Communicating with DEAF and HARD of HEARING People

Hearing Concern Ear Logo

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
became law in 1995. It gave disabled people rights so that they would not be discriminated against in areas such as employment, getting goods or services or buying land and property.

The Act's definition of disability is:
"A physical or mental impairment which has substantial and long term adverse effects on a person's ability to carry out normal day to day activities".

In October 1999 the Act changed further. Employers and providers of goods and services now by law have to make "reasonable adjustments" to their policies, procedures and practices.

By October 2004 employers and service providers need to make adjustments to their premises and buildings if there is a physical barrier that makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to make use of the service.

If your hearing loss has an adverse effect on your daily life, then you may be qualified as disabled under the DDA. The DDA notes that to be considered as disabled you "must not be able to hold a conversation with someone talking in a normal voice in a moderately noisy environment" and you "cannot hear and understand another person speaking clearly over a voice telephone".

If you are hard of hearing, deaf or deafened you will almost certainly have rights under the DDA in employment, when buying goods and when using facilities or services.

From October 1999 it became necessary for employers to make reasonable adjustments to their practice of recruiting, selecting, employing, training, promotion and dismissal of disabled people in the workplace. (If an employer has fewer than fifteen employees then the employment part of this act does not apply.)

As disabled people have new employment rights under the DDA, they no longer need to register with an employer and employers will no longer have a duty to employ a percentage of registered disabled people. It is hoped that these changes will lead to a change in the overall process of recruiting disabled people.

(The employment section of the DDA does not apply to operational staff employed in the armed forces, the police, the prison services or to anyone employed on ships, hovercrafts or aeroplanes.)

Goods and services
It is unlawful for service providers to treat disabled people less favourably than other people for reasons related to their disability when offering goods, services or facilities. It makes no difference whether the service is paid for or free of charge.

However, it is not against the law for a service provider to refuse to provide the service to a disabled person if the health and safety of that person were to be in danger.

Since October 1999 the DDA holds that service providers must take reasonable steps or adjustments to alter features in a building, or to include devices such as a loop system, that could enable a person with hearing aids to use their service.

The DDA Code of Practice outlines some auxiliary aids for deaf and hard of hearing people:

  • Written information.
  • Pen and paper (a facility for exchanging written notes).
  • Website.
  • Subtitles.
  • Videos with sign language interpretation.
  • Non-permanent induction loop system.
  • Verbatim speech-to-text transcription service.
  • Information displayed on a computer screen.
  • Qualified sign language interpreter or lipspeaker.
  • Textphones, telephone amplifiers, telephones with inductive couplers and access to Text Relay.
  • Teletext displays.
  • Audio and visual telephones.
  • Audiovisual fire alarms.

With health and safety, employers and service providers may have to provide flashing light alarms and alerting devices in toilets or other places where a deaf or hard of hearing person may go alone. Obviously the nature of the reasonable adjustments made depends upon the degree of that person's disability.

If the service provider has to make changes that affect the fundamental nature of their business then they may not be required to make the changes.

By 2004 service providers must have made alterations to buildings such as fixing a permanent induction loop).

Buying or renting land or property
It is unlawful for anyone who sells or rents land and property to discriminate against disabled people. However, landlords or someone selling property do not have to make adjustments to the property to make it accessible.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against by an employer or service provider, or when you have been selling or letting land or property, contact the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) for advice.

Information from Hearing Concern


page decoration



Helpful Tactics





page decoration



Disability Rights Commission



with reference to Assistance Dogs