Deaf Awareness Week 2022

  • 04 May 2022

During Deaf Awareness Week [2 -8 May] the NUJ Disabled Members’ Council encourages all branches and chapels to ensure that they are as accessible as possible for members who are deaf or have hearing loss. 

Around one in six adults in the UK has hearing loss with 4.4 million of those being of working age. People with hearing loss are less likely to be employed, with many feeling isolated at work and prevented from reaching their potential.

The recent British Sign Language Act has recognised BSL as a language of the UK for the first time, accompanied by a rise in awareness of the language. The theme of Deaf Awareness Week this year is ‘inclusion’ but there is still a long way to go to make our workplaces and society inclusive for deaf people.

The NUJ encourages members and reps to raise awareness about the support that can be made available for deaf and disabled members at work as well as aiming to make branches and chapels more inclusive for all. The move from online to in-person and hybrid meetings and events introduces significant access challenges.

Natasha Hirst, NUJ vice president, said:

“As a deaf journalist, I know that lack of access obstructs career opportunities in an industry that is still far from diverse. We’ve learned a lot about online access during the pandemic and it is important to embed good practice into all that we do. 

“As a union, we call on employers and the industry to support access and inclusion and we welcome this within our union structures too. The NUJ has consistently supported my access as an activist and encouraged me into leadership roles within the union. This commitment to inclusion is important at all levels of the NUJ.” 

Ann Galpin, chair of the NUJ's Disabled Members’ Council said:

“Making our meetings and communications accessible to our deaf, deafened and hard of hearing members is essential. Digital accessibility features can benefit many other attendees too. Captions support information processing and recall for neurodivergent people and attendees with energy limiting impairments. They also support colleagues who aren't native speakers of English or are having to listen against background distractions or slow internet. Some of our members are isolated and union activities can be an important way to connect with others: it’s crucial that these are accessible.”

Employers should work closely with NUJ reps and deaf and disabled staff to determine how ‘hybrid’ working conditions are managed to facilitate effective communication and wider disability inclusion. This includes high quality audio-visual technology for meetings with in-person and remote attendees and provision of quiet spaces. Access to Work funding can support employers with any costs involved 

The Disabled Members’ Council has compiled some helpful resources:

Tips for good online access
•    Ask in advance if members have access requirements and how these may be supported.
•    Encourage people to stay muted when others are speaking, to avoid background noise.
•    Activate automatic captions as a default. These are not perfect and require people to speak clearly and not overlap, which is good practice for any meeting. 
•    Encourage those who can, to have their video on when speaking and ensure their faces are clearly seen and well-lit to support lipreading.
•    Request that all contributions are made through the chair and summarise key contributions or points to support understanding.
•    For larger meetings and public facing events where accurate captions are necessary, book a Speech To Text Reporter. BSL interpreters should be booked well in advance where attendees use British Sign Language. Further information can be found below.
•    For in-person meetings, consider locations with minimal background noise and good lighting where members can see speakers clearly. Be aware that lipreading is tiring and not always reliable. Automatic transcriptions such as Otter or speech to text apps are unlikely to work well and good chairing of meetings is important to ensure inclusion.

Speech To Text Reporter (STTR)
•    These are live, highly accurate captions provided by a skilled professional. For longer events, they work in pairs and alternate to avoid fatigue.
•    The STTR produced captions can be linked to appear within Zoom. They can also be presented in a separate browser window as a transcript using a URL link which allows changes to text size and background colour.
•    To see both the video conferencing platform and the transcript together on one screen, you can change the size of windows to sit alongside each other.
•    To book a STTR

British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreters
•    Interpreters usually work in pairs and alternate. They will need to be pinned and visible on the screen throughout a meeting or event, as well as any key speakers.
•    To find out more about booking and working with qualified interpreters
•    Signalise Co-operative, an ethical platform co-operative for booking British Sign Language interpreters, run by deaf people and BSL interpreters. Any profit reinvested to improve standards of access.

Employer resources

  Zoom auto captions
Auto captions can be enabled within Zoom by logging into the account through the browser and changing the settings as below. This cannot be done during a meeting but once the settings are enabled, they remain in place unless changed again: 
•    Sign into Zoom
•    ‘In Meeting (Advanced)’ > allow ‘Closed Captioning’ and 
•    ‘Enable live transcription service’. 
•    When a meeting starts, the host selects the CC icon at the bottom of the screen to select ‘enable auto transcription.

Attendees then click on the CC icon in the Zoom meeting to choose running captions or a side window with the full transcript.   Further details

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