Working with hearing impaired employees: How to make offices more accessible for them

Working with hearing impaired employees: How to make offices more accessible for them

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While the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (This link will take you to the People with Disability Australia website about the Disability Discrimination Act) states that it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual in many public areas of life including employment due to a certain physical or intellectual barrier they possess, it is up for debate on whether it has been instilled in the minds of the masses.

An individual with an auditory impairment can possess the same levels of a certain skill as an individual without. However, more often than not, it is the individual who doesn't have an impediment that is chosen to carry out the duty.

This can be due to a lack of confidence when employing a person with a hearing impairment or simply because the employer doesn’t possess the tools to provide the proper access to transform an office environment into an all-inclusive one.

Here’s what you can do as an employer to make the office more accessible and its staff more aware of what working with hearing impaired employees is like.

Building a more inclusive workspace

Make the departments aware of their colleague’s limitations in hearing and educate them on how they can make the workplace a more inclusive one.

Meetings are an integral part of any office. Make use of assistive technology (This link will take you to a page on the Assistive Technology Australia website about assistive technology) apps that provide high-quality, real-time captions so that no one is left out of the loop during important discussions.

Ask your employee what method of communication they prefer to use when having to contribute during a discussion and accommodate the request to the best of your ability.

Most individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing lip-read. To make it convenient for them to do so, make sure their workspace is positioned where they can see their coworkers' faces clearly for easier communication.

Improving company-employee communication

In the event an audio company announcement is made to its employees, assign an individual to inform their colleague of the audio message being relayed. 

Follow this up with a text format of the announcement to keep any employees that are unable to follow public announcements updated.

Adding visual alarms for emergencies 

Most emergency alert systems in office buildings are through alarms. This is ineffective when it comes to alerting an individual with an auditory impairment.

Instead, opt to install flashing lights that accompany the sound alarms, send emergency text messages and assign a colleague to assist an employee with hearing impairment during an emergency.

Increasing support for employees with hearing impairments

The employment rate among individuals who are hard of hearing is extremely low (This link will take you to a landing page on Shine SC about why inclusion in the workplace is important) due to the lack of inclusive and unwelcoming office environments.

Here are some ways to make your office more all-inclusive:

    • Educating the workforce on the importance of being an all-inclusive place of work.
    • Be patient - remember, an auditory impairment isn't related to intelligence.
    • Don’t be afraid to check in on the employee to make sure they’re following along.
    • Provide agendas of meetings ahead of time so the employee is on track.

Making an effort to make an office more inclusive will not pose any setbacks to its work culture or business. 

Having an all-inclusive workforce promotes diversity among employees, creates equal job opportunities and encourages more individuals with physical or intellectual impairments to integrate into society.

Communicating with an employee who has an auditory impairment

Never leave a colleague with an auditory impediment out of a conversation. While conversing, do not dismiss them if they don’t catch on to what you are saying.

Instead, here are some ways to improve communication with your coworker:

Asking what helps

Don’t be afraid to ask your coworker what form of communication they prefer. It could make the communication process a lot smoother for both parties.

Once you know whether your coworker prefers lip reading, signing or a combination of both you can proceed to accommodate the most suitable way to communicate.

Learning sign language

If the employee prefers sign language as a method of communication, it won’t hurt to know a few basic signs. Not only will this ease and improve communication, but it will also make the employee feel valued.

Having good body language

For an employee who prefers to lip-read, make sure they have a clear view of your face to make it easier for them to see your facial expressions and lips.

Don’t speak too slowly or too quickly, and remember to speak clearly without shouting. This will only make it more difficult for the employee to understand.

Hiring an interpreter

When possible, it is always good to have a sign language interpreter. Especially, if the employee prefers to use sign language as their main form of communication.

This is extremely beneficial if the employee is contributing their input in a professional setting, like a meeting or presentation.

An interpreter can get the message across efficiently, reducing the chances of miscommunication.

Improve accessibility for employees with an auditory impairment 

Just like an office building catering to the needs of people who have physical limitations and providing them with structures like ramps for mobility assistance, an inclusive workplace should include assistive features for an employee with a sensory impairment.

Here are some features that can be included in an office building to assist an employee with a hearing impairment:

    • Provide suitable visual aids throughout the workspace, such as simple, clearly written signs and visual guides in sign language.
    • Audio loops through an amplified sound system to improve the quality of hearing for an employee wearing a hearing aid.

Create the ideal environment for working with hearing impaired employees

Providing an employee with an auditory impediment with the suitable tools to make their job easier is only one part of making the office more accommodating.

An individual with a hearing impairment may find it challenging and may require some time to settle into a working environment where the majority of its employees don’t have the same impairments.

