20 November 2021

Working with hidden disabilities

In our first blog for Disability History Month, Tracey blogs about her own, often unseen, disability, and about the ways to ensure that deaf people can participate fully in the workplace.

This year’s Disability History Month theme is Hidden Disabilities. I am a Black woman with disabilities. Often people will only see one of those characteristics and not see the whole you. I am partially deaf and usually wear hearing aids on both ears. Hearing loss affects 12 million people in the UK.

It can be frustrating when you are partially deaf. Not everyone needs to wear hearing aids, some hearing aids are hidden, or some people await replacement ones. However, if you have advised people of your hearing difficulty and they fail to make any adjustments it causes a lot of stress.

How to support deaf members in the workplace

As a partially deaf person, I would find this advice really helpful for others to follow when communicating with colleagues. For example, I would encourage colleagues to keep their voice at a level which enables deaf members to hear you. Ensure when speaking with a deaf member that you look at them directly and don’t cover your mouth (obviously unless wearing a face-mask). At physical meetings provide a microphone or hearing loop system for deaf members to access.

At all meetings, ensure only one person speaks at a time as it can be incredibly difficult to filter out competing sounds. Zoom and other virtual platforms enable deaf members to turn the transcript feature on or wear a headset with adjustable volume if required.

Outside meetings, consider using text or other messaging services to communicate instead of by telephone.

Useful information to consider

  • If you have some difficulty in hearing, get a hearing test at your local audiologist
  • Deaf workers are entitled to reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 so contact your line manager or local PCS rep
  • You can find out information from the RNID website including local groups for deaf and partially hearing people, and the NHS.
  • Get involved in your PCS regional disabled members’ network by emailing equality@pcs.org.uk for more information.