Communicating with persons who are Deaf or those who have a hearing loss
Some persons with hearing loss may have minor difficulties with hearing normal speech or particular sound frequencies; others may be profoundly deaf. Many persons with hearing loss can lip-read, some use hearing aids and some use visual supports (such as video calls on mobile devices, real time captioning or video relay services). Deaf people use Irish Sign Language as their main means of communication. Irish Sign Language is an official language of the State and is used by 5,000 Deaf persons across Ireland.
Do not have your back to a light source
When you are talking to the person, make sure you do not have your back to a light source (such as a window). This will make it more difficult for members of the public with a sight loss to see you or for members of the public with a hearing loss to lip-read, as you will appear as a silhouette.
Face the person when speaking and do not cover your mouth
It is very difficult for persons with a hearing loss to listen or lip-read if you have your hands in front of your mouth. This is equally true if you turn away from the person while speaking. Look directly at the person. Do not look away, down at your notes, cover your face, chew gum, or have a pen in your mouth while talking. Speak clearly and at a slightly slower pace, but do not shout or exaggerate mouth movements, as this will distort your lip patterns. During meetings, make sure that only one person speaks at a time.
Communicating with people who use Irish Sign Language (ISL)
Provide Irish Sign Language (ISL) interpretation to people who request it. When you publicise a public event or make appointments, say that you will provide Irish Sign Language interpreters or real-time captioning if members of the public ask for them. Say how much notice you will need to arrange an interpreter. For example, you could say, “If you have accessibility requirements, please tell us at least 3 weeks before the appointment”. When working with an interpreter talk directly to the Deaf person, and not the interpreter. Do not ask the interpreter’s opinion. Make sure that the interpreter sits next to you and that the Deaf person can see both of you clearly.
Provide systems that do not rely on persons' ability to hear, for example, a ticketing system for queuing.
Provide induction loop systems in areas where public services are provided and test them regularly.
Provide systems that allow customers to use text messages and email to make appointments.
Provide a real-time captioning service during the information sessions or conferences.
Provide live web chat on websites
The Irish Sign Language Act 2017 was signed into law on 24 December 2017. Irish Sign Language (ISL) is now an official language of Ireland. Under the Act, public bodies will be required to prepare and implement ISL action plans, and provide free ISL interpretation to people using, or seeking access to statutory entitlements and services.
The Irish Text Relay Service (ITRS) facilitates people who are Deaf and people with a hearing loss in making and receiving calls in the Republic of Ireland. ITRS translates text into voice and voice into text. Calls are relayed through ITRS agents.
Real time captioning, also called communication access real-time translation (CART), is the stenography method used to convert speech to text. Real time speech to text facilitates people with hearing loss and is also useful for people whose first language is not English but who are comfortable reading English. There are companies in Ireland who can provide this service either onsite or remotely.
Live Web chat is a service that allows communication (or chat) by text in real time with visitors to their website. Live Web chat is commonly used to provide immediate customer support and information. A transcript of the chat can be emailed to the customer. An example is Live Advisor from the Citizens Information Phone Service (CIPS).
Audio frequency induction loop systems (AFILS) allow people with hearing aids to hear more clearly. The hearing aid allows them to pick up the wireless signal generated by the loop system.
Chime is the National Charity for Deafness and Hearing Loss. Chime provide awareness training for employers and organisations and advice on the range of assistive technologies for the workplace.
Customer Communications Toolkit for the Public Service – A Universal Design Approach