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The law when working with deaf children and young people

Photo: Knowing the law is important when working with all children and young people, hearing or deaf.

What is the Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people with disabilities and makes it a requirement that reasonable adjustments are made to ensure equal access to opportunities in all of society.

You can find a copy of the Equality Act 2010 and the explanatory notes that accompany it on the Home Office website.

Please note: The Equality Act 2010 does not apply in Northern Ireland. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 is still applicable and contains similar provisions against discrimination as found in the Equality Act.

Who has responsibility under The Equality Act

All organisations and service providers have a duty to ensure that anybody with a protected characteristic or disability listed within the act is treated “favourably and without bias”. Meaning they must have access to the same opportunities as everyone else and not be discriminated against.

Reasonable adjustments must be offered to accommodate any situation where difficulties may be present.

Working with deaf children and young people

When considering whether a deaf child or young person meets the legal definition of disability, any steps which are taken to correct a child’s deafness must be ignored. For example, if a child wears a hearing aid, it is how the child would hear without the hearing aid which is taken into account.

If a child is temporarily deaf (for example, because of glue ear), he or she may not meet the legal definition. However, glue ear may well have an adverse effect on a child’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities (such as being able to hear an activity leader or have a conversation with friends).

Definition of discrimination

Discrimination against a deaf person can occur when they are treated less favourably than somebody who is not deaf. Discrimination can also happen when a deaf person is at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to their hearing peers and cannot engage fully in an activity because no adjustments have been made to accommodate them.

Here are some examples of situations that might be considered as discrimination:

  • A cub scout is told they cannot go to camp because of concerns that they will not hear anything when they are asleep and will be hard to wake up.
  • A young footballer is told they cannot join their team in a tournament because they cannot hear the whistle or other players shouting out at them during a game.
  • A deaf young person is told they must attend an interview by phone for a traineeship with a supermarket. When stating that it would be difficult to understand the interview questions, they are told there is no other option.
  • A deaf young person on a virtual work placement for a marketing firm struggles to follow team meetings because they are chaotic with people talking over each other.

In all the examples above, it is likely that reasonable adjustments could be made to include a deaf child or young person. Deciding not to include a child or young person, without demonstrating that all reasonable adjustments have been considered, is discriminatory.

Reasonable adjustments

Organisations and service providers have a duty to make adjustments in order to ensure that deaf children and young people who use their services or are volunteers or employees are not placed at a substantial disadvantage.

Find out more about reasonable adjustments in: