Sensory Impairment Awareness

Contents

Introduction.. 1

Section 1: Sensory Impairment Overview.. 1

Section 2: Approaches to Communication. 5

Section 3: Environmental Factors. 18

Section 4: Assistive Equipment 19

Section 5: Language, Communication and Transcription. 24

Section 6: End of course quiz. 27

Section 7: Useful Links. 29

 

Introduction

Welcome to this Sensory Impairment Awareness e-learning which has been designed for anyone who may come into contact with a person who has a sensory impairment.  This course will take approximately 40 minutes to complete.

The aim of the course is to provide information about sensory loss and how to communicate in an inclusive way.

Learning Outcomes: by the end of this course you will have an understanding of:

·        What sensory impairment is;

·        Types of sensory impairment;

·        How best to communicate with someone who has a sensory impairment;

·        Environmental factors to consider in your workplace;

·        Assistive technology which can support someone with a sensory impairment; and

·        What transcription and translation services are available.

There is a multiple choice assessment at the end of this course.

 

 

 

Section 1: Sensory Impairment Overview

What is sensory impairment?

‘Sensory impairment’ or ‘sensory loss’ are umbrella terms used to describe loss of the distance senses i.e. of sight and hearing.  You will find that the term ‘sensory impairment’ is commonly used by professionals rather than people with a ‘sensory impairment’ themselves.

People with a sensory impairment will have experienced life with their individual impairment in a completely different way to others with the same type of sensory impairment – no two people will be exactly the same and services should not be delivered as if they were.

Why is it important for you to have an awareness?

As our population ages, alongside young people exposing themselves to excessive noise, sensory impairment is affecting a growing number of people.  People with a sensory impairment often have difficulty communicating with family, friends, colleagues and services providers, which can impact significantly on their health and wellbeing.

Within your organisation, you will sometimes come into contact with people who have a sensory impairment whether it is colleagues or service users. It is important to provide an accessible work place or service to everyone. It is also a legal requirement (this will be covered later in the course).  Understanding some of the barriers and issues that people who have a sensory impairment frequently encounter can help all of us to provide more inclusive services.

Types of Sensory Impairment

There are 4 types of sensory impairment which will be explained in more detail below:

1.   Hearing Impairment

 

a)   Hard of hearing people with a mild, moderate or severe hearing loss

b)   Deafened people who were born with hearing and have suddenly become severely or profoundly deaf after learning speech

c)   People born with profound hearing loss

 

2.   Visual Impairment

 

a)   Only around 4% of blind people have no vision at all, the majority have a combination of very limited or restricted fields of vision

b)   Blind people have a severe sight impairment

c)   Partially sighted people have some vision which is impaired or reduced

 

3.   Deafblind/ Dual sensory impairment

 

People who have a severe degree of visual and hearing impairment.

 

Some people may be deafblind from birth, others may be born deaf or hard of hearing and become blind or visually impaired later in life, or the reverse may be the case.

 

This will have a direct impact on the method of communication preferred.

 

4.   Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) User

People with severe or profound hearing loss, who use BSL to communicate, English, in most cases, is not likely their first language.

The Deaf BSL User may have difficulty with reading and understanding English whether spoken or written.

 

Legislation

UK and Scottish legislation has been put in place to protect and promote the rights of people with sensory impairments.

What is covered in the Equality Act 2010?

The Equality Act 2010 replaced the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Under this legislation it is illegal to treat a person with a disability, or perceived disability, less favourably than someone without a disability, to harass or victimise them because of their disability or something connected to their disability. 

It is also illegal to fail to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure that people with a disability are not at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ when accessing goods, services, housing, employment and education.

The Equality Act 2010 gives rights to disabled people with assistance dogs also.  It is no longer legal to display "Guide Dogs Only" and these should be replaced with "Assistance Dogs Only".  It is illegal under the Equality Act 2010 to refuse access or services to disabled people with assistance dogs of any type. This includes taxis, private hire, shops, banks, cafes, restaurants, pubs, libraries, hospitals etc.

What is covered in the British Sign Language (Scotland) Act 2015?

This Act aims to promote the use and understanding of British Sign Language (BSL), principally by means of BSL plans, which are to be published by Scottish Government Ministers and specified public authorities. These plans are to be reviewed and updated at regular intervals and reported on via progress reports.

All Councils and NHS Boards will be listed public authorities who must produce their own plan, as well as other public bodies.

Please select the following link if you would like more information about the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015.

Hearing Impairment Statistics

How many people do you think have a hearing impairment in Scotland?

·        1,000,000

·        945,000

·        845,000

·        527,000

The correct answer is 945,000. It is projected that this figure will increase by 50% in the next 20 years to 1.4 million.

Visual Impairment Statistics

How many people do you think have a visual impairment in Scotland?

·        945,000

·        500,750

·        180,000

·        165,000

The correct answer is 180,000. It is predicted that this figure will double by 2031 to 360,000.

