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Wales’ most deaf friendly organisations announced

Five Welsh organisations that go above and beyond to make their services and workplaces accessible to the one in six people in Wales with hearing loss have been recognised at the prestigious Action on Hearing Loss Cymru Excellence Awards.

The organisations, which include construction firms, health boards and arts initiatives, were presented awards for their continuous and inspiring efforts to create a deaf friendly Wales.

Awarded the Excellence in Health Award, Cwm Taf University Health Board was recognised for its commitment to improving communication methods for deaf patients when wishing to change an appointment, confirm personal details or check treatment information. The Health Board, which covers Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend, also boasts a new accessible buildings policy which means the needs of people with hearing loss will be taken into account when planning new builds and refurbishments; from contracting to completion.
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Willis Construction L-R Peter Jenkins, Jack Griffiths, Paul Cachia

Cardiff based Willis Construction was awarded the Best Employer accolade for the support it’s provided to a profoundly deaf member of staff over the last three years. The firm adapted its recruitment process, utilised a BSL (British Sign Language) interpreter for the interview and implemented a buddy system to support him from a communication and health and safety point of view once he secured the position. Staff members were also invited to attend a ‘BSL at work’ training course in order to remove communication barriers when working together. Now flourishing in the role, Willis Construction actively promote the many benefits of creating an accessible workplace and the importance of being deaf aware in the construction industry.

Action on Hearing Loss Cymru launched the awards in 2015 to celebrate businesses and organisations that take steps to support the 575,000 people in Wales who have varying degrees of hearing loss. The 2019 Excellence Awards were open to all public services, private companies and voluntary organisations providing services in Wales.

The charity has been supporting people who are deaf or have hearing loss since 1911 and 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 significant effects to their daily lives.

Nine Welsh organisations were shortlisted in total and all shortlisted entries were judged by a panel of people who are deaf or have hearing loss. The awards were presented at a ceremony that took place last Friday (17 May) at St David’s Hotel, Cardiff Bay.

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ITV Wales correspondent, Siôn Jenkins, hosted the awards, while charity volunteers, donors and previous award winners attended to celebrate this year’s cohort of winners. Western Power Distribution, winners of last year’s overall Excellence in Service award and this year’s winner of the coveted Ambassador Award, are supporting this year’s event.

Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust won the People’s Choice Award which was voted for by the public, they also scooped this year’s Excellence in Service Award. The organisation was praised for its continuous engagement with the deaf community to understand the areas of improvement required by those with hearing loss. Over the past year alone, 100 members of staff have been trained in BSL and the organisation is already seeing the benefits of staff undertaking such training.

The five Welsh companies recognised at Friday’s ceremony were:

  • Artes Mundi, Cardiff
  • Willis Construction, Cardiff
  • Cwm Taf University Health Board
  • Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust
  • Western Power Distribution

Speaking at Friday’s award ceremony, Liz Jenkins, Equality Manager at Cwm Taf University Health Board, said: “Being able to communicate with people whether they’re booking hospital appointments or receiving medical treatment is incredibly important. We want all of our patients to feel confident in the knowledge that they can contact the hospital when needed and that the correct level of support will be provided. We know our work has made a huge difference to staff and patients alike so we’re over the moon to have had our efforts recognised by Action on Hearing Loss Cymru.”

Daisy Cole, Director for Wales at Action on Hearing Loss, said:

“Every year we are blown away by the commitment shown by Welsh organisations to make their services and workplaces accessible to the growing number of people who are deaf or have hearing loss.

“Every nomination we received this year demonstrated the small adjustments organisations can make to their operations that make life-changing differences to those that are deaf or have hearing loss. It’s the difference between someone being able to go to work, book a hospital appointment or even just to be able to pay a bill without communication issues. We are so grateful to every organisation in Wales taking steps to become a better place and service provider for the deaf community. We only hope this year’s award winners inspire more Welsh organisations to follow suit.”

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