A BASINGSTOKE man is raising awareness of the challenges faced by deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the workplace.

This week (from Monday, May 3) is National Deaf Awareness Week across the UK, organised by the UK Council on Deafness under the theme ‘Coming Through it Together’.

Simon Houghton from Kempshott has been deaf since birth, and has now set up his own campaign, called We Support Deaf Awareness, to support deaf awareness in workplaces, shops and venues to help employees to be better able to communicate with the deaf and hard of hearing communities.

The campaign recognises that the pandemic has posed particular struggles for deaf people. Challenges over virtual meetings, facemask wearing and the impossibility of lip-reading have made life incredibly difficult for many people suffering from hearing loss during the past year.

Simon’s campaign consists of two parts: training and promotion, in a bid to get employees trained in how to make life easier for people struggling to engage in two-way conversation.

The #WeSupportDeafAwareness campaign would also see businesses and organisations display signs which demonstrate staff awareness to deaf and hard-of-hearing visitors.

Since its launch three weeks ago, the campaign has worked with 22,500 employees across a range of industries.

Simon said: “I don’t consider myself disabled per se but I have struggled a lot at times during my life, for example verbal bullying at school and at work, and being unceremoniously thrown off a project as a direct result of my hearing, very early on in my career as a consultant.”

He continued: “For the past year we’ve been in lockdown, and for me personally at times it’s been incredibly frustrating.

“The mask has been a significant barrier to communicating because I have to rely so heavily on lip-reading, as do many millions of others.

“As society opens up again, never mind the frustration at being unable to understand what the optician, doctor or checkout operator is saying – the deaf and hard-of-hearing are going to struggle in every shop, restaurant, gym, bank or office they visit.

“My vision is that I can walk into a shopping centre, into a building reception, or into the office of an organisation, and I can see my campaign’s cards which tell me that the employees in this organisation understand what it’s like to be deaf.

“So they understand the frustration of being unable to lipread because of masks. And they’ve learned tips to help them communicate more effectively with someone who is deaf.

“The result? A more human, understanding empathetic and kind conversation.”

Simon has joined forces with UK-wide outsourced human-resources specialists The HR Dept whose whose Bristol-based founder Sue Tumelty is completely deaf since first losing her hearing 30 years ago.

Sue began losing her hearing following a viral infection and now has bi-lateral cochlear implants to allow her to hear.

“It’s a challenge, of course,” she said, “particularly during the Covid crisis when everyone is communicating digitally. But throughout my working life I have never let deafness stop me or prevent me from pursuing my career.

“I consider myself incredibly fortunate because I’m otherwise healthy. But deafness can be very isolating if you are not careful and your self confidence can be lost.

“So I wholeheartedly endorse Simon’s campaign and The HR Dept, which has licensees covering the length and breadth of the UK, will support him wherever we can.”

For more information about the We Support Deaf Awareness campaign, visit: www.wesupportdeafawareness.org