Dual Sensory Impairment Statistics

How many people do you think have a dual sensory impairment in Scotland?

·        1,500

·        3,200

·        4,800

·        5,000

The correct answer is 5,000.  Deafblind Scotland estimate that there are around 5,000 people who have significant hearing and sight loss, with most of those people being over 60 and having become dual sensory impaired as part of the ageing process.  There are however, a notable number of people under 60 years of age who live with Usher Syndrome, a genetic or inherited condition that affects hearing, vision and balance.

Section 2: Approaches to Communication

When you interact with a person who has a hearing impairment, visual impairment or both, you will need to use certain approaches in order to communicate with them effectively.  The approaches and tactics that you use will depend on the type of sensory impairment the person has and their choice of communication method.

In this section, we will identify a range of approaches, to enable you to be more confident and effective in communicating with people with a sensory impairment. 

The following 3 step process should be used when communicating with someone with a sensory impairment. 

1.   Recognise that a person may have a sensory impairment(s).

2.   Find out how to communicate effectively.

3.   Provide appropriate information to take away.

These steps will be covered in more detail in this section of the course.

Step 1 - Recognising Sensory Impairment

At times it may be obvious that a person is either deaf, blind or deafblind, however, many people have developed coping strategies which may unintentionally conceal their impairment.

Age is a very reliable indicator of hearing loss or visual impairment, particularly those over 60. Other indications that sensory impairments may be present could include all or a combination of the following:

1.   Loss of Hearing

·        Fail to react to voices behind him/her

·        Lean forward and look intently into the speaker’s face

·        Wearing a hearing aid

·        Uses sign language

·        Have difficulties joining in a group

·        The volume on their TV is loud

·        Fail to respond to a doorbell etc.

·        Give inappropriate responses

·        Ask for repetition of what was said

 

2.   Loss of Sight

·        Wear dark glasses

·        Uses a white cane

·        Uses a guide dog

·        Fail to react to visual clues/motions

·        Ignore a person who us speaking to them because they have not announced themselves and directed the person into the conversation by using their name

·        They may sit near the front, or close to the whiteboard/chalkboard/presentation screen

·        Bump into people/objects or trip over items on the ground

·        Move around tentatively, perhaps walking close to walls

·        Fail to see documents, cups, objects placed near them

·        Have to hold something very close to read it

·        Not look directly at you

 

3.   Loss of both Hearing & Sight

·        Display any of the points mentioned in the loss of hearing and loss of sight sections plus:

·        Use a red and white cane

·        Find it difficult to “hear” when the light is dim

 

 

4.   Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) User

·        Fail to react to voices behind him/her

·        Lean forward to look intently into the speakers face

·        May have difficulty reading English

·        Fail to respond to doorbell etc.

·        Use sign language

·        May have no speech

·        Will probably not lip-read

Remember – whatever the issue, it’s always helpful to start your interaction by asking the person what will be best to facilitate their communication.

Step 2 - Find out how to communicate effectively

Once you have identified that a person has a sensory impairment, it is always best to ask how best to communicate with them.

There are a number of practical things you can do to help effective communication.

·        Good Communication Skills

·        Assistive Technology

·        Language, Communication and Transcription

These methods will be covered in more detail in the next sections of the course.

Step 3 – Provide appropriate information and agree action

It is always useful to provide the person with a summary of any information you have provided. You will need to think carefully about how you do this, taking into consideration the person’s sensory impairment and any barriers that will limit carrying out any agreed actions.

Some people will be able to read complex information, while others will require information to be communicated in a simple format, large print, and audio or screen reader which converts text into speech. For example, some people who use British Sign Language as their first language may have a limited understanding of English. Leaflets and other more complex materials would therefore not be appropriate.

If an agreed action requires the person to contact an individual or organisation, it would be helpful to provide an email address, telephone number as well as a text phone number. The person can then choose how and when to make contact. In some situations, and if the person is happy for you to do so, it may be appropriate for you to make a call on behalf of the person.

Meeting with somebody who has a hearing impairment

This section of the course focuses on planned appointments but it is important to note that there will be times unplanned meetings take place. It is good practice to have a strategy prepared in advance where the needs of the person can be met quickly. However, this may not be suitable and, where needed, you should offer an alternative appointment.

I have a meeting arranged with someone who has a hearing impairment. What do I need to consider?

In advance of the appointment

In advance of the appointment you may need to:

·        Confirm the person’s preferred communication method

·        Plan to book the necessary communication support in advance, at least 2 weeks’ notice

·        Establish when it is best for the person to attend an appointment

·        Prepare an appropriate room

·        Take time to get the environment right

·        If a loop system is available, check that it is working, that you know how to use it and/or who can use it

·        Allow extra time for the appointment

·        Inform colleagues and reception that a person with a hearing impairment will be attending for an appointment

·        Take into consideration any other additional needs

 

Some problems you may experience

Some barriers experienced by deaf people with communication and/or accessing information:

·        Language levels of printed material too difficult to understand

·        Not being able to access spoken material

·        English as a second language

·        Difficulties in lip-reading

·        Difficulty in accessing BSL interpreters or other appropriate communication professionals

·        Difficulty in accessing loop systems

·        Lack of awareness of others as to how to help

·        Not knowing when it’s their turn

 

What can you do?

