Forgotten Shoppers? Are Stores Turning Away Business From The Deaf Community?

For Katie Hawksworth (19) from Woking she and her friends like many teenagers enjoy shopping, particularly in London and at the large out of town shopping malls.

Often her group will choose to visit the same stores each time – avoiding shops that sell near identical products even at lower prices.


Deaf TeenagerKatie was born Deaf and uses British Sign Language (BSL) as her main way of communicating.

“If I know say a shop assistant has tried to do some basic sign language such as ‘how are you?’, it goes a long way in making me feel welcome. It’s more likely that I am going to come back and also for me to recommend the shop to others. It’s all about customer care for me.”

50K Deaf People In The UK

With approximately 50K deaf people in the UK using British Sign Language (BSL) as their first or preferred language, Katie says it’s strange that many retailers seem to put a large section of the population off from buying in their stores.

“1 in every 7 people are deaf and many people use sign language as their first language. If retailers could do more it would surely help their businesses which must be good in these difficult financial times.”

Paul Teaching BSLKathleen Grehan, Director of Dot Sign Language, says there are simple measures that retailers can put in place to help the deaf community.

“All public-facing staff should go on a deaf awareness training course. We offer three hour bespoke courses where we also teach relevant and specific British Sign Language signs. For a clothes stores, for instance, we could teach the sign for ‘discount’.

“We specialise in training for the retailer sector. We are working with one high street opticians at the moment – they have over 40 stores – and they recognised that actually everyone benefits if their staff can do sign language. It’s good PR for their stores and will help drive sales – it gives them the edge over the competition. Our sessions are also a great team building exercise as well.”

“I personally have a wide circle of friends so I will spread the word if there are stores which I feel offer a good experience or not. I’m actually thinking about setting up a blog naming which stores are good or bad for deaf people,” says Kate.

To find out how your store can benefit from deaf awareness training, please get in touch with Dot Sign Language today.

Stats from Deaf Aware.

Case study and picture for illustration purposes only. Any shops identified is purely coincidental.