Following are some key design considerations to enhance communication with members of the public and those with hearing impairments. While this guidance is focused on face-to-face, telephone and video communication, it equally applies to speeches, conversations and presentations. Parts of this guidance should also be considered in the design of audio outputs from systems such as machine voice recordings and public announcements.
Always use the simplest and clearest language possible. Avoid using technical words that may not be used by a member of the public. If you must use technical language, clearly explain what it means.
Speak in a clear voice, clearly pronouncing your words.
Take your time and speak slowly to the person. Tailor what you are saying to meet the person’s needs.
State one piece of information at a time. Provide the information in a logical order.
At the start of your conversation, state the purpose of it.
Be aware of the language the person uses and their literacy level. In Ireland 25% of adults have literacy and numeracy difficulties.
Do not interrupt people while they are speaking. Patiently wait for them to finish.
Use open-ended questions to gain more information. Open-ended questions typically provide more informative answers. For example, “What questions do you have?”
Closed questions generally only provide yes or no answers. For example, “Is that your answer?”
Alternatively, summarise the information back to the person to check you have correctly understood the request.
Where possible, and if appropriate, have specifically trained employees to deal with members of the public who require extra time.
Questions and answers can provide a good way of finding out if a person has understood the information.
To improve the person’s experience, look at how you can improve the communication provided by your organisation. This could include:
Providing training on communication techniques such as interviews, presentations, message taking, telephone dialogues and conversational skills.
Providing training for employees on the accessibility needs of people with difficulties. The National Disability Authority produced a free, short, interactive eLearning training course that will equip public sector staff with the necessary skills to provide an effective customer service to everyone and especially customers with disabilities’.
Providing training on computer-supported video communication techniques.