United Utilities marks Deaf Awareness Week with the introduction of sign language training for employees

United Utilities has introduced British Sign Language training to help create a more inclusive experience for its employees and customers.

The water company for the North West, has already been operating a regular Hearing Café support group through its employee ability network group for employees who are affected by hearing loss. Now they have extended that by introducing their first British Sign Language training course for its employees.

The company’s Priority Services Manager, Amanda Phillips, explained: “For our hard of hearing customers, through our Priority Services scheme, we already offer a text relay service, online accessibility tools, plus subtitles and British Sign Language on our customer awareness videos – now we’re looking to support customer’s needs further by giving our own employees the tools to communicate more effectively, by introducing a pilot Level 1 British Sign Language training course, completed over 20 weeks”.

Deaf Awareness Week 2023 - British Sign Language training.jpgChange and Transformation Manager, Sally-Anne Flanagan said “We’ve got a mixture of colleagues taking part in the pilot, from those who may meet hard of hearing customers in the community, to those who attend customer events around the North West, plus, our employees that are personally affected by hearing difficulties.  A number of field staff have already completed an online introduction to British Sign Language and their feedback was encouraging.”

All the training is being delivered by the Deaf Support Network and those taking part will need to complete six levels if they want to become an accredited BSL interpreter.

Sally-Anne added: “Those taking part in Level 1 are at the beginning of their journey to be fully accredited. This will ultimately give them the skills and confidence to communicate with customers and their fellow United Utilities colleagues, using BSL.”

United Utilities’ free Priority Services scheme provides a range of help and support from nominating a trusted person to help with an account, to additional help in the event of a loss of supply. The free service is open to all customers living in the North West who would benefit from extra support whether due to age, ill health, disability, mental health problems, financial worries or language barriers.

Customers can find more information and register themselves or others online or by calling 0345 672 2888.