Hearing or sight loss needn’t mean job loss
Dan Williams, Founding Director of workplace accessibility and inclusion experts Visualise Training and Consultancy, looks at how challenges faced by employees with hearing or sight loss can be overcome.
Hearing or sight loss in the workplace affects 14 million UK people, so being fully aware and catering for the requirements of any staff members with additional needs is essential for inclusive employers.
As these disabilities are often invisible, employers need to be aware of the barriers colleagues may be facing, so speaking openly about how hearing or sight loss affects their ability to work is vital.
This may cause inhibition, embarrassment, and anxiety and as a result, pretending all is fine and understating the effects is common, so encouraging employees to speak out in a relaxed face-to-face environment helps.
Ideally, hearing and sight checks should accompany regular staff health reviews in a reassuring way to communicate that support is available.
If any changes to hearing levels or sight are identified, employees may need to be granted time off to attend follow-up appointments.
When conducting online or face-to-face DSE assessments, do you ask employees if they experience hearing or sight difficulties?
With hearing loss, these may include problems with background noise, hearing on the phone or in meetings and not hearing the fire alarm when in isolated areas such as bathrooms and stairwells.
Sight loss challenges may include difficulties with reading small print or text on the screen, glare, dry eyes and increased instances of trips and falls.
Reasonable adjustments for hearing or sight loss
For most employees with one or more of the above conditions, there should be no need to change jobs, as extensive support and adjustments are available.
A workplace assessment will identify any issues that may be worrying an employee, and the follow-up report will recommend implementing, often quite simple, adjustments to ensure employees can perform their roles more effectively.
As you’ll know, employers are under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that employees with health-related barriers can perform their roles without unfair disadvantages.
Employers are sometimes concerned about this, expecting dramatic change and huge costs, yet a few easy-to-implement adjustments which are often free, or relatively low cost, can make a significant difference.
With today’s assistive technology, there is an excellent range of devices designed to facilitate accessibility and communication for colleagues.