At the end of last month, I was invited to spend the day at the Norwich branch of Virgin Money bank. They were celebrating #ICANuary, January focused on making banking accessible for disabled people and they wanted me to give some Deaf Awareness talks to their staff.
A little Sign Language goes a long way
On arrival at Virgin Money, the security guard surprised me by signing “Good Morning”, to which I responded in Sign Language “wow, how are you?” But that was all he knew! We laughed it off, but I was pleased that he made an effort!
When I met Vick, who I had been in contact with, she told me that some of the staff did a sign language taster earlier in the week. Throughout the day, I noticed people were signing “Hello” and “my name is…” which I was very pleased with their effort.
In the morning session, there were 14 employees in the Norwich boardroom, and during my talk they had me on a conference Skype call to the Head Office in Gosforth, Newcastle where there were even more people watching me!
Seeing their conference calls came as a slight surprise to me, as I was wondering how I was going to hear them, but luckily Vick was amazing and relayed everything that was said.
I went ahead and gave my talks and presentation. I explained a bit about myself and my hearing loss, what deafness is and tips on how to communicate with a D/deaf person. I also touched on my previous banking experiences (which unfortunately haven’t all been positive!) and finally how Virgin Money could improve their accessibility in branches and on their website. (Thanks to my followers for the tips!) I did my presentation again in the afternoon for those who couldn’t make the morning session.
Meeting the teams
I had an in-depth chat with the website team about how they could improve the accessibility page on their website. They were mostly surprised at how they hadn’t thought of things before but sometimes you just need someone who has a disability themselves to come in to make people aware and provide a different viewpoint.
Vick also introduced me to the branding team, as my career is in Marketing, so it was interesting to see how they design all the Virgin Money marketing materials and service information books. I also met people from the copywriting team, which most of them blog in their spare time. It was nice to see that they were interested in the blogs I wrote.
I also spent some time with Vick learning about how they check their website for accessibility and how to make it easy for those with visual impairments who use screen readers. Screen readers are ways of websites being read aloud so they can hear what each element is. Fair to say, I picked up a few accessibility tips for my own website!
Prosecco and a book!
As a thank you, they gave me a lovely present; a bottle of prosecco and a copy of Richard Branson’s autobiography. Better get reading on how to be a millionaire!
Thank you to everyone at Virgin Money for a wonderful visit. I hope everyone learnt something and I look forward to seeing what improvements they come up with!
I received some great feedback on my talks, here’s what they had to say:
“I learned a lot about the challenges faced by deaf people, particularly when trying to contact their banks! I’ll definitely know how to communicate with any deaf colleagues thanks to Ellie’s tips”
“Ellie had a lot of real life examples from her own experience to make a point. This made it far more powerful and ‘real’ for us listening.”
It’s wonderful to receive feedback like this. It definitely motivates me to do more deaf awareness talks! If you’re interested in raising deaf awareness within your organisation, please do get in touch!
Love E x