·        Taking ‘positive’ action is always better than trying to ‘repair’ communication breakdowns

·        Confirm the person’s preferred communication method

·        Inform them if there is a loop system if they wear a hearing aid

·        When necessary book BSL interpreter, lipspeaker, notetaker etc. well in advance

·        Find a place to talk that has good lighting and is quiet

·        Make sure you have the person’s attention before speaking

·        Tell the deaf person what the topic is you are going to discuss, inform them when the topic changes

·        Position yourself at the same level as the person

·        Face the person so you can lipread them

·        Use clear speech, normal lip pattern, don’t shout

·        Use fingerspelling if appropriate

Always remember

What works for one hearing impaired person may not work for another – always check with the person.

Hearing Awareness

There were two videos created to demonstrate examples of how to communicate the wrong way and the correct way with someone who has a hearing impairment.  The transcripts from both of the videos are below:

Video 1 Transcript - Communicating the wrong way:

A visitor approaches the main door at Dudhope Castle, he tries to open the door but can't get in as it is secure entry.

Receptionist: "There’s a buzzer, wait for the buzzer please!"

Someone opens the door to let the visitor in.

Receptionist: "Hi there sorry, there is a buzzer that sounds when you can come in"

Visitor: "Sorry?" and gestures to the receptionist that he is not able to hear.

Receptionist: "Sorry, there is a buzzer that goes off with the door".

Visitor: "Oh right ok sorry I didn't hear that.  I am actually here for some information on Welfare Rights; do you have something like that?"

Receptionist: "Hmm Welfare Rights em, we've got ... I think there is information on the Internet or if you phone into Welfare Rights, they have a phone line".

Visitor: Gestures to say that he may not hear well over the phone.

Receptionist: "Well what I could do is I could try and phone you back with information about that later, I don’t seem to have anything to hand

Visitor: "Phone is not good" Gestures to say he is not able to hear.

Receptionist: "Oh right ok, well I could see if I've got anything here for you".

Visitor: "Right ok, thank you".

Video 2 Transcript - Communicating the right way:

A visitor approaches the main door at Dudhope Castle and tries to open the door but can't get in as it is secure entry.

The receptionist can see the visitor is struggling at the door so gets up from her desk and opens the door to let the visitor in.

Receptionist: "Sorry that door is locked".

Visitor: "Oh right".

Receptionist: "Just come in, I'll just be one second .... how can I help today?"

Visitor:  "I'm looking for information on Welfare Rights, do you have something here?"

Receptionist: "Eh, I think I've got a phone number for them and you could give them a phone?"

Visitor: Shakes his head "I'm deaf/hard of hearing so the phone is not good for me, is there something else?"

Receptionist: "Right ok, I can see if we've got leaflets - is there any way we could better communicate that to you? 

Visitor: "Em, text is good or e-mail".

Receptionist: "Ok, so I will get a note of that and we can give you this leaflet that we've got here in the building as well that is your basic Welfare Rights leaflet.  We can take your details and get that sent to you".

Visitor:  "That's very helpful, thank you, thanks very much.  So it’s RonScrimgeour@talktalk.net".

Receptionist: "Ok no problem".

Visitor:  Holds up the leaflet which has the Welfare Rights address on it "So, is this where they are based?"

Receptionist: "Yes, they are based at Dundee House - would you like me to write their address down for you?"

Visitor:  "Please yes, if you wouldn't mind, that's very helpful".

Receptionist: "So, that's their address and they will be able to give you all the information you need in any form of contact that you want".

Visitor: "That's super, thanks very much".

Receptionist: "Ok, I will give you the leaflet as well".

Visitor: "Great, thank you".

Receptionist: "No problem, ok bye".

Visitor: "Bye".

Meeting with someone who has a visual impairment

I have a meeting arranged with someone who has a visual impairment, what do I need to consider?

In advance of the appointment

In advance of the appointment, you may need to:

·        Confirm the person’s preferred communication method

·        Confirm that the person knows that there is an appointment and that they can attend

·        Arrange for alternative formats to be provided, otherwise the sight impaired person may not even be aware they have an appointment

·        Inform colleagues and reception that a client with sight impairment will be attending for an appointment

·        Establish when it is best for the person to attend an appointment

·        Check the person can get to the building for the appointment

·        Prepare an appropriate room

·        Take the time to get the environment right

·        Allow extra time for the appointment

·        Take into consideration any other additional needs

·        Ensure the environment is clutter free at floor level and head height

Some problems you may experience

Some problems experienced by blind/partially sighted people with communication, accessing information and services:

·        May not know about the appointment as they can’t read the letter

·        Difficulty in accessing public transport for the appropriate time

·        Difficulty in locating the building

·        Problems with inappropriate signage

·        Over reliance on signage with lack of or no accessible alternative to signs

·        Difficulty in accessing the reception desk

·        Not being able to access written material

·        Difficulty in accessing the internet/devices/screens in waiting rooms

·        Not knowing when it’s their turn

·        Lack of awareness of others as to how to help

What can you do?

