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Signal urges businesses, shops and public places to help Make Communication Clear

Updated: May 27, 2021

Pictured: Jorge and Jenny from The Blue Lemon, Shrewsbury with UK Programmes Manager, Catriona Nicholls

The reopening of non-essential retail on April 12th marked an exciting moment in the Government roadmap, and the much-anticipated date of May 17th creates even more optimism, both commercially as well as for the general public.

For Signal, the reopening of retail, hospitality and other services comes as an equally welcome relief with many of our face-to-face Shropshire services having been impacted by the restrictions.

However, for many of the people we support, the reopening comes with the anxiety of a significant communication challenge.

Since July 2020, the mandatory use of masks and face coverings - so vital in controlling the spread of Covid-19 - has made communication for anyone who is hard of hearing, a serious challenge. The muffling of speech, combined with the inability to read lips, has had a profound impact on the 1 in 5 people in the county who are deaf or have hearing loss.

Elizabeth, who has hearing loss, told us, “When someone is wearing a mask, the voice is obviously muffled and crucially deprives you of the ability to lipread. Lipreading is invaluable to those of us with hearing loss, and it is surprising how much you lipread without realising it.”

In response to this issue, and thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation for Staffordshire, we have launched our “Make Communication Clear” campaign, aimed at raising awareness of the challenges that are being faced by people who rely on lip reading, and recommending simple ways in which shops and services can adapt their communication to provide a more inclusive experience.

We are asking businesses, shops, hospitality and other public places to join us in the campaign. We have produced a range of free marketing materials that can be used and displayed, which will let deaf and hard of hearing people know that this is a welcoming, “Deaf Friendly” space, where staff know how to adapt their communication methods to ensure a deaf aware service.

Included in the free pack is a colourful poster that helps staff to understand 8 simple communication tips that will support them to deliver an inclusive customer service.

Also in the pack is a poster promoting the space as “Deaf Friendly” and explaining that, in accordance with Government Guidelines*, deaf-aware staff will temporarily lower their mask to allow their lips to be read, if required.

Finally, there are a range of colourful badges, with positive messages about lip reading, that can be worn both by staff members and people with hearing loss.

Packs can be ordered for free by visiting our website page

We hope when staff working in customer facing roles have a better understanding of the challenges faced by customers who are deaf or have hearing loss, as well as an understanding of how small adaptations can make communication so much easier, life for the 1 in 5 people who experience hearing loss in our county, will be significantly improved: now and beyond the pandemic.

* Government Guidelines state you do not need to wear a face covering, "if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate".

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