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A guide for Essex businesses to communicate with their deaf customers

25 Aug A guide for Essex businesses to communicate with their deaf customers

In response to a recent incident when a deaf person with an assistance dog was asked to leave a restaurant, national charity Action on Hearing Loss is calling on all businesses to make their staff better aware of how to communicate with their deaf customers.

Action on Hearing Loss customer service tips when interacting with people who are deaf or have hearing loss:
Don’t panic – this will make both you and your customer uncomfortable.

Let the customer take the lead in how they communicate – some will lipread and sign, while others will prefer to talk or write.

As a rule, have a pen and paper nearby at all times to avoid having to look for them. Don’t be afraid to use them!

In a restaurant environment, train your staff in some simple signs and encourage them to take the time to write notes and pass them back and forth to the customer – that will help to find out about any allergies.

Always face the person you are speaking to and make sure you have their attention before you start speaking.

Keep your distance. Stand a metre or two away from the deaf person. This is important for hearing-aid users, lipreaders and signers.

Think about your surroundings – good lighting and quiet background music make conversations easier.

Keep your voice at a steady volume- shouting can be uncomfortable for hearing aid users, and may come across as aggressive.

Consider assistance dogs- these dogs are doing a service and should never be refused entry or stroked without permission.

Always remember to talk directly to the person you are communicating with, not the interpreter.

Don’t be afraid to check whether the person understands what you are saying and, if not, try saying it in a different way.

Instead of phoning, use text, email, instant messaging or Facebook to contact the customer.