The first group will be workers who are perilingually deaf, that is, workers who were born deaf or who lost their hearing in early childhood. The second group will be workers who have developed a hearing impairment in adulthood either as a result of age, accident or disease.
It should not be assumed that only perilingually deaf workers are protected by the Equality Act. Any worker requiring reasonable adjustments to access the workplace is likely to be covered by the Equality Act.
Which barriers are you likely to face at work?
- Communication issues with colleagues and students;
- Accessing meetings and the life of the school/college.
What kind of adjustments may be considered?
- Position of pupils in class (facing the teacher);
- Reduction of background noise (e.g. could teacher work in a class which is not adjacent to a busy road);
- Thick carpeting on classroom floor;
- Good lighting in classroom;
- Adapted classroom with microphone and speaker system (to hear pitch of children’s voices);
- Information in advance of meetings, training and induction;
- Portable induction loops;
- Adapted phone;
- Support from lip speakers; and
- IT or other equipment to support communication.
St. X's school has had a Hearing Impaired Unit (HIU) for some years. The school has recently been rebuilt. Provision for the HIU in the new build is unsatisfactory because of insufficient sound insulation. This causes high levels of stress for both students and staff (some of whom are also hearing impaired). Low levels of ambient noise are essential for the work done in the HIU.
The lack of adequate sound insulation places staff and pupils in the HIU at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to other members of staff and pupils at the school. A failure by the employer and governing body (if different) to take steps to remove the disadvantage may amount to a breach of the Equality Act 2010.