Sainsbury’s teaches all colleagues how to communicate with deaf customers

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To give its deaf customers a better experience in store, Sainsbury’s has created a short film for its colleagues on how to communicate with deaf customers, particularly those who use British Sign Language (BSL).

  • Retailer creates award-winning film to teach all colleagues basic sign language
  • Film now being made public to enable more people to learn
  • Sainsbury’s has invested over 50,000 hours in the past year on disability awareness training 

The innovative film was created as part of Sainsbury’s non-visible disabilities awareness week, after colleagues expressed a lack of confidence at communicating with customers who are deaf sign language users.

Sainsbury’s held workshops with its colleagues who are deaf sign language users to develop the film. The workshops helped provide insights on colleagues’ own experiences of shopping and which signs would be most useful to teach the retailer’s 161,000 colleagues who would watch the video.

In a first for UK food retailers, Sainsbury’s is making the internal film public to help more people feel comfortable communicating with the one in six people in the UK who have some form of hearing impairment or deafness.

Tim Fallowfield, Company Secretary and Corporate Services Director and Board Champion for Disability and Carers at Sainsbury’s said: “Our vision is to be the most inclusive retailer where people love to work and shop. We are committed to investing in disability awareness training and this film is just one way that we are providing additional help to our customers with disabilities.”

Sainsbury’s has received endorsement for the film from the Royal Association for Deaf People. Dr. Jan Sheldon, Chief Executive at the charity, said: “Communication between Deaf and hearing people can be difficult for both parties, but it can be made easier through awareness and education. The Royal Association for Deaf People support mainstream services to become more accessible to Deaf people. We’re delighted to see how committed Sainsbury’s are to providing accessible services to Deaf people.”

Tracey Kennard, a colleague at Sainsbury’s Dartford store who was in the film said: “As a child growing up with a deaf parent, I know how difficult it can be for a deaf and hearing person to communicate directly. Since watching the film, I have noticed a real change in my colleagues. They have gone from being nervous and handing over to me when a deaf customer needs assistance, to having the confidence to have a go – and once they’ve started, they often find they can help the customer without my involvement. All it takes is a simple signed ‘Hello’ for a deaf customer to feel valued, and a colleague to feel more comfortable in continuing the conversation using gestures or written words to make sure we’re delivering great service for our customers. 

The film, titled ‘”Life Doesn’t Come With Subtitles”: Tips for Communicating with Deaf Customers’ recently won gold at the EVCOM Clarion Awards, the leading awards for recognising best practice in communicating the importance of CSR, diversity and other issues through live and visual communications.

Over the past year, Sainsbury’s has invested over 50,000 hours on in training store colleagues how to help customers with visible disabilities and non-visible disabilities. In 2015, Sainsbury’s became the first food retailer in the UK to bring SignVideo to its customer service centres – revolutionising the way our deaf customers can communicate with our call centres. 

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About the article

  • Posted on: 04 November 2016
  • Type of article: Press release

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