·        Taking ‘positive’ action is always better than trying to ‘repair’ communication breakdowns

·        Confirm the person’s preferred communication method

·        Gain the person’s attention by speaking first or by a touch on the arm

·        Introduce yourself and what you do

·        Always use names to identify people – especially in a group situation

·        Keep the visually impaired person informed of people moving around and/or leaving the room/table etc.

·        Use verbal responses, do not use non-verbal communication, e.g. pointing in the direction of something, nodding in agreement, shrugging shoulders, pulling faces

·        Ask if guidance and support to reach a destination or the exit is required

·        Provide information in alternative formats such as: electronic formats, extra-large print, braille, email

·        Use a black marker pen when writing down information as it is easier to see

·        Don’t avoid words like “look” and “see”

Always remember

What works for one sight impaired person may not work for another – always check with the person.

Guiding Awareness

There is no one correct way to guide a visually impaired person.  Each visually impaired person experiences their visual impairment in their own unique way, and this affects their mobility and guiding needs.

Four videos have been created to demonstrate examples of how to guide with or without an assistance dog, the wrong way and the correct way.  Transcripts from these videos are detailed below:

Guiding with an assistance dog – wrong way

A visitor with her guide dog approach Dudhope Castle main entrance and try to open the door.

Receptionist: "oh, buzzer"

Someone opens the door to let the visitor in.

Receptionist:  "Hi there, what is it you are here for today?"

Visitor: "Hi, I'm in for some training today I think".

Receptionist:  "Eh ok, I will just check ... yeah there is training on today so I'll just need to get you to sign in".

Visitor: "Right em, I can't actually see anything to sign in so would you be able to do it for me?"

Receptionist: "Yeah, what’s your name?"

Visitor: "It's Nina McIntosh"

Receptionist: "Right ok, so that's you signed in and your training is in the Training Room today so you are just straight through the doors and all the way to the end of the corridor.

Visitor: "Right, which Training Room? What doors?  I don't know I've got a guide dog, I can't see where I'm going".

Receptionist: "Eh yeah, no problem .. so there are stairs on your left and there is doors straight through".

Visitor: "and after the doors straight through ....?

Receptionist: "Eh there is another set ...."

Visitor: "Could you just show me where it is first of all then?"

Receptionist: "Yeah, no problem".

Guiding with an assistance dog – correct way

A visitor with her guide dog approaches Dudhope Castle and stop in front of the main entrance.

Someone opens the door and lets them in.

Receptionist: "Hi I'm Rae, I'm the receptionist here at Dudhope - are you just here for training today?"

Visitor: "I am yes, I think I've got training today anyway. 

Receptionist: "Oh right ok, did you get confirmation of the training?

Visitor: "I got a letter".

Receptionist: "oh ok, is there a better way of us communicating that to you in future?"

Visitor: "Electronic e-mail yeah"

Receptionist: "Ok that’s fine, I will take note of that and we will e-mail future dates to you”

Visitor: "Excellent"

Receptionist: "No problem, so I will sign you in, what's your name?

Visitor: "It's Nina McIntosh"

Receptionist: "Ok no problem.  So, the training room is quite far away, would you like me to assist you or give you directions?"

Visitor: "Assist please".

Receptionist: "No problem, I will just come round".

Receptionist:  "So, would you prefer to go up and around up the ramp or up the two steps?"

Visitor: "Just up the steps is fine".

Receptionist: "Ok, do you need guidance or do you want me to ..."

Visitor: "No, I will just follow you".

Receptionist: "Ok no problem, just coming up there are two steps in front of you and I will just open the door for you.  Just come straight through here, there is another set of doors.  Ok, we are just going down a corridor on your right now, and the training room is right at the end of the corridor here".

Guiding without an assistance dog – wrong way

A visitor approaches Dudhope Castle using a white stick and tries to open the door.  The visitor enters the building and walks towards reception.

Visitor:  "Hi there, I have a meeting at Conference room 3." 

Receptionist: "Ok, can I just get you to sign the register please?"

Visitor:  "I can't sign it, I'm totally blind.  Can you sign it for me?"

Receptionist:  "Ok, I will be with you in just one second."

Visitor:  "I'm actually running a wee bit late so would really appreciate it if you could help me just now."

Receptionist:  "Ok, I will just be two seconds; I'm just going to finish what I am doing."

Receptionist:  "Right I'll sign the register for you, what's your name?"

Visitor:  "It's Sheila Hands."

Receptionist:  "And, what room did you say you were going to?"

Visitor:  "It's Conference Room 3."

Receptionist:  "Ok, if you go up the steps and through the door and straight up all the stairs to the very top, Conference Room 3 is up there and you will see a sign post for it”.

