Usdaw supports Sarah build deaf awareness training

Sarah Thorpe is an Usdaw member at Boots Beeston site in Nottingham. She has been deaf from an early age and Boots have always supported her in the workplace and made numerous adjustments. Now, with the support of her union, Sarah is promoting deaf awareness training at her workplace.

Sarah giving advice deaf awareness day crop
Sarah giving advice deaf awareness day crop

Though her employer is supportive, without a total understanding of deaf culture things can be missed.

Sarah lip-reads, which work well when she is told something or briefed out. This is a skill Sarah has learnt and isn’t easy to do, yet what can be missed is that lip-reading is a two-way process.  The person talking needs to understand how to make it easy for the lip-reader. Looking away frequently, talking too quickly or too slowly or having an accent that is unfamiliar can make it more difficult to communicate.

In Sarah’s case, her team manager didn’t have English as a first language and gave a briefing on health and safety. Sarah didn’t understand the briefing. She didn’t want to sign for something she didn’t fully understand but despite several attempts to clarify the message it was not successfully transmitted and an incident occurred as a consequence.

The situation was reviewed at a joint steering group meeting between Usdaw Lifelong Learning, site coordinators and the company. The group agreed to promote Deaf Awareness courses within the business and the company agreed to part fund the costs for this course. There is now a group of 15 learners attending Deaf Awareness Classes on site through the Lifelong Learning Centre.

Usdaw Divisional Project Worker Neil Chapman

The results are amazing. Sarah is attending as well and is supporting the tutor Andy Rowe in delivering sessions. Andy is also deaf and brings a fantastic different style of delivery to courses, and it is a pleasure to see and is really engaging”.

All the learners are thoroughly enjoying the course and giving some fantastic feedback, which gets reported back into the Site Steering Group meetings on a monthly basis.

Neil explained:

We are now jointly going to be opening the course up to all colleagues, not only Deaf Awareness courses but with the option to move onto British Sign language Level 1 and 2, (BSL).”

This is a perfect example of unions and company working together around some quite complex issues, which do not just address working together in partnership, but Equality and Diversity, wider issues around inclusion, English, communication, and good practice.”

Neil summed up commenting:

It is generally accepted that embedding equality into an organisation’s practices and processes is the most successful approach. It can develop awareness, highlight good practice and identify the skills people need to deliver the best possible outcomes. The tricky part is identifying when something is not working and seeing how best the problem can be tackled. 

Sites where there is an active learning culture have a real advantage here as Sarah Thorpe’s story shows.”