Why hotel staff should be trained in deaf awareness

By Ruthy Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Ensure all staff know when a deaf guest is staying and avoid uncomfortable situations for everyone says Ruthy Fletcher
Ensure all staff know when a deaf guest is staying and avoid uncomfortable situations for everyone says Ruthy Fletcher

Related tags: Hearing impairment

Ruthy Fletcher, deaf awareness trainer and consultant at Support the Deaf People takes us through the reasons why staff at hotels should be trained in deaf awareness and how to go about it to ensure non-hearing guests feel just as welcome as hearing ones. 

Why do you need deaf awareness training?:

You may ask why it is important to have deaf awareness training when you have already made efforts to make your business disability-friendly. However, many hearing people don't seem to realise that there is a difference between disability awareness and deaf awareness.

Deaf people aren't labelled as disabled. We are physically healthy. The problem is that we are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Learning more about deaf culture and understanding forms of communication will ensure that hotel staff are relaxed and confident when dealing with deaf guests.

What many people don’t know:

You might think it is easy just to ask the deaf guest to write things down, but it is not that simple. Many deaf people can’t write or read written English. If their first language is British Sign Language (which is a separate language to English) then they may struggle to read information in your hotel such as information booklets, hotel menus and emergency procedures.

Therefore, it is vital that you are aware that this may be the case, or if you are writing anything down then you need to make it plain English.

What else you need to know:

Not all deaf people can read lip. Many are able to pick up the general idea of the conversation but there are things that can create a barrier as well, such as small mouths, thin lips, beards etc. You must be aware that you need to speak clearly and directly to the guest and not look down at your computer or over-exaggerate your lip pattern - this just makes you look silly!

My advice is when a deaf guest checks in to your hotel, please make all your staff aware - this includes waiting staff and those in the kitchen. While it is obvious that some people have disabilities, such as wheelchair users and the blind with guide dogs, it may not be obvious that someone is deaf. If everyone is aware of that guest's needs then this will avoid any uncomfortable situations.

What to do in emergency situations:

If there is a fire in your hotel it is easy to ensure that physically disabled people are aware of procedures or have easily accessible rooms (and can hear the alarms) but what about deaf people? I was staying in a hotel where a fire broke out and the first thing I knew about it was when a fireman had to force the door of my room open and physically wake me. Why were there no flashing lights or vibrating fire alarms? Fortunately the receptionist remembered there was a deaf lady in the hotel as she had checked me in, but nobody else was aware. There could have been a very different ending.

Do you have the right equipment?:

Every business and hotelier thinks that loop systems are useful and they are for hard-of-hearing guests, but they don't work for profoundly deaf people. Also, the loop system works for one-to-one conversations, but in a busy reception area for example, background noise can interfere with the level of sound being received by the hard of hearing person.

Deaf guests should have rooms with flashing light door bells, so that if they require room service they can answer the door. I can’t hear a knock on the door, but I can see a portable flashing light, so would be able to answer the door with no problems if that was fitted. 

Equipment is just part of the way hotels can make themselves more welcoming to deaf guests, however. Giving staff deaf awareness training and teaching them basic sign language could break down the barriers that the deaf and hard of hearing community have to face on a day-to-day basis. 

Make your hotel more accessible and welcoming for all.

For more information on deaf awareness training visit www.supportthedeafpeople.co.uk​.

Related topics: Business, Hotels, Ask the Experts, Venues

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