Arriva Rail London (ARL) has started the roll out of Deaf awareness training to hundreds of London Overground employees to improve journeys for Deaf people and those with hearing loss travelling across the capital.

ARL, which operates the London Overground on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), has developed a comprehensive Deaf awareness training programme alongside Signly, Deafax and DCAL, University College London’s Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre. The development of the programme has been funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and hopes to open up the world of travel for Deaf people and those with hearing loss in London, giving them the confidence and support they need from staff to make safe journeys on the London Overground.

It is estimated there are 11 million people who are Deaf or have hearing loss in the UK, which equates to around one in six people; there are also 151,000 British Sign Language users in the UK – many of whom travel by rail and have difficulty hearing and understanding announcements in stations.

Tim Scannell, a frequent rail user, said: “As I am Deaf, I can’t hear station announcements over the tannoy. I get nervous about asking other passengers for journey advice, especially if there are changes to the service. Being able to communicate more easily with station staff would help to reduce my anxiety.”

In total, 350 ARL employees will embark on a specially designed Deaf awareness training programme, to help address these accessibility issues. The course will bolster the current disability awareness training, as part of the customer service induction. Employees will be fully trained and ready to assist passengers by the end of 2019.

Delivered by a Deaf trainer, the training programme has been inspired and shaped by Deaf people and those with hearing loss, as well as station teams who assist passengers every day who are Deaf or have hearing loss; their shared experiences have been vital in creating an inclusive programme that will ensure everyone feels safe and secure whilst travelling on the London Overground. Training will cover a range of topics from Deaf culture and identity, to degrees of deafness, communication barriers, lip reading, fingerspelling and techniques for assisting and communicating with customers who are Deaf or have hearing loss.

Professor Bencie Woll, founder of DCAL, the UCL Deafness, Cognition and Language Research Centre, said: “Improving communication is the key to making rail travel accessible to people who are Deaf or have hearing loss. The Deaf awareness training provided by the team can completely turn around the Deaf travel experience.”

Mark Applin, co-founder of Signly, said: “The enthusiasm of ARL colleagues at all levels throughout this project has been overwhelming. Their shared insights enabled the creation of rail-specific training tool that could make a real difference to the passenger experience for people who are Deaf or have hearing loss. And even better, it seems to have an ignited a passion among many colleagues to learn more.”

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