Your Obligations Regarding Deaf Children and Young People

If you provide activities which children and young people can attend outside school, you need to be aware of the Equality Act 2010. This includes Scouts, Brownies, sports coaches, drama groups, swimming teachers etc. Whether you are paid or in a voluntary role, all organisations have a duty to make reasonable adjustments in order to be accessible to people with protected characteristics, so they are not discriminated against. We are focusing on deafness which comes under disability.

A reasonable adjustment is making a change so the deaf person is able to take part in something they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. Many can be inexpensive or cost-free adaptations. Others may be more significant.

This duty is anticipatory. Think about how you would make these adjustments for people who may want to take part in your activities in the future, rather than waiting until someone books.

Health and Safety is of course paramount, but not allowing a deaf person to join your activity ‘because of health and safety concerns’ is not acceptable unless you have considered all reasonable adjustments which could be made to accommodate them, and carried out an in-depth risk assessment that concludes you cannot make the activity safe for the deaf child.

Remember that all deaf people have different communication needs; their hearing loss might be mild, moderate or profound. Some will lipread, others will use sign language. Always ask what support with communication they need.

Reasonable adjustments for deaf children and young people could include:

-Group leaders always facing the deaf child when they speak so the child can lipread.
-Sport coaches learning some basic British Sign Language so they can communicate.
-A Scout leader writing instructions for the activity on a flipchart as well as speaking.
-A swimming teacher using flashcards with pictures / visual signs.
-A football referee using coloured flags or signs alongside blowing the whistle.
-A dance teacher switching off music (distracting with hearing aids) when they talk through a routine.
-A Guide leader physically demonstrating an activity as well as describing orally.
-A theatre group installing an induction loop.
-A BSL interpreter for an outdoor activity centre event.

Legally it is the responsibility of the activity provider to pay for these adjustments, not the deaf child’s parents. If your organisation does not have the funds, maybe the national head office have an access budget e.g. for cost of interpreters or training staff in BSL. There may be local authority funding available. Remember many of the adjustments are free or very low cost.

Information summarised from National Deaf Children’s Society. For more detailed information on how to make your activities deaf friendly, and what support is available see their website

Dot Sign Language provide Deaf Awareness and BSL workplace training which can be tailored to suit any group or organisation. For more information contact us.