Communication is a fundamental aspect of the work carried out in Hayfield and both hearing and/or deaf staff, and our users need to have the ability and opportunity to use all the tools they require to achieve this successfully.
In this post, I would like to share Hayfields desire to provide all its staff the right skills and resources to handle all their communication needs. As an organisation Hayfield is committed to providing training in British Sign Language level 2 skills as a minimum, while also developing a variety of other signing skills to specifically communicate with the unique needs of individuals using the service and of course the deaf staff they work alongside. This is a fundamental part of the initial training package for all new staff.
Whilst BSL is an essential part of what staff need to communicate, there is of course a much wider requirement for the use of many other resources to send and receive messages, and I would like to explain Hayfields strategy in providing for them.
Two of the most common methods are the telephone, and the email message. The telephone of course is a difficult option for anyone profoundly deaf and without specialised telecom equipment, such as a minicom or text phone at both ends of the call, then direct communication is often difficult at best to acheive. A number of services such as type talk and text relay, have been used over the years with varying degrees of success, but inevitably, as I will cover below, technology has moved on, and easier faster options are now more commonly available.
For those with good or even partial hearing, then the telephone is naturally a crucial tool in a business environment and is likely to remain so. Currently, Hayfields operates a somewhat dated analogue telephone system and while adequate, it lacks many of the features found in more modern digital business systems – such as free calls between its own business site extensions, sending and receiving of text messages direct to extensions, direct extension to extension calling organisation wide, and voicemail boxes at each extension point, to mention but just a few of the overall benefits it can bring. It is likely that Hayfield will at some point in the future upgrade to such a digital system, but at the moment is limited by the network infrastructure available to us. Fax machines are still in use at the moment, but their effectiveness has been greatly eroded by digital imagery and the email message, either from PC or laptop computers or even smaller mobile devices such as Smartphones’ and Tablets and the fax is likely to start to disappear over the next few years.
Then there is of course the wider Internet, and the potentially huge range of options it offers, especially video based services. While the basic telephone is one of the more important communication tools, it is virtually matched these days by email, often a much complained about, but nonetheless highly useful resource. Used in the right way and managed properly, it can be very effective in getting and receiving messages, often with the additional benefits of graphics and other visuals attached, regardless of time and distance – providing your in a position to gain access to your email account, although there are a growing number of mobile email apps now available as well.
Texting via a mobile is also very popular and quite effective with hearing and deaf people providing there is a reasonable level of writing skill. Another very useful and effective way to pass written messages is in chat programs and apps which run online or via smartphones and enable virtual real-time written conversations to take place between two or more participants. Many organisations, including ourselves run sophisticated business based chat services and these prove very efficient in the business environment, when conversations between physically separated parties need to take place. Then taking the chat service up a level are facilities such as Skype which of course allow video conversations to take place over appropriately high speed Internet connections – this is a naturally ideal communication option for deaf users, as it allows them to use their language of choice – sign language. Another major growth area, but not one in which Hayfield has yet developed a presence is that of social media
It should also be noted that many organisations from businesses retailers to health services and government departments such as the tax office and many others now offer direct contact services via their own websites, at the very least always offering email, but more commonly using live chat portals into which you simply log into and use as required real time, and even in some instances organisations are providing direct video connections. A number of specialised services have recently been setup to specifically help in handling the direct visual communication needs of deaf people – a very welcome development.
The Hayfield strategy is of course to provide and develop those communications methods which are likely to prove beneficial and efficient to all our staff and users – hearing or non hearing. To provide them at all our locations in an open accessible manner. The telephone resource, will naturally remain as a core service but will be supplemented by various text based options such as email, internal Hayfield chat, online chat portals via web sites, Skype and other video access services being offered online. Social media while not currently active is an area we may develop in the future. Our network services will be operated at a level, cost and availability permitting, that allows users to access and use online services in a fast effective manner – ideally at a level suitable for access to online video based communications.
Hayfield will not develop or invest into the more limited historic services such as text phones or fax machines, when more effective or cost efficient options are better used.
If anyone wishes to advise of services or potential products that they feel Hayfield should be using that we currently do not, then please let me know the details and I will of course investigate the option further.