The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is to issue new guidelines to solicitors and law firms, ensuring that they are “Deaf aware”, according to Legal Futures.
Research has been carried out, on behalf of the SRA, Legal Services Panel and Action on Hearing Loss, by the Deaf Studies Trust. The findings make it clear that people who suffer hearing loss, in most circumstances, suffer a lack of Deaf awareness when attempting contact with almost all staff in a legal setting.
It will be interesting to see what that guidance is but the issues appear to be:
– Legal materials not adapted for the needs of the Deaf and hard of hearing
– Communication barriers, i.e. no loop systems, poorly lit rooms
– Confusion over who picks up the tab for sign language interpreters
The biggest complaint seems to be that firms lack awareness when it comes to Deafness or hearing loss.
The report found that:
“The legal needs of Deaf and hard of hearing people are not different from all other members of society. However their access to the provision is affected by communication. It would also appear in some circumstances that their access is affected by attitudes and lack of awareness by legal professionals.”
The research recommends that a survey of legal professionals be carried out. This research should ascertain what experiences of Deaf and hard of hearing clients each firm may have before assessing how services to the Deaf or hard of hearing can be opened up.
Have you had any experiences with Deaf or hard of hearing clients — what did you do differently?
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