Arriva Rail London (ARL) has launched a deaf awareness training tool for London Overground employees to help ease travel for deaf passengers and those with a hearing loss, it announced today.

In total, 350 ARL frontline staff will receive training through a rail-specific deaf awareness programme, which will be a part of their current disability awareness training. Workers will be ready to assist passengers by the end of 2019.

According to government figures, there are approximately 11 million people who suffer from deafness or hearing loss in the UK – many of whom travel by rail – and therefore have difficulty hearing and understanding announcements in stations. In addition, the lack of trained staff can be challenging for a deaf person should they require any clarification.

The training programme has been developed based on deaf people’s commuting experience, as well as station teams who assist them on a daily basis. Delivered by a deaf trainer, it will cover topics such as deaf culture and identity, degrees of deafness, communication barriers, lip-reading, fingerspelling and techniques for assisting and communicating, which will ensure increased safety for deaf people when travelling via the London Overground.

Funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), the programme was developed by ARL in collaboration with Signly, Deafax and DCAL, University College London’s Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre.

Transport for London (TfL)’s general manager for London Overground Rory O’Neill said that TfL is “committed to London’s transport network being accessible for everyone, and giving frontline staff the tools and training to support customers who are deaf or have a hearing loss is an important way we can deliver a first-class service on London Overground.”

Commenting on the new training programme, Arriva Rail London customer experience director Stella Rogers said: “We are proud to play our part in giving customers the confidence to travel, providing an inclusive and accessible railway for London.”

According to the co-founder of Signly – an app with pre-recorded videos for deaf people – Mark Applin, the training programme “could make a real difference to the passenger experience for people who are deaf or have a hearing loss”.

Applin added: “And even better, it seems to have an ignited a passion among many colleagues to learn more.”

Helen Lansdown, CEO of deaf charity Deafax, shared the positive sentiment and said that the staff’s ability to learn from a deaf trainer, as well as actually implement that learning on trains and in stations, is “impressive”.

“It is a real tribute to their motivation and innate desire to do the very best they can to meet the needs of deaf people and those with a hearing loss,” Lansdown said.

In April 2019, the UK’s Department for Transport announced a £300m investment towards making railways and rail stations more accessible to disabled people with improvements on more than 1,500 stations to help and support those with a hearing impairment.