Worcester shops must do more to support the deaf, charity say

Summarized by Joelle Chasse, staff writer

Stores in Worcester, England are not adequately supporting the Deaf community, according to Deaf Direct, a charity geared towards supporting the Deaf and hard of hearing community.

During the recent Deaf Awareness Week, Deaf Direct volunteers participated in “mystery shopper” visits to a total of 84 stores in Worcester’s center. The study included both large chain and small independent stores.

The findings are bleak: in 75 percent of cases, staff were not trained in assisting deaf people and 82 percent did not know sign language interpreter procedure.

Gordon Hay (the organization’s community manager) stated: “The questions we asked included simple and easy measures that can be put into place quickly by retailers…These included whether there was a member of staff who was trained in deaf awareness or in using British sign language.”

Hay also stated, “A great example of a helpful place to shop would be the Apple stores in Birmingham and London that employ deaf staff who can converse in British sign language.”

A shop called Thortons was praised by the volunteers for properly training their staff in deaf awareness. They also praised the Citizen’s Advice Bureau for hiring interpreters.

However, one store stated they have not had a single deaf customer in more than 15 years of business—an unlikely statistic, since approximately 64,000 people in Worcestershire are deaf or hard of hearing.

One volunteer stated, “Everybody we talked to was very kind and helpful but hadn’t really thought about the everyday barriers that deaf or hard of hearing people face when out shopping…It would be lovely if we knew there were banks, pharmacies and retailers in our local Worcester community who made communication easy. Sometimes it’s hard to make yourself understood.”

Adrian Field, the head of Worcester’s Business Improvement District, said that BID would happily promote sign language taster sessions run by Deaf Direct on Monday, July 21. He stated, “If increased awareness and knowledge helps deaf people and traders to communicate with each other…is good news for everybody.”

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