Accreditation for Bristol law firm TLT for its approach to deaf clients and staff

June 25, 2013

Bristol-based national law firm TLT has become the first in the UK to be recognised for making significant steps to ensure its legal services are accessible to clients who are deaf or have some level of hearing loss.

It yesterday received the Deaf Law Quality Mark accreditation from the Royal Association for Deaf People’s Deaf Law Centre. The accolade also recognises the firm offers a supportive working environment to employees who are deaf or have hearing loss.

TLT was awarded the accreditation by Rob Wilks, head of legal at the Royal Association for Deaf People's Deaf Law Centre in the presence of The Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Mr Wilks said: “TLT has demonstrated a strong awareness of the needs and cultural differences between deaf and hearing people, taking a highly-positive and proactive approach which goes far beyond regulatory requirements.

“We launched the Deaf Law Quality Mark in recognition of the well documented barriers that deaf people face in accessing legal advice services in an attempt to raise awareness of their needs and to set a benchmark for the delivery of high-quality advice services to this client group.”

To secure the accreditation TLT has implemented a broad range of initiatives and amended a number of firm-wide systems and processes. It has appointed individuals across the firm to be ‘deaf champions' whom are trained by the Royal Association for Deaf People and can provide advice and guidance when dealing with clients, suppliers, candidates and others who are deaf or have some hearing loss.

The champions ensure that meeting rooms are set up appropriately and that any additional equipment, such as a hearing loop, is available; they provide guidance for individuals who may be working for the first time with British Sign Language (BSL)/English interpreters, lipspeakers and notetakers; ensure that interpreters have the required vocabulary and are appropriate to the clients’ needs; and coach employees in understanding the cultural differences when dealing with people who are deaf or have some level of hearing loss.

TLT is encouraging all staff to learn some basic phrases of BSL by making available to all employees free of charge online language videos. The firm has also launched an SMS service providing all clients with the ability to engage with TLT using a variety of methods.                   

To encourage deaf applicants TLT has changed its recruitment policies enabling deaf and hard of hearing candidates to submit their video application in BSL.

Solicitors Regulation Authority policy officer Richard Silver said: “We welcomed the creation of the Deaf Law Quality Mark when it was launched as one way for law firms to pull down more of the barriers that people with hearing loss can face when they need legal support.

“It’s really positive to see that just one year after the quality mark was launched TLT have taken the steps needed to achieve the quality dark and are committed to making their services as accessible and inclusive as possible for the deaf community and others with hearing loss.”

TLT's equality & diversity officer Lee Reed added: “TLT has been working to improve access to legal services and client service delivery to those with protected characteristics since the firm was formed in 2000. Alongside this,TLT has made major efforts to ensure that as an employer TLT values and encourages diversity and fosters a collegiate working environment. We're delighted to be working with the Deaf Law Centre to improve access to legal services and create a supportive working environment for people who are deaf of have some level of hearing loss.”

All law firms in England & Wales and Scotland are eligible for the accreditation.


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