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Reasonable adjustments in the workplace

Photo: Learn about the types of reasonable adjustments you might need to make for a deaf young person.

Organisations and service providers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that deaf children and young people who are volunteers or employees are not placed at a substantial disadvantage. Therefore, you should consider any reasonable adjustments they might need in your workplace.

What is ‘reasonable’ will differ from one place to the next, depending on cost and practicality. However, organisations and business are responsible for making any reasonable adjustments; it's not the responsibility of the deaf young person, and they should never be charged for making any adjustments. 

Learn more about the law and working with deaf children and young people.

Examples of reasonable adjustments

Using the phone

Provide appropriate equipment

Some deaf people can understand speech over the phone. However, they may need a phone that amplifies sound or a headset that works with their hearing aids.

A reasonable adjustment would be to provide the appropriate equipment. Partial funding may be available for equipment needed in the workplace which can be applied for through the Access to Work scheme.

Use text or instant message

Deaf people often prefer to communicate by email or text message rather than phone.

If you have an urgent message, use text or instant message when contacting a deaf colleague or volunteer rather than calling them.

Physical environment

Create a good listening environment

Background noise can be challenging for deaf people who use hearing aids or cochlear implants, so they may prefer to work in a quieter area.

Discuss with your colleague or volunteer where they would prefer work. Ask them if they have a preference for which meeting space they’d like to use. Also, provide additional equipment if needed such as a listening loop.

Make sure your face is clearly visible

Good lighting is important for people who rely on lip-reading. If you’re talking to a deaf colleague with the light behind you, your face may not be clearly visible.

Avoid talking to a deaf colleague with a window or bright light behind you and make sure your face is clearly visible.

Meetings and training sessions

Speak one at a time

A deaf person may find it difficult to follow what’s said during group discussions as they may only be able to lip-read one person at a time.

Make sure people speak one at a time in meetings.

Send an agenda and meeting materials in advance

Deaf young people cannot watch their communication support and a screen at the same time.  

Send out an agenda in advance so that your deaf colleague or volunteer knows what will be covered. This is also helpful if the meeting will involve lots of technical information or jargon.

If you're using a presentation, provide copy before the meeting or training. Keep the content on each slide to a minimum. If you need people to read the screen, pause your delivery and allow time to read the slide before continuing to talk. 

Make sure any video resources include captions. 

Find out more about making your resources accessible.

Plan in breaks

Deaf people may have to concentrate harder when following communication support or discussions, which can be tiring.

Consider the pace of the sessions, break down periods of people speaking, include regular breaks and present information visually.

Book meetings far enough in advance

Shortages of communication support professionals can mean they’re difficult to book at short notice.

Arrange meetings far enough in advance so that communication support can be booked. Make sure to send materials, such as agendas or slides, to communication support professionals before a meeting or training session so that they can be prepared.

Social/networking opportunities

Opportunities to socialise with colleagues can be important in developing a sense of belonging to an organisation. These are often created through informal and spontaneous conversations and interactions in the workplace. It’s important that deaf colleagues and volunteers are also included in these.

Make sure a deaf colleague is invited into conversations and is made aware of any social opportunities. Ensure that these are also made accessible. 

Using digital platforms for meetings, training session, and events

Digital platforms can often create barriers that don’t exist for face-to-face meetings. This could be due to a number of reasons including the technology being used, sound clarity, or signal strength.

Test any digital platforms and accessibility features before the meeting to ensure they work well. Always check first what communication support a deaf staff or volunteer might need and agree with them what will be used. For example, integrating captions with a palantypist, using a spotlight function or a pin-a-person function.

Recruitment and interviews

Arrange communication support

If a deaf young person is interviewing with you, check with them if they will need communication support make sure that you book appropriate communication support on the day.

Reconsider essential skills

A deaf young person may include information about certain difficulties or access needs on their application form.

Think about what skills and experience are essential or optional to the role. For example, during shortlisting, if the role doesn’t need a high standard of written language, it would be a reasonable adjustment to overlook grammatical errors in a deaf young person’s application.

Health and safety

The Health and Safety Executive states that health and safety legislation should not stop disabled people staying in employment. It advises that while hazardous conditions can’t always be eliminated, they can be substantially reduced at little cost.

Install accessible fire alarms

Many deaf people can hear fire alarms through their hearing aids or cochlear implants. For those that can’t, there are technological solutions such as pager systems or flashing alarms.

Find out more about technology in the workplace.

Adapt machinery safety alarms

Deaf staff or volunteers using machinery may not hear any audible safety alarms.

Adapt the machinery to produce accompanying flashing lights.

Set up emergency text messaging

Deaf staff or volunteers may not hear any audible emergency alert announcements.

Set up emergency text messaging as an alternative to radio/telephone emergency alert systems.

Provide a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter

If a deaf young person’s preferred method of communication is BSL, they may struggle to understand any fire drill, health and safe guidance, or training that is only in written English.

Provide them with an interpreter to translate any written English into BSL.

Agree building access arrangements

Some deaf people may struggle to use an intercom to access a building if it doesn’t include video.

Agree in advance how your deaf colleague or volunteer can access to building. Alternatives may be that someone goes down to meet them when they arrive or they have a number to text when they arrive.

Access to work

If a deaf young person needs communication support or assistive technology for their job, they may be able to apply for funding through the government scheme Access to Work. This is run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). 

The support offered through Access to Work will depend on the young person’s needs. It can help to pay for equipment or services including:

  • adaptations to the equipment a young person needs to use, for example, an adapted headset that blocks out background noise
  • special equipment or software
  • British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, video relay service support, lip speakers and note takers
  • a job coach to support settling into a workplace
  • deaf or disability awareness training for colleagues.

Access to Work can also help assess whether there is more an employer can do to support a young person who has applied for funding, through reasonable adjustments.

To apply for an Access to Work grant, a deaf young person must:

  • have a disability or health condition that makes it hard to do parts of their job or get to and from work (deafness is included in the definition of a disability)
  • be 16 or over
  • live in England, Scotland or Wales – there’s a different scheme in Northern Ireland. Access to Work does not cover the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

They must also have a paid job or be about to start or return to one. A paid job can include:

  • full or part-time work
  • permanent or temporary work, including a zero hours contract
  • self-employed work
  • an apprenticeship, traineeship or supported internship
  • a work trial or work experience that is paid or expected to lead to a paid role
  • a paid internship.

Access to Work cannot be applied to for volunteering or most unpaid work.