- Individuals & Families
- Hearing Service
- Family Support Service
- Hearing & Communication
- Information & Advice Services
- Assistive Technology
- Communication Services
- Community Services
- Mental Health
- Services For Organisations and Employers
Accessibility, Advice & Auditing
Access to goods and services is a major issue for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people.
Hardly a day goes in the lives of most people with hearing loss/deafness where some incident involving difficulty in accessing goods and services occurs. Indeed, when DeafHear asked Deaf and Hard of Hearing people for their experiences in everyday situations, and average of 75-80% of people said they found it ’difficult’ or ’very difficult’ to communicate in a wide variety of everyday situations, including shops, banks, train stations, busses, taxis, GP surgeries and workplaces.
For most people, hearing is central to communication, and communication is central to human interaction. However, for people with hearing loss, communicating in a hearing world can be challenging and isolating. This is at the heart of DeafHear’s Vision of an inclusive society where Deaf and Hard of Hearing people are fully integrated, with equality of opportunity and participation. It is our role to make this vision a reality by promoting the equal rights of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people and enhancing their life opportunities.
Access to goods and services is governed by certain laws, in particular the Equal Status Act and the Disability Act. The Equal Status Act states that it is illegal to discriminate on 9 possible grounds, one of which is ’disability’. The Disability Act places responsibility on service providers to make ’reasonable accommodation’ for people with disabilities. As such, the Act does not convey an absolute right to full access to all services, but the onus is on the service provider to demonstrate that they have made a reasonable effort to accommodate people with disabilities.
Access for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people can be realised through a combination of modifications of the physical environment, the use of assistive technology, and most important of all, through people: well trained staff and/or interpreters, lip speakers and SpeedText operators.
In designing/modifying the physical environment, the following key issues should be considered:
- Good lighting to assist with lip reading and/or signing
- Soft surfaces/furnishings to reduce reverberation
- Quiet reception area/space for consultation
- Good signage to assist with orientation
- Access points/doors that do not rely on speech to gain access
The following assistive technology products and services enhance accessibility for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people:
- Induction loop systems, incorporated into PA systems in public auditoria, conference facilities etc., and into reception areas, counters, and intercoms.
- Text accessibility to goods and services
- Email accessibility to goods and services
- Adaptive equipment, such as alerting devices, flashing fire alarms and visual information displays.
- Summary information on products and services available in Irish Sign Language (e.g. on websites)
People are key to ensuring accessibility for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. It is important that staff are ’deaf aware’, and are comfortable with communicating with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. Where appropriate, sign language interpreters and/or SpeedText operators should be provided.
- All staff should be familiar with DeafHear’s Communication Code
- All staff should be familiar with and able to operate available assistive technology
- When required, Irish Sign Language (ISL) interpreters should be provided for people who are ISL users
- SpeedText is a speech to text service, and is particularly useful for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people at meetings, conferences and educational settings
DeafHear offers advice and assistance to service providers in improving accessibility to their goods and services. This includes advice on adaptive technology for the workplace, recreational services, community services etc., and advice on best practice in providing services to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people.
DeafHear also offers Deaf and Hearing Awareness Training. This training provides participants with the competencies to communicate effectively with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, and is an important resource in enabling service providers to improve accessibility to their services.
DeafHear also provides an audit service for accessibility of buildings and services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. Audits can include health and safety equipment such as fire alarms, and certification of loop systems to EU Standards.