Why use a Communicator Guide?

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The added value of a Communicator Guide

The social value we add to the wider community is huge. Not only in terms of actual spending in the community but also in savings towards the public purse.

Hearing loss is recognised as a contributing factor to Dementia.

Moreover, sight loss is recognised as a contributing factor to increasing falls in older people.

The cost of care for people with dementia in the UK is £37.4 billion (https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-us/policy-and-influencing/dementia-scale-impact-numbers).

And the cost of treating people from falls in the UK is £4.4 billion (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/falls-applying-all-our-health/falls-applying-all-our-health).

The purple pound

Without Communicator Guides or Sighted Guides deafblind and visually impaired residents are unable to access universal goods and services.

The purple pound contributes £249 billion to the UK economy. And our services are provided under the Equality Act 2010. This enables people with sensory needs to be consumers in their local environment and further afield. Trust me – people with sensory loss are very happy when they can go shopping!

Savings for the NHS

The social value our service brings to health services is immeasurable.

When people with sensory needs have accessible medical appointments there is a notable saving. Because they require fewer repeat visits as well as less waste in unused medications.

And in the current climate more medical appointments are taking place over the telephone. Our support workers are making telephone health consultations accessible. This ensures deafblind people remain in control of their health and wellbeing.

Savings for the Local Authority

And of course the social value to keeping people moving both physically and mentally reduces the risk of their muscles, including their brains, from atrophying.

As mentioned earlier, using a specialist support worker from Indigo Access will keep people active for longer, which has huge benefits in reducing falls and dementia.

This has a huge saving potential for local authorities and the NHS.

What can Communicator Guides do?

We work as the eyes and ears of the deafblind person. Therefore making everyday experiences accessible.

There is more information on our blog “The Deafblind Specialist Assessment”.

Also take a look at our page “Communicator Guides”.

Indigo Access turns 9!

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It’s a “Happy Birthday” to us post! Indigo Access turned 9 over the weekend. Whilst it has been a turbulent twelve months, we are here. And we intend to celebrate!

The Good

Never have I ever been as pleased to have undertaken a piece of training, as I have with the IOSH Managing Safely course. Passed in February 2019 it gave me the confidence to risk assess throughout the pandemic. Our business is agile and adapts to numerous changes in government guidance. We have reviewed and re-written our safe systems of work. Team training in adapting our services has been important. And we can report there has been zero covid-19 transmissions in our workplace. Overall we have delivered 5000 hours of specialist support work over the last year.

The Sad

Sadly our lip-reading courses are on hold for the duration of the pandemic. Undoubtedly our business has been affected. We have had to say goodbye to one worker and placed another one on furlough. Customers deteriorated during the first lockdown could not return to using our services when restrictions were lifted. We bade farewell to our longest customer, who achieved her dream of moving to Norfolk.

The Busy

Our continued commitment to training and developing our team saw Anniesa pass British Sign Language Stage 1 course. Sarah, Anna, Vicki and Joelle refreshed their Manual Handling knowledge via CPD Online. Then Sarah, Anna, Joelle, Vicki and Eleanor passed Safeguarding Level 2 courses. Eleanor and I have passed the CMI Level 5 award in Leadership and Management. Additionally, I have undertaken a 2 day Motivational Interviewing course and achieved Safeguarding Level 3. 

Gradually we have reduced the amount of remote support to our customers, returning to face to face support. We began with garden visits and gentle exercise back in July 2020. Then in August we were able to guide people to their local shops and services. We introduced Hi-Viz jackets, helping the general public understand why we are in close proximity to our customers.

September saw a re-introduction of in the home visits. Most importantly customers had access to their worker’s vehicles once a week. Shopping was enthusiastically embraced! January 2021 was the beginning of our workforce’s vaccination programme. In May we have increased the number of customers we support in a face to face capacity each day. Our support workers have enabled customers to be independent and active!

The Hopeful

Here’s to a more stable twelve months. With a small trickle of new referrals we are looking forward to seeing how the next year pans out.

Thank you to all of the customers, team, commissioners and other agencies who help make Indigo Access such a great little company.



