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  • Deaf or Hard of Hearing

    by Justin Crick | Oct 11, 2012

    Of these 9 million it is estimated that 3.5 million are of working age (16 – 65).

    What is deaf and hard of hearing?

    Deaf or Hard of Hearing means different things to different people, however the term ‘deaf’ is often used to describe people with profound or severe hearing loss, whereas ‘hard of hearing’ tends to refer to people who have mild to severe hearing loss, but with some degree of hearing – often enhanced by a hearing aid.

    People who are deaf or hard of hearing may have specific terminology they feel more comfortable with using and indeed terms that they strongly dislike. Just because one person prefers to be identified one way does not mean that another person will also wish to be labelled in that way; therefore it is wisest to ask the person directly what terminology he or she prefers.

    Working with deaf or hard of hearing people

    Research undertaken by the Labour Force Survey, shows that only 68.1% of people who had “difficulty in hearing” were in work, compared to 81.2% of people who are not disabled; yet there are very few jobs which they are unable to do, given the right support and 'reasonable adjustments' in the workplace.

    Often a major barrier to employment for people who are deaf or hard of hearing is the general attitude of employers and a lack of basic deaf awareness. However, good employers will recognise that people are the key to the success of an organisation, and that many deaf people have developed extra skills such as effective communication and high levels of concentration and awareness.

    By making simple changes in the workplace, employers are able to tap into this skilled labour force, and unleash the talents of those already employed.

    Simple changes that can improve things, without being an exhaustive list, include:

    • Discussing individual training or employment needs at induction and ensure you act on these
    • If someone is deaf or hard of hearing, ask if they need to lip read you
    • Making sure that you have the person's attention before you start speaking
    • Speaking clearly, not too slowly and using normal lip movements
    • Don't shout, it's uncomfortable for a hearing aid user and can look aggressive
    • Trying to reduce isolation in an office environment by sitting someone who is deaf or hard of hearing where they can see everyone else
    • In meetings, encouraging the group to speak one at a time
    • Checking that the person you are talking to is able to follow what you are saying
    • Possibly providing additional support such as a loop system.

    Specialist deaf awareness and product training is available through the re-adjust initiative; products from re-adjust include:

    (Source: RNID, Disability Rights Commission, UK Council on Deafness)

  • Dyspraxia

    by Justin Crick | Oct 11, 2012

    It is estimated that between 5 and 10 percent of the UK's population have some level of dyspraxia; therefore it is quite probable that you will have people with dyspraxia working within your organisation. Many will have developed their own strategies and coping mechanisms and it is likely that you may not be aware of their difficulties.

    Dyspraxia can affect any or all areas of development-Symptoms can include a combination of difficulties including problems with co-ordination, spatial awareness, perception, language and short-term memory. These challenges often result in poor balance, poor hand-eye co-ordination and a lack of manual dexterity. Adults with dyspraxia often find routine daily tasks such as personal grooming, driving and household chores challenging. They may find it hard to cope at work and opt out of doing things they find difficult. It is possible to mistake someone with dyspraxia as clumsy, lazy or rude but the reality is that people with dyspraxia are often hardworking, highly motivated, creative thinkers who are extremely good strategic problem solvers.

    Employers can help by undertaking awareness training and being aware of the symptoms; setting out structured work routines can also be a great benefit.

    Below are a few tips that can be useful for all employees but especially for people with dyspraxia:

    • Make instructions clear, concise and easily accessible.
    • Encourage employees to break down their work into manageable chunks, and provide equipment to help with organisation. Concept mapping programs can be a great organisational and planning tool.
    • Assistive technology, such as word processors with built in grammar and spellcheckers, text to speech and speech recognition can be a great benefit, by increasing independent working and reducing stress.
    • Provide instructions for fax machines, photocopiers, phone systems and keep them in an easily accessible place.
    • Ensure that employees are taking enough rest breaks, and that their computer equipment is set up correctly.
    • Open plan offices may cause distractions; flexible working hours or the provision of earphones/partitions may help reduce stress and interruption to work.

    (Source – Dyspraxia foundation)

    Specialist dyspraxia and product training is available through the re-adjust initiative; these are just some of the products:

  • Dyscalculia

    by Justin Crick | Oct 11, 2012

    Like dyslexia, it is genetic in origin and is often compromised by limited working memory. It affects approximately 5% of the population and has a 60% co morbidity with dyslexia.

    Dyscalculia affects a person's ability to understand, recall or manipulation numerical information, or conceptualize numbers as abstract concepts.

    Common symptoms of dyscalculia include:

    • Difficulties with simple maths tasks
    • Confusion with regard to signs e.g. +, -, or x
    • Inability to estimate e.g. 39 + 39
    • Inability to understand financial information e.g. budgeting
    • Difficulties with conceptual understanding of formula
    • Difficulties estimating the passing of time
    • Difficulties with navigation and orientation in general
    • Inability to estimate distance
    • Transposition of numbers e.g. 117 read as 171
    • Difficulties reading long numbers

    Often those with dyscalculia will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid numbers. For example, this may lead to able employees refusing promotion if it means working with numbers even at a basic level.

    As with dyslexia, dyscalculia can be addressed with specialist input. In specialist sessions, the employee acquires strategies for dealing with numbers. In many ways dyscalculia can be regarded as a language and time must be spent learning its vocabulary, syntax and translation. If sound learning of the basics is not acquired difficulties with numbers will occur which may be the result of dyscalculia - a difficulty processing numbers.

    Employers can help by:

    • Arranging awareness sessions
    • Ensuring instructions are clear and concise
    • When presenting numerical data – reduce to essential parts and remove unnecessary figures i.e. make the message clear
    • Use where possible visual representations such as pie charts etc
    • Explain what numbers are and mean
    • Avoid asking employees to record important figures in meeting – provide this in written format following meetings. In this way errors will be reduced
    • Provide facilities for speed dialling of telephone numbers
    • Consider the appropriate reasonable adjustment for using security codes for doors and computer log in etc
    • Review expense forms etc and gain input from employees on how these might be developed
    • Provided handheld calculators
    For those employees with diagnosed dyscalculia consider a workplace assessment which will provided information on reasonable adjustments and how to best support an employee. Such assessments carefully explore each individual difficulties and situation as well as taking into consideration the needs of the employers.

    Recommendations may include:

    • Provision of a speaking calculator
    • Consideration of permitting flexible working to avoid times in the office when it is busy and noisy, enhancing concentration
    • Permitting working at home
    • Provision of a quiet area in which to work
    • Provision of screening around the desk and/or earphones to reduce distractions