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11th May 2021

Hemel Hempstead Metro Bank Colleagues sign up to Deaf Awareness Week

 To commemorate Deaf Awareness Week (3rd-9th May) colleagues from Metro Bank’s Hemel Hempstead store undertook a number of exercises to improve their understanding of what deaf and hard of hearing customers experience.

The Metro Bank team comprised Ren Cowley, David Byrne, Harry Dear, Pippa Whalley, Kaysita Sudra, Lorna Judd, Tania Aziz, Holly Palmer, Chiemezuo Uba-Ifegwu, Phil Bennett, Sadie Gilbride, Zane Kotwal and Izzy Greatrex.

In the UK alone, there are over ten million people living with some form of hearing loss, whether mild or profound. Metro Bank prides itself on being the UK’s Best Community Bank and works hard to support all its local communities. Part of the Deaf Awareness Week programme aims to raise awareness of 'acquired deafness', which refers to people who lose their hearing during their life, rather than being born with hearing loss or deafness.

Hearing loss and deafness is defined as a hidden disability. The event also raises awareness of BSL (British Sign Language), which is a language used by many people in the UK who are born deaf.

“Initially colleague Ren Cowley asked the team to bring in headphones and play their music very loud on their phones” explains David Byrne, store manager of Metro Bank Hemel Hempstead.  “She then got a colleague to pick a word out of the pile to pass the information on.  This practical exercise quickly made us appreciate how others may struggle as words were only repeated twice and very few were correctly identified.”

The Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists highlighted that the rise in the use of face masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic makes it harder for people with hearing loss to communicate. Face coverings with a transparent panel over the mouth ensure that people can still lip-read through masks and these are the type of masks Metro Bank colleagues wear in store to help customers; as while lip-reading helps deaf people to understand what others are saying, even the best lip-readers still miss up to 40% of what has been said.

Colleagues also undertook the Deaf Awareness Fingerspelling Activity which introduces participants to the different letters in the BSL Alphabet and sets them the task of fingerspelling several different words.  As a great introduction to BSL colleagues learnt phrases that would be useful in store such as where do you live? family member names and even tea or coffee? as both drinks are available free in store.

Byrne: “We had fun whilst we were learning and I am proud that colleagues now have a greater appreciation for the difficulties people with hearing loss face and we aim to better serve these customers going forward.”

 Metro Bank’s store can be found at 56-58 Marlowes Centre, Hemel Hempstead, HP1 1DX

The store is currently open Monday – Saturday 9am – 5pm.