no DEA is available, make sure the individual is put in contact with the relevant work coach.
- If you are a DEA or work coach, you may need to signpost the person with hearing loss to more information or support. You can direct them to RNID through our Information Line.
- RNID also has specialist employment support services you can direct people to. We may be able to support the people you are working with.
Giving advice to employers
If an employer asks you for advice about making work accessible for people with hearing loss, RNID can help. We provide deaf awareness training to businesses and organisations. We can also advise employers on simple adaptations in the workplace to make it accessible.