Auditory Trail: Deafness Makes It Hard for a Large Proportion of the Population to Interact Effectively as Customers or Employees. Ken Gorf Discusses Ways to Turn an Imminent Legal Onus into a Business Advantage. (People Management)

By Gorf, Ken | Financial Management (UK), June 2003 | Go to article overview

Auditory Trail: Deafness Makes It Hard for a Large Proportion of the Population to Interact Effectively as Customers or Employees. Ken Gorf Discusses Ways to Turn an Imminent Legal Onus into a Business Advantage. (People Management)


Gorf, Ken, Financial Management (UK)


There are nearly nine million deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the UK. That's about one in seven of the country's entire population. More than four million of them are of employable age, and nearly all of them are consumers of goods and services. Deaf people are therefore a major economic group in society, yet they are often overlooked.

Because their disability is largely invisible, deaf people are generally poorly served by business, both as customers and as employees. Few organisations offer textphone facilities and those that do provide them often fail to advertise the number, leaving the responsibility with a hearing person to obtain it on behalf of the deaf caller.

Few organisations have implemented the code of practice under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and the deadline for its full implementation is 1 October next year. It is likely that CIMA members are already aware of capital projects in their organisations to meet its requirements--wheelchair ramps, handrails and the like have become common features, for example. But not much has so far appeared for deaf people, which is a particular challenge for organisations operating at multiple sites--for instance, government agencies, banks, hotels and restaurants.

These projects will not be justified purely on the grounds of meeting legal obligations or welfare costs. CIMA members can lead the way here by transforming them into business development opportunities. With a target buying group of nine million people, there's a chance to:

* attract new customers;

* improve products and services to existing customers;

* introduce new services that are relevant to this group.

This approach will turn a legal obligation into a business advantage and a capital project into one with a measurable return on investment.

If CIMA members are typical of the population, there will be many who are deaf and hard of hearing who are facing new challenges in developing their careers. There is much that these members can do to show leadership--increasing deaf awareness at work, providing education and training, for example, or perhaps using Access to Work services. Several initiatives have also been launched across the EU this year.

The same mix of meeting legal obligations and taking business opportunities applies to recruitment agencies and the recruitment process. …

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Auditory Trail: Deafness Makes It Hard for a Large Proportion of the Population to Interact Effectively as Customers or Employees. Ken Gorf Discusses Ways to Turn an Imminent Legal Onus into a Business Advantage. (People Management)
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