City council gives more help to deafblind people

July 13, 2009 12:28 PM
David Howarth

MP David Howarth - encouraged by the city council's work.

Cambridge City Council is pushing ahead to improve the help its gives deafblind people as national charity, Sense, reminds local authorities across England of their legal duties.

The charity has welcomed the government's reissue of the Deafblind Guidance - backed by Cambridge MP David Howarth - and marked the move with a Parliamentary reception.

Encouraged by the work being carried out at the city council, Mr Howarth said: "I want every deafblind person to get the high level of service and support this guidance requires local authorities to provide.

"The city council has already made encouraging provision for deafblind people to access its services and further improvements will ensure they get the comprehensive service they deserve."

At the city council's new Customer Care Centre, hearing loops have been embedded into counters, and high contrast colours in flooring and counter tops have been fitted to assist visually impaired customers.

Within city services, deaf awareness training has increased understanding of the needs of its own staff with hearing impairments and the council is just completing a series of "Hidden Disability" workshops for staff to raise awareness of hearing and sight impairment.

The council also employs customer service staff who have reached level 2 in British Sign Language.

Now it is working towards meeting the AA standard of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines This covers a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss.

The council also launched "The Way to be Awards" several years ago to celebrate and promote a more enlightened attitude to disability by businesses, organisations and services. These awards are biannual and form part of the City's International Day of Disabled People celebrations.

Sense says there are 2,355 deafblind people in Cambridgeshire and it is concerned that some may not be receiving that to which they are entitled.

Sue Brown, Head of Campaigns at Sense said "This guidance can literally change someone's life. The reissue of the Deafblind Guidance must be matched by a similar increase in local authority services for deafblind people."

Cambridge City Council leader, Ian Nimmo-Smith said: "We are constantly looking at how we can make it easier for deafblind people and others with disabilities to access our services and get the information they need.

"It is vital that these people can visit the city council confident that their needs will be catered for, and also that they can navigate the council's website with ease, and we will continue to implement changes and improvements as and when we can."

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