Visitor:  "Is it possible for somebody to come and maybe take me up as I don't think I will be able to find it myself?"

Guiding without an assistance dog – correct way

A visitor approaches the reception at Dudhope Castle.

Receptionist: "Hi".

Visitor:  "Hi there, I've got a meeting with Carie Burns in Conference Room 3."

Receptionist:  "Ok, can I just get you to sign in?"

Visitor:  "Em, could you do it for me?  My name is Sheila Hands.

Receptionist: "Oh, ok that's no problem ... (signs the register for the visitor).  Right, its Carie you want to see?"

Visitor:  "It is yes, Carie."

Receptionist: "In Conference room 3?"

Visitor:  "Yes."

Receptionist:  "Do you want me to get Carie to come?"

Visitor:  "Yes, if you can maybe give her a phone and ask her if she can come and meet me that would be brilliant, thank you."

Receptionist:  "No problem, of course .... (phone call is made to Carie) ... "Hi Carie, I've got Sheila Hands here for you, would you be able to come down to reception to give her some assistance to go to a meeting room?  Thanks."

Colleague:  "Hello Sheila, my name is Alana; I've come along to give you a hand up to Conference Room 3".

Visitor:  "That's great, thanks very much."

Colleague:  "Ok, if you want to take my elbow".

Visitor thanked the receptionist for their help.

Colleague:  "We have a couple of steps in front of us here so we are just going up there then there is a door just in front of us.  Now the door comes inwards and it's hinged on the left so watch you don't fall back on the stairs cause its quite tight, there is not much room here.  Just grab my elbow."

Visitor:  "Ok, got it thanks."

Colleague:  "There we are, we are just going straight through, there is another door straight in front and it's also hinged on the left."

Visitor:  "ok."

Colleague:  "There we go, ok we are coming the door way and on our right we have a lift which will get us upstairs.  So did you have a busy journey on the way?"

Visitor:  "No, it was fine."

Colleague: "oh good."

They get into the lift than then the doors open at the correct floor. 

Colleague:  "Ok Sheila, it’s quite narrow that lift area so watch the doors.  Now we have another door here and it is opening in towards us, ok and it's on the left”

Visitor: "ok"

Colleague:  "We are just going along this corridor and we are taking a turn around to the right then we are going left very quickly, and that's Conference Room 2 so it’s not that one. Here we are at Conference room 3, the door is just here going inwards on the left.  Ok, would you like a tea or coffee?"

Visitor:  "Oh coffee would be great."

Colleague:  "I'll let Carie know that you are in and arrived safely."

Meeting with someone who has a Deafblind/ Dual Sensory Impairment

I have a meeting arranged with someone who has a dual sensory impairment. What do I need to consider?

In advance of the appointment

In advance of the appointment, you may need to:

·        Confirm the person’s preferred communication method

·        Confirm that the person knows that there is an appointment and that they can attend

·        Arrange for alternative formats to be provided otherwise the Deafblind person may not be aware they have an appointment

·        Establish when it is best for the person to attend an appointment

·        Book the necessary communication support

·        Prepare an appropriate room

·        Take time to get the environment right

·        Inform colleagues and reception that a client with a dual sensory impairment will be in for an appointment

·        Allow extra time for the appointment

·        Take into consideration any other additional needs

 

Some problems you may face

Some problems experienced by blind/partially sighted and deaf people with communication and/or accessing information:

·        All of the points raised under blind/partially sighted and deaf people; plus

·        Not having access to guide/communicator service or communication support

·        Lack of awareness of the possibility of dual sensory loss being present

·        Lack of awareness of others as to how to help.

 

What can you do?

Taking ‘positive’ action is always better than trying to ‘repair’ communication breakdowns.

·        Confirm the person’s preferred communication method

·        Good lighting conditions are essential

·        The person speaking should be facing the light which should come from behind the deafblind person

·        Distance and positioning is important, check their preferred distance

·        Use a whiteboard, or paper with black marker pen

·        Provide a guide/communicator to help deafblind person prepare for an appointment

·        Remove any sunglasses as they hide expression from your eyes and part of your face

·        Ask if sighted guidance is required

 

Always remember

What works for one dual impaired person may not work for another – always check with the person.

Section 3: Environmental Factors

Office Environment

Small changes in your surroundings can make communication much easier for someone with a sensory impairment. You want to create as simple an environment as possible. Modern, trendy or pattern décor, leaflet racks and posters may inadvertently create problems.