Covid-19 update 1

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This is a taster of the work we have undertaken in March and April 2020 during the pandemic.

Summary of our Work

Our British Sign Language customers continue to require written information to be translated into British Sign Language. As a result they are kept up to date with relevant government guidance. Our Communication Support Workers have produced BSL clips and sent these to customers regarding: Stay at home advice; MOT advice; The Prime Minister’s letter; Understanding furlough; Increase to contact less card payments; School meal voucher scheme; Advice on face coverings. 

We have created and distributed two easy read posters for our deaf customers with minimal language. Thereby providing visual Stay at home advice and How to shop using social distancing. We sourced, printed and distributed the governments’ “Stay Alert” poster.  

Some of our customers who have sight loss or combined sight and hearing loss have been able to use our audio descriptive shopping service. Allowing them to maintain their mental map of the shop as well as remain in control as to what they want to buy. Consequently this allows customers to know what is going on in the real world e.g.: queuing, power cuts or a lack of baking items. 

We have supported our visually impaired customers in accessing information about their medication. This includes labelling up generic boxes in large print. We have read aloud government guidance on PPE to customers. As a result this has alleviated concerns of those receiving domiciliary care. 

We have supported customers in undertaking crosswords and quizzes over the telephone. Providing them with reminiscence opportunities leading up to VE day. As well as routine checks on their health and wellbeing. Our specialist support workers have provided relayed telephone calls for customers to housing departments to manage rent increase letters, to GP’s for repeat prescriptions and to the family fund to secure refunds on holidays. 

We have supported our customers in accessing information written online. Our workers have been asked to research a number of topics including house prices, opera music, CB radios, seated exercises and then relayed this information back to the customer over the telephone. 

We have enabled customers to continue with their parenting duties via email and WhatsApp. And supported customers create PowerPoint presentations for college work via zoom. We have taught customers how to use smart phone video technology; provided them with information on how to use NGT facilities on their phones and provided information on “Interpreter Now” website. So enabling deaf customers to have remote access to Interpreters during GP consultations. 

We have worked collaboratively with a number of agencies including home care organizations, food hubs, wardens at residential settings, mental health teams. Contacting these agencies when we are concerned about a possible COVID-19 case. Most importantly, none of our customers so far have tested or reported COVID-19 symptoms. 


“Really enjoyed the shopping over the phone as I’m able to participate in making choices” (RBWM resident) 

“Your work is vital and its comforting to have support from an organization and a worker I trust” (RBWM resident) 

“Absolutely lifesaving” (Wokingham resident) 

“Thank you so much for helping” (Bracknell resident) 

“[name of worker] show help me to video call you, me happy” (Reading resident) 

What next? 

We are researching how to resume the guiding service that is a part of our roles. The job involves being within 2 metres of our customers. As such we are looking at the use of face visors as a protective measure.  A full and comprehensive risk assessment will take place in the next few weeks. 

We are also trialing wearing the face visor for when we visit 2 BSL customers who are receiving home visits due to the lack of technology. We are unable to use face coverings with this customer group as they need to see the whole face in order to receive clear communication.  

We hope you are all remaining safe and well!


Indigo Access is another year older

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Another year older

Indigo Access turns 8 on the 26th of June. To say this year has been one of our most challenging, is an understatement!

But we have pieced together some of our very best achievements to celebrate with: Our continued commitment to training and developing our team saw Anniesa, Joelle, Vicki and Sarah pass their Signature Level 2 Communicating and Guiding with deafblind people course. Anthony and Rose refreshed their knowledge on the St John Ambulance Principles of Manual Handling course. Josie took a one day Mental Health First Aid course as well as completing University College London’s Hearing Therapist Skills training.

Our private lip-reading courses remain popular “I have found it an enormous help with a very patient and clear teacher”. And our Wokingham class is fully subscribed.

Then Covid-19 hit and Indigo Access had to adapt quickly. We have been innovative in providing audio descriptive shopping experiences for customers. Allowing them to remain fully informed of what shopping during a pandemic was like, from the safety of their home. We have translated government guidance from English into British Sign Language. We produced our own “easy read” posters for customers with minimal English.