Let employees know that support is available whenever it is needed and encourage coworkers and managers to check in with their coworkers. 

Being a workplace with an all-inclusive environment that employs people of all abilities is a source of empowerment for such individuals. 

Recognising them for their strengths and not their impairments builds confidence and self-esteem. For more information get in touch with the nearest disability service provider and contribute to making the employment field an all-inclusive one.

Understanding the different types of assistive technologies for people of all abilities

Understanding the different types of assistive technologies for people of all abilities

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Our daily lives are full of repetitive activities, but many of them are relatively simple tasks, such as taking out the trash and washing dishes. For individuals with physical impairments, however, these tasks can be significantly more challenging because of their condition.

While it’s perfectly fine to help the person under your care with their daily activities, many people of all abilities want to be as independent as possible. If this is the case with the person under your care, you should try to find ways to help them manage their daily activities on their own.

Today, many types of assistive technology available can help individuals with all kinds of impairments get through their day, communicate with their friends and families, travel, and carry out their workplace activities.

Aside from the more standard assistive devices, like wheelchairs and hearing aids, there’s now a range of technology that can help individuals of all abilities with more specific activities, like using the internet and playing their favourite sports.

If you want to help decide which assistive technology best suits the needs of the person under your care, you need to learn about what’s available.

Here’s a look into the various types of assistive technology out there.

Fine motor assistance devices for computer users

These are a range of devices that are designed to help individuals with physical impairments perform physical activities, like writing and personal care.

Some simple examples of these devices include tools that can be used to turn the pages of a book or devices that are worn on the hand to help people grip their pen properly when writing.

Since the internet is now a staple in our lives, there exists a wide variety of fine motor assistance devices that can help the person under your care browse the internet comfortably.

For instance, there are specially designed keyboards that help individuals with limited dexterity to type. These keyboards have raised areas that help a person identify the buttons through touch alone, making them suitable for people with visual impairments.

Individuals with conditions like cerebral palsy (this link will take you to an article about cerebral palsy on the News-Medical website), which can limit the use of their hands, can also use their computers without the need for a keyboard and mouse.

There are even devices that are capable of allowing a person to control their computer by tracking eye movements.

Devices, like sip-and-puff switches, also let people of all abilities control their computers by inhaling and exhaling air. 

For example, when the user wants to click on a particular point on the screen, they only need to exhale or inhale into the device to “click”. These are helpful for people with quadriplegia.

These input devices can be customised according to the preferences of the person under your care.

Fine motor assistance devices will be extremely helpful for students of all abilities, as they can help them with their studies, and people of all abilities who want to join the workforce.

Gross motor assistance devices for people with mobility issues

These are assistive devices that help individuals with physical impairments make bigger movements, like walking and playing sports.

Wheelchairs and walkers fall into this category, along with stair assistance devices that are designed to help people with mobility issues climb the stairs by themselves. 

Similar to electric wheelchairs, mobility scooters can provide powered mobility aid to the person under your care. These scooters are usually battery-powered tricycles and can be a good alternative for people who don’t have the upper body strength to use a manual wheelchair.

For individuals of all abilities who like to be active and partake in recreational activities such as sports, you can find a plethora of adaptive devices to help the person under your care enjoy the activities they prefer.

For example, there are specially designed wheelchairs for people living with paraplegia (this link will take you to a blog post on the Shine SC website about how support groups can help people with paraplegia)  for games such as wheelchair basketball. These wheelchairs are very light but durable and can handle sharp turns and high speeds.

There’s also adaptive fishing equipment that makes it easier for a person with physical impairments to hold the rod and even reel in fish automatically with just the press of a button.

Effective communication devices for non-verbal individuals

Many individuals of all abilities have trouble communicating with those around them. Some people of all abilities need an alternative way to communicate and this is where communication aids can help.

Technology like Augmentative and Alternative Communication, or ACC aids for short, includes a wide range of tools that can help non-verbal people of all abilities, using specially designed software.

Many ACC aids allow people to communicate using tools such as word boards on touchscreen devices, like a tablet computer. Some ACC devices also feature voice outputs.

Some individuals with intellectual impairments have difficulty understanding words and instead rely on pictures and symbols to communicate. Fortunately, ACC devices can also allow the person under your care to form words and sentences using images.

Communication devices are especially important when you have a non-verbal person under your care. These devices can help them with their education and when socialising with their peers.

The types of assistive technology available are growing

Modern assistive technology has revolutionised the way people of all abilities manage their daily lives, study, work, and socialise. These devices have come a long way and we can expect even more innovative and life-changing assistive technology to be developed soon.

Given the kind of impairment the person under your care has, they may require multiple assistive devices. To understand which are most beneficial for them, work with a well-reputed all-abilities service provider in Australia.

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