To achieve this, you could:

Office Layout

·        Encourage a clutter free environment to avoid trip hazards

·        Have quiet areas where people can go to have conversations

·        Clear and consistent signage and instructions

·        Use a carpeted room with soft furnishings, as sounds echo in rooms with hard floors

·        Avoid reflective surfaces such as shiny floors

 

Lighting & Visibility

·        Maximise use of natural light where possible, ensure the light is on your face, not behind you

·        Do not sit with your back to the window as your face will be in shadow

·        Avoid lampshades that allow people to look directly at the bulb

·        Move out from behind glass

·        Make things bigger and use colour contrast on doors, steps and pillars

·        Avoid highly patterned wallpaper, carpets and furnishings

·        Chairs and carpets should be in contrasting colours

 

 

Noise

·        Install induction loop systems, ensure they are working and people know how to use them

·        Have a portable loop system available for one-to-one meetings

·        Cut out any background noise

 

Offering Assistance

·        Offer guidance and support where appropriate

 

Section 4: Assistive Equipment

Assistive Technology for hearing impairments

In this section, we will explore some of the most commonly used technological aids used for communication. You will find more information on hearing aids and loop systems below:

Hearing Aids

Many people who are hard of hearing use hearing aids. They make sounds louder and clearer, so that someone with hearing loss can hear comfortably. It is a battery-operated device which is place in or behind the ear. Hearing aids can be effective, but their use can also present some problems.

It is important to remember that hearing aids don’t cure hearing loss; they amplify the hearing that the person has left. Hearing aids do not ‘fix’ the person’s hearing. The worst thing you can do is shout at a hearing impaired person. Remember your good communication skills covered in section 2.

Problems with hearing aids and how to address them:

·        Whistling – check that the person’s hearing aid is fitted in properly

·        Battery not working – ask the person if their battery has been changed (batteries only last 7-10 days)

·        Tubing may need changed as it can get blocked with wax (tubing should be changed every 6-9 months)

·        May not be on the correct programme – open the battery door and close it again to reset the hearing aid

With digital hearing aids, different program settings can be stored for different listening environments.  Some hearing aids may have a loop program which allows the wearer to pick up signals from a loop system.  This is generally set as a different listening program and the wearer will have to push a button to activate it. 

Loop Systems

Loop systems are available in many public venues and portable/personal loops systems are available.  These systems should be checked regularly and all staff trained to use them. Portable loops can help with hearing in smaller groups, on the phone or other devices such as personal listening devices.

Not all hearing aids are able to work with loops.  Those that do generally require the hearing aid wearer to change the programme on their hearing aid.  When the aid is switched to the Loop programme, it picks up the sounds transmitted from the loop system. The sound quality might vary depending where the hearing aid wearer is sitting or standing, so it may be worth trying a few different seats to get the best sound quality.  If a hearing aid wearer does not have access to the loop, they may wish to access sound through a headset that has inbuilt loop provision.

Problems with the Loop Systems

Confidentiality can be an issue when using a loop system.  Hearing aid wearers in adjacent rooms, or even outside the building, may be able to hear what is being said on an internal loop.

Some hearing aids might pick up sound interference from fluorescent lights or electricity cables, so it may be necessary to try to eliminate or reduce these effects.

It is important that you understand how a loop system works and how to use it.

Assistive Technology for hearing impairments

In this section, we will explore some of the most commonly used technological aids used for communication.  You will see examples of equipment used for hearing impairments below:

 

 

Conversation Amplifiers

These are portable products that help people hear more clearly whether or not they have hearing aids.

The benefits of these products are that they:

·        Enhance the volume and clarity of conversations and other sounds

·        Reduce background noise, which can be particularly distracting when wearing hearing aids.

·        Are suitable for most situations

·        Allow you to adjust the high and low tones to suit your particular type of hearing loss

·        Can be used if the person has a ‘T’ setting on their hearing aids, they can use ear hooks or neckloops

·        Can be used if the person with a hearing impairment does not have a hearing aid or a ‘T’ setting on their hearing aid.  Headphones, earbuds or a stethoset work well.

These products can be useful to check that your loop system is working or as a back-up if your loop system isn’t working.

Textphones

Textphones (sometimes called minicoms) are becoming less common.  On a textphone, the deaf person types in the message they wish to send.  The message is then picked up by a receiving textphone, or is relayed via a hearing operator using the BT Textrelay Service.

Mobile Phone SMS

Many hearing impaired people use text messaging on mobile phones frequently, to communicate simple, short pieces of information.  Many BSL users will also use instant video messaging to enable signing when communicating through Facetime or Skype.

Next Generation Text

Some people will communicate in text because they can't hear or can’t speak.

Deaf and hearing impaired people using the NGT App through a smartphone, tablet, or computer contact you through a relay assistant who will speak their words to you. Then the relay assistant will type your reply so they can read it on their display in real time. The relay assistant is there to facilitate your call. They take no part in the conversation and your conversation is completely confidential.  People can use NGT at home, in work, or on the move to contact services, order takeaways, book taxis, use phone banking, order goods, or just chat by typing and/or reading your phone conversation.

If you want to make a call to a deaf person using NGT you will need to add the 18001 prefix to the phone number you are calling, including the area code for landlines.