Whilst we work from home, our workers are coming up with clever ways of keeping our customers brains ticking over. Quizzes and crosswords have been undertaken, reminiscence work has been provided and access to news items such as Black Lives Matter has been relayed. We have supported parents with home schooling, chasing food vouchers, arranging holiday refunds. We have embraced technology such as zoom. Our workers have made sure customers have been able to continue to access hospital, GP and medical services. This promotes their health and wellbeing.

Lastly we are proud that over the last year we have provided over 6000 hours of support to people who have sensory needs. We look forward to easing out of “lock down”. We look forward to the next challenging 12 months.

Thank you to all of the team. And all of our customers.



Lipreading Awareness Week 2019

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Lipreading Awareness Week 2019

Runs from the 9th to the 15th of September 2019

A brief history of Lipreading

Did you know that the first lip-reading course was developed by the City Lit in London, back in 1919. This was as a direct result of returning World War 1 veterans. Many men had been exposed to loud noise on the battlefield and had subsequently acquired a hearing loss. However upon their return to the UK, a great number of men who had Noise Induced hearing loss were seen as malingerers who were exaggerating! We now know that the shells and artillery noise that soldiers were exposed to regularly created a noise of 140 decibels or higher. But ear protection was not given great consideration. In fact ear plugs were considered a barrier to soldiers being able to hear orders or warnings from their colleagues or superior officers!

The second world war also produced a great number of deafened veterans. Subsequently the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, the charity now known as Action on Hearing Loss, developed their teaching programme. Classes on how to lip-read were in demand as was the need to train up the necessary teachers!

Lipreading teachers in 2019

Currently there are two places in England where you can train to become a teacher of lip-reading. The City Lit in London and in Manchester through the Centre for Deaf Studies. Training sometimes runs in Scotland and Wales, depending upon demand. When you undertake training in becoming a teacher of lipreading you learn all about the theory of how speech sounds are made, as well as common confusions in speech, tactics to improve communication and strategies to support people manage their hearing loss better! If you are looking for a teacher of lip-reading you should look for someone who is registered with ATLA, the Association of Teachers of Lip-reading to Adults.

Myths about Lipreading

Sometimes people say “but everyone lipreads a little – you don’t need to take a class”. And it’s true, most people do lipread a little. However a lip-reading class can help you improve this natural skill. But then people also ask if they take a class – how long does it take for them to become an expert lip-reader? Sadly, there is no such thing as an expert lip-reader! Yes, you may have watched crime fiction programmes and the hero detective watches the CCTV camera footage. And having watched it one or two times, despite the picture being poorly lit, and the suspect being far away, and the footage is a bit grainy…the detective reads their lips and solves the case. But, lipreading accurately in such a scenario is highly unlikely. Successful lipreading is more than just watching the mouth, jaws and lip movements.

What does lipreading involve?

Successful lipreading also requires you to know the context. You have to fill in gaps, as only 30% of spoken English is visible on the mouth. And you have to be certain that the person you are lip-reading is speaking English – which may not be the case in the crime fiction programme! Lipreading requires a blend of a number of skills and appropriate elements.

The benefits of lipreading

There has been significant amounts of research which suggest a person who has a hearing loss, when provided with hearing aids and lip-reading training, can reduce their personal risk of the onset of dementia. And we are social creatures. When we reduce our ability to take part in communication we become isolated, depressed and our mental wellbeing can suffer. Lipreading classes are a relaxed social event where learning is fun. And the skills you acquire can assist in regaining confidence in communicating with friends, loved ones and colleagues. Why would you delay?



Work Experience

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Work experience at Indigo Access

Hi I’m Anaisa Harney, I study at John Madejski Academy, and this is my account of the week’s work experience at Indigo Access.

