Organisations who excel in ensuring they are accessible to the one-in-six people in Wales who are deaf or hard of hearing are being encouraged to enter a prestigious awards.
The Action on Hearing Loss Cymru Excellence Wales awards recognise businesses and organisations who take steps so that the 575,500 people in Wales who are deaf or have hearing loss can use their services.
Action on Hearing Loss, formerly RNID, has been a charity supporting people who are deaf or have hearing loss since 1911, and launched the Excellence Wales awards last year in an effort to celebrate success and raise standards in the support organisations offer to staff and the everyday services available to people affected by the condition.
The charity’s statistics show that deafness and hearing loss is on the rise and that by 2035, one-fifth of people in Wales will be affected, often with devastating effects to their daily lives.
The 2016 Excellence Wales awards are open to all public services, private companies and voluntary organisations providing services in Wales. Entries will be judged by a panel of people who are deaf or have hearing loss, and awards presented to the country’s three outstanding organisations at a glittering gala dinner at Cardiff’s Marriott Hotel on May 20th 2016, presented by journalist Mariclare Carey-Jones alongside special celebrity guests.
A special award will also be presented to an organisation in Wales who is taking positive steps to improve and develop their services for people who are deaf or have hearing loss. For the first time this year, a People’s Choice award will be voted for by the public and awarded to an organisation which provides outstanding assistance to people who are deaf or have hearing loss.
Richard Williams, the director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, said: “Deafness and hearing loss can make the lives of over half a million people across Wales a daily struggle. It can be hard to comprehend just how difficult it can be to do simple things the rest of us take for granted. Checking a balance or querying a bill with an organisation has the potential to lead to confusion, frustration and upset if the right access isn’t in place. The tragedy of this is that the solutions are often so simple, particularly now with the technology available to support good communication. The good news is many companies are getting it right, and the benefits are there for both sides; three quarters of our members said they would be more likely to use a service if their staff were deaf aware.
“That’s why we’d urge all organisations who are taking steps to be more accessible by the 575,500 people in Wales who are deaf or hard of hearing to enter our Excellence Awards. It’s vital to recognise those who are leading the way and the awards create the perfect platform for them to act as role models for others across Wales.”
In 2015 Bridgend County Borough Council was the main Excellence Wales award winner for their regular deaf awareness training for staff, their excellent engagement with local British Sign Language users and their proactive approach to ensure assistive technology such as hearing loops are in working order.
Fellow winners, the National Assembly for Wales, were praised for being an organisation that treats everyone as equals. The National Assembly provides deaf awareness training for staff, British Sign Language training, loop systems for all official meetings, reasonable adjustments for staff who are deaf or have a hearing loss, weekly videos of BSL interpretation of First Minister’s Questions and flashing beacons for fire alarms.
Western Power Distribution were commended by judges for having a wide range of communication support and technology on offer for deaf and hard of hearing staff and customers, while a special award was also given to Taking Flight Theatre Company for their work in meeting the needs of deaf people.
Bridgend County Councillor Mel Nott OBE said: “We place great importance on the need for our services to be accessible to all people living in Bridgend County Borough. Council officers regularly engage with our deaf and hard of hearing customers and actively seek feedback from the local deaf clubs. As a result, deaf awareness has become a fundamental part of our customer service commitment and we fully support staff members who want to take this further, for example by learning BSL.”
At this year’s Gala and Excellence Awards, Action on Hearing Loss Cymru is working in partnership with Santander Universities. Sarah Thomas, University Relationship Branch Manager said: “We are thrilled and proud to be supporting Action on Hearing Loss Cymru at this year’s Gala event to raise vital funds to ensure the continued work of this great organisation. Working in a customer facing business we can appreciate the importance of effective communication for people with hearing loss, deafness and tinnitus. We are looking forward to a fantastic evening.”
Further information and applications forms are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 02920 333034 and tickets to the gala dinner can be booked by visiting www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/gala
Entries must be submitted by May 1, 2016. All winners will be announced at Action on Hearing Loss Cymru’s Gala Dinner on May 20, 2016, when the achievements of organisations around Wales will be recognised.