ContactScotland – BSL Service

This is Scotland’s on-line BSL interpreting service for public authorities.  It is an easy and flexible way for Deaf BSL users to contact public services.  It aims to connect Deaf BSL users in Scotland through a dedicated team of interpreters, with all of Scotland’s public authorities.  More information can be found at www.contactscotland-bsl.org

Pager Systems

Pager systems use vibration to alert the wearer to a range of events, including fire alarms, door bells, telephones ringing and baby alarms.  The relevant button on the pager lights up to indicate which event is taking place.  If the in-house fire system does not include flashing warning lights, and is only an audible siren or bell, then a pager may be the only way to ensure that a severely or profoundly deaf person can be alerted if the fire alarm goes off.

Assistive Technology for visually impaired people

You will see examples of equipment used for visual impairments below. You should remember that glasses and magnifiers do not ‘fix’ the sight of a visually impaired person; they only help magnify the sight they have left.

Screen Reader Software

Screen readers are designed to give blind people access to information on a computer, tablet device or a mobile phone by reading the information using a synthetic voice rather than the user reading it with their eyes.  For people who read Braille, a screen reader will also display this information on a refreshable Braille display.

 

 

Screen Magnification

A screen magnifier can be a useful addition or alternative to a larger screen and large font.

Mobile Phone

Many smart phones have built in accessibility features for people with sensory impairments.  There are a number of accessible apps for smart phones that make accessing information much more readily available, 2 examples are explained below:

·        KNFBReader - converts any text to speech or Braille instantly and accurately.  Its text-to-speech and text-highlighting tools make it valuable for blind, low-vision, dyslexic, and other print-disabled users.

·        VoiceDream - is an accessible reading tool for mobile and tablet devices. With advanced text-to-speech and a highly configurable screen layout, it can be tailored to suit every reading style from completely auditory to completely visual, plus synchronized combination of both.

Stand-alone Text to Speech Machine

A reading machine reads out a printed document with a synthetic voice.  It uses a camera or scanner with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to turn documents into electronic text which in turn can be either displayed in large print on a monitor, read out by a screen reader or both.  The addition of cameras to many portable devices such as mobile phones and tablets now means you are able to have a portable reading machine with the addition of an OCR app.

Limitations of the technology

The effective use of the equipment mentioned above will depend on the accessible design of the original document.  Screen readers are only able to read text files so images and graphics will not be accessible and require a description in text instead.

 

Access technology for people with a visual impairment is expensive and not many individuals will have access to this equipment or have received training in how to use it.

 

For further information on practical tips for good document design please see the guidance for Making PDF document more accessible on the Government website.

Section 5: Language, Communication and Transcription

Sometimes it may be essential to use a language service professional (LSP) or transcription/translation services to support communication for sensory impaired people. The main types are covered below:

British Sign Language (BSL) / English Interpreter

Interpreters support communication between hearing people and people who use British Sign Language.  They interpret from one language to the other (usually simultaneously).  They sign what the hearing person is saying and voice what the deaf person is signing.  Remember English may not be their first language.

Electronic or Manual notetaker

Using specialist software, the electronic note-taker types a summary of spoken conversation into a laptop.  A deaf or hard of hearing person can then view the summarised conversation on a second laptop, tablet or on a projection screen.  Manual note-takers are similar: they write down a summary of a dialogue for immediate reading or for later reference.

Lip Speaker

People who lipread can struggle to lipread new people, or to identify who it is that is speaking when in larger groups.  A lipspeaker repeats what is being said without voice, only lip movements, almost verbatim and with appropriate facial expressions and gestures.  Lipreaders find it much easier to focus on the one, clear, lip-readable face of the lipspeaker.

Translation Services

Translation services will translate printed or written information into BSL and record onto video footage.

Deafblind guide/communicator

Some deafblind people use a communicator/guide to help with getting around and to communicate via a range of methods, including the tactile deafblind manual or block alphabet systems.  This usually involves forming letters on the deafblind person’s hand, spelling out what is being said.

Transcription Services

This service will allow you to convert any written or printed material into an accessible format such as audio, large print, electronic text and Braille. A number of organisations offer this service such as the Royal National Institute of the Blind – Transcription Services.

Booking a language service professional

Interpreters and other language service professionals can be booked through the organisations.  As with other translation services, there are costs involved with engaging a language service professional.  You may need to check your organisation’s arrangements for this.  However, there is a statutory duty to provide such services. 

There are many agencies offering communication support services; the ‘Useful Links’ page at the end of this module will provide contact details.

There are also BSL fingerspelling alphabet, deaf – blind alphabet and block alphabets available to use.

Working with BSL/ English Interpreters

The following script was written to answer some questions about working with BSL/English interpreters:

“What advice can you give when using interpreters?”

 

“Always book fully qualified and registered BSL/English interpreters.  Never use family or friends to interpret unless in very informal circumstances and only if the Deaf person agrees. 

 

There may be legal issues involved for consultation between a deaf person and NHS staff. “

 

“How does consent work?”

 

“”Informed Consent” can only be given when a registered and qualified BSL interpreter has been used to facilitate the dialogue between the patient and the medical staff. It is equally important for matters that involve the police, mental health or legal system to be conducted via a trained and qualified interpreter.”

