How to make your business more aware of invisible disabilities

Around one in five people living in the UK has a disability, with 80% of them having an ‘invisible disability’.

Most hidden disabilities don’t have obvious physical signs, which makes it hard for people to be aware of them.

This can include things such as learning difficulties, mental health issues, speech, mobility, visual or hearing impairments. It can also include chronic illnesses such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart problems, sleep disorders or immune system conditions, all of which can have a significant impact on people’s day-to-day lives.

Living with invisible disabilities not only makes life more challenging for the people who have them, but also for their friends, family, carers, colleagues and anyone they come into contact with.

The impact on the individual can be isolating, painful and exhausting.

Because many people can’t ‘see’ a hidden disability, they often find it difficult to empathise with the person neglecting to offer sympathy or understanding for their difficulties. In many cases, it often leads to frustration, misunderstanding and, unfortunately, anger or aggression.

This means that many people with invisible disabilities face either direct or indirect discrimination and often go unnoticed and unsupported by those around them, with Deafness being a key example.

While there is no qualifying list of hidden disabilities, many people wear the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower to indicate that they have an invisible disability and may need additional assistance, help or support.

While the sunflower is not a pass to be fast-tracked or bring about any other benefits, it’s a good way of making people more aware invisible disabilities and their impacts.  

How to make your organisation more inclusive

Making adjustments for Deaf or Hard of Hearing people and those with other invisible disabilities often require just small changes that will result in a better, more inclusive and accessible work environment.

Some of the things your organisation should be more aware of include:

Interview processes

Even before hiring, there are adjustments you can make for the interview process to make Deaf candidates feel more at ease. Speak clearly and ensure you’re in an environment with little to no distractions, such as background noise, that may hinder your communication.

Provide access to additional support

Whether it’s hiring a BSL Interpreter for an event or meeting, or providing captioning on training videos, ensure your Deaf colleagues and employees have access to additional communication support.

Workplace meetings

When using video calls, be mindful that some Deaf people rely on lip reading. This can become challenging with buffering or unsynced sound. Talk with your employee to find a communication method that works for them.

Learn basic signs

Learning the British Sign Language (BSL) alphabet and basic signs will significantly improve the way you and your team can communicate with Deaf colleagues.

Deaf Awareness Training

Deaf awareness training can make your team more aware of the different types of Deafness, the communication barriers Deaf people face, and how they can develop and improve their communication skills.

What is Deaf Awareness Training?

Deaf Awareness Training will help you and your employees demonstrate increased knowledge and understanding of communicating effectively with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. It will also provide a better working environment for your Deaf employees.

Our training includes learning the BSL alphabet and basic signs, understanding the technology used by the Deaf community and learning how to make your Deaf colleagues and customers feel at ease and more comfortable in and around your business.

Of course, making your business more aware of hidden disabilities such as Deafness shouldn’t just be an internal change, but an external change for your customers to see too.

Creating marketing content that’s accessible for all will help enhance your brand’s reputation as a caring, responsible and inclusive employer. In turn, this can increase your reach, leads and sales. This includes creating and sharing content for a Deaf audience online and across your social media platforms.

Using closed captioning on video content, transcriptions on websites for longer pieces of content and, of course, sign language where relevant, will also help you create a better connection with your Deaf consumers.

How can Sign Solutions help?

If you need to make your business, services and information more accessible to people with hidden disabilities, particularly Deaf or hard of hearing customers, Sign Solutions can help.

We provide BSL interpreting and translation services in-person or online, plus expert consultancy, to help ensure your organisation is as accessible as possible.

All the skilled BSL interpreters we work with are DBS-checked and NRCPD-registered and provide a high-quality service to Deaf people across the UK.

We can also provide a range of accredited communication professionals for Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing users in various sectors from education and community to legal and healthcare.

To find out more, and for expert advice on which type of communication support will meet your needs, give us a call on 0843 178 0773, email or contact us via a BSL video interpreter.