Deafness is the third most prevalent disability on the planet and the second most common disability in the UK.
In the UK, there are 12 million people who are deaf or have hearing loss. equivalent to one in six adults.
There are an estimated 150,000 people in the UK who use British Sign Language and of those, 87,000 are deaf.
Over 40% of people over 50 years old have hearing loss, rising to more than 70% of people over 70.
Deaf people are more likely to have poor mental health – up to 50%, compared to 25% for the general population.
The Deaf community are significantly underserved by most businesses, retailers and organisations. They’re searching for organisations that understand their specific needs.
The COVID impact
A recent survey by Deaf Health charity SignHealth in September 2020 highlights that Deaf people’s mental health and ability to access basic healthcare are being seriously and disproportionately impacted by measures taken to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many services only offer telephone support, meaning Deaf people currently don’t have access.
One study found that more than half of respondants had not been able to find mental health services that are accessible for Deaf people.
- Hearing people have easy access to everyday services, but there’s a multitude of inconsistencies in service for the Deaf community.
- There are only a handful of sign language interpretation organisations in the UK.
- BSL interpreter services are traditionally only used for more transactional services.
Accessibility vs Inclusivity
"Three can be a crowd"
Interpreter services enable the Deaf community to contact more transactional businesses by using a British Sign Language interpreter e.g banks, insurance companies etc. This gives a certain level of accessibility, but lacks true inclusion.
True inclusion, means empowering the Deaf community to be able to contact an organisation directly, and speak to another Deaf person in their native language. The same way a hearing person talks to another hearing person.
Moving the conversation foward
Since launching in 2006, we’ve focused on positive human outcomes with a particular emphasis on supporting underserved communities and vulnerable people.
We’re architects of communication, mixing heart with experience, process with insights, and human with technological.
Thinking about what diversity and inclusion means to us at Connect Assist, we recognised that the deaf community were painfully underserved.
So, how could we invite them to join the conversation?
Sign Assist is a new service developed by Connect Assist. This first of its kind native BSL engagement service ensures that Deaf people who use British Sign Language as their first or preferred language, can engage directly with a business or organisation.
Sign Assist is available for your helpline, support line or enquiry line.
We continue to work closely with the leading experts in Deaf customer and employee experience terptree to ensure that we’re putting the Deaf community’s needs first.
Sign Assist has opened up job opportunities for Deaf people, hosting a dedicated team of Deaf Customer Service Advisors, who are native BSL users as well as a bi-lingual Team Leader to manage and lead the service.
Our Relate platform allows anyone to connect into the Sign Assist service without the need for specialist video software.
How it works
You simply promote the service on your website.
Your Deaf service user then clicks a link from your website to our Relate platform and from there, they start a video call, communicating using BSL.
A dedicated Deaf team will pick up the video call and engage. The team will be trained on your service and therefore able to directly help your service users.
The data will be captured via your supporting CRM system.
All engagements will be securely recorded for training and audit purposes and is fully GDPR compliant.
The team will operate Mon-Fri 9am-5pm in a purpose-built call centre within our offices.
The people behind the service
Job creation for the Deaf community and an exceptional customer experience lie at the heart of this service.
The Deaf community has a shared understanding of the challenges and barriers of everyday life.
That’s why we employ Deaf advisors to deliver this service rather than using Sign Language Interpreters.
The engagement, understanding and empathy is an experience like no other.
Meet the incredible people behind Sign Assist in the video below.