“What are the main points to consider when working with an interpreter?”

“When working with an interpreter, always:

·        Ask the deaf person and their interpreter where it is best for them to sit; generally this will be opposite one another

·        Ensure that you are facing the deaf person, remember never sit with your back to the window

·        Address the deaf person, not the interpreter

·        Avoid asking the interpreter questions or trying to involve them in the conversation

·        Speak one at a time

·        If using written materials or PowerPoint, allow the deaf person time to read it before speaking

·        Leave time for the interpreter to sign the speech and for the deaf person to watch the signing

·        Make sure the interpreter has a break after 45 minutes maximum; for longer meetings, booking 2 interpreters avoids the needs for breaks”

·         

Section 6: End of course quiz

You have now completed the Sensory Impairment Awareness course content.  The following questions have been added to test your knowledge, the correct answers are below each question:

 

1.   Which statements about sensory impairments are true:

 

1)   It is a term used to describe loss of distance senses such as sight and hearing

2)   Everyone with a hearing impairment needs access to the same services

3)   Only around 4% of blind people have no vision at all, the majority have a combination of very limited or restricted fields of vision

4)   People who have a dual sensory impairment have a severe degree of visual and hearing impairment from birth

Correct responses – Statement 1 and 3

 

2.   What 2 pieces of legislation are in place to protect people with a sensory impairment?

 

1)   Equality Act 2010

2)   Data Protection Act 1998

3)   Health and Safety Act

4)   BSL Scotland Act 2015

Correct responses – Statement 1 and 4

3.   What are some signs that may help you identify if someone has a hearing loss?

 

1)   They are wearing headphones

2)   They give inappropriate responses

3)   They fail to react to voices behind them

4)   They are wearing a hearing aid

Correct responses – Statement 2, 3 and 4

                  

4.   What are some signs that may help you identify if someone has sight loss?

 

1)   They are wearing dark glasses

2)   They move around tentatively, perhaps close to walls

3)   They are holding another person’s hand

4)   They fail to react to visual clues

Correct responses – Statement 1, 2 and 4

 

5.   What steps would you take to provide appropriate information and agreed action with a person with a sensory loss?

 

1)   Use normal font size in printed information

2)   Use basic English without jargon

3)   Give contact details such as email, telephone and text number

4)   Use coloured paper for printing

Correct responses – Statement 2 and 3

 

6.   What would you ensure when booking an interpreter or language service professional?

 

1)   Always book an interpreter the same gender as the client

2)   That interpreters are fully qualified and registered

3)   Always used a qualified and registered interpreter when dealing with medical matters, legal and mental health matters

4)   That the client has money to pay for the interpreter

Correct responses – Statement 2 and 3

 

 

7.   What should you ensure when working with interpreters?

 

1)   The interpreters always sits with their back to the window

2)   Your questions are addressed to the interpreter not the client

3)   Extra time is allowed for the interpreter and client when using written material or PowerPoint

4)   The interpreter has a break after 45 minutes

Correct responses – Statement 3 and 4

 

8.   Which of the following are true about using a Loop System?

 

1)   It should be checked well in advance of the meeting to make sure it is working

2)   All hearing aids will work with the loop

3)   Staff should be trained in the use of the loop system

4)   Portable loops are not available

Correct responses – Statement 1 and 3

 

9.   Which of the following statements are examples of how to make an office environment more accessible?

 

1)   Ensure that signage and instructions are clear and consistent

2)   Use Reflective surfaces such as laminate flooring

3)   Reduce clutter and avoid trip hazards

4)   Use of soft furnishings and carpets to reduce echoes

Correct response – Statement 1, 3 and 4

10.               Which of the following statements are true about the use of hearing aids?

 

1)   All deaf people wear hearing aids

2)   Hearing aids don’t cure hearing loss

3)   If someone is wearing a hearing aid, you need to shout at them

4)   A hearing aid battery lasts between 7-10 days

Correct responses – Statement 2 and 4

You have now completed the Sensory Impairment course; we hope that you have found it useful and informative. 

Section 7: Useful Links

Local Contacts

Deaf Action www.deafaction.org.uk

Deaf Links/Tayside Deaf Hub https://www.taysidedeafhub.org.uk/

Dundee Blind and Partially Sighted Society http://www.dundeeblindsociety.org.uk/

North East Sensory Services https://www.nesensoryservices.org/

Vision PK visionpk.org.uk

National Contacts

Abilitynet http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/

Deafblind Scotland https://dbscotland.org.uk/

Guide Dogs https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/

Hearing Dogs https://www.hearingdogs.org.uk/

National Deaf Children’s Society https://www.ndcs.org.uk/

RNIB Scotland https://www.rnib.org.uk/

Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters http://www.sasli.org.uk/

Scottish Council on Deafness (SCoD) http://www.scod.org.uk/

Sense Scotland https://www.sensescotland.org.uk/