Monday 9/7/18

First I observed a training session. This showed me how much work is required to train a worker through a small business. I was surprised at the amount of planning a preparation needed to make a training plan to teach the workers how to be a successful comm guide. I then went on a visit to a deaf client who needed help with understanding her post. This was the first time I had properly met a deaf person. I found it very interesting how the client could communicate using BSL so easily and understood the letters without being able to read them. Finally, I help do some finance. Doing this showed me that a small business requires many different roles that take a lot of time and expertise to complete.

Tuesday 10/7/18

First I observed and took part in a lip reading lesson. When I first turned up I thought that lip reading would be very easy to understand and that everyone can do it. I was surprised when the class started as I found it difficult understanding what was being said as the majority of the words looked very similar. Next I went as observed supported communication. I was very surprised at the different type of communication required from Monday as the client did not fully understand sign language. This showed me that not all deaf people are the same and that they all have different ways of communicating.

Wednesday 11/7/18

First I observed a meeting with Wokingham Borough Council. This was very interesting as it showed me all the different types of companies that help support a variety of people. Although the meeting was less interesting than the previous days it was very important. Next I done some admin work. This included shredding a load of documents. This was very important as it has to be done to get rid of any documents that have confidential information on.

Thursday 12/7/18

First I observed a deaf/ blind client being guided. This surprised me as I was not aware how much information the client needed to know whilst they were being guided. Although the client was deaf and blind they could still communicate by using special equipment. Having a comm guide allowed the client to go out and do what they wanted to do without any restrictions. From this I leant that that it is important that the client knows what type of surface they are walking on or if the type of surface is going to change. They also need to know what is approaching them e.g. a door or a slope.

I then completed more admin work as there was a lot to do.

Friday 13/7/18

First I observed a supervision session. This was to check in with a worker to see how their work has been going and to see if they had any problems. I then observed communication support. The client need assistance booking appointments over the phone as they have hearing difficulties. I was surprised when I met the client as it was not obvious that they were deaf as they could have a conversation with me. It was only noticeable when they were trying to understand what was being said on the phone.

In conclusion!

This week of work experience not only showed me the range of deaf/blind people and how they communicate but it showed me how a small business runs. It showed me all the small but important aspect of running a business such as training, supervision, meeting, finance, admin and then actually communicating with deaf/blind people. I was shocked by how much work is required to keep the business running successfully and safely.

General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)

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GDPR – Our Privacy statement for Customers

Indigo Access Ltd collects your personal data.
  • What data?

This includes information such as your name, address, date of birth, ethnicity, religion, disability, health conditions.

  • Why do we use it?

We use this information so we can provide you with a service. This might be an assessment of your needs, or it might be a specialist support worker or training event.

  • Our legal basis for processing this information is

“Processing is necessary for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is party or in order to take steps at the request of the data subject prior to entering into a contract”

  • Sharing data

Information will be shared with third parties for the purposes of our companies accounting needs, with purchasing councils or with the purpose of arranging equipment following an assessment. Indigo Access Ltd have a separate Consent to Share information form.

  • Storing data

Data is stored on cloud based systems, which is only accessible to our workforce through a password protected and invitation only basis.

Your telephone number might be stored on your worker’s mobile phone. This is pin protected and your identification is anonymised by the use of initials only.

  • Keeping your data

Indigo Access Ltd will only retain data about you whilst you are a customer of ours. We will delete all information once our contract has ceased, either with yourself directly or with a purchasing council.

Indigo Access Ltd will keep financial records such as Request for Service Forms, Purchase Orders, Invoices and Remittances for up to 7 years. Financial records will be shared with our Accountant for accounting purposes.

  • Under the GDPR you have a number of rights:
  1. The right to be informed
  2. The right of access
  3. The right to rectification
  4. The right to erasure
  5. The right to restrict processing
  6. The right to data portability
  7. The right to object
  8. The right not to be subject to automated decision making including profiling
  • Subject access request

If you require a subject access request please contact hello@indigoaccess.co.uk or write to us. Josie Fray will handle this request within a working month. We will put right any data that is incorrect.

  • If mistakes happen

If your personal data is breached, Indigo Access will undertake an investigation.

We will report breaches as required to the ICO, the individual and the purchasing local authority.

We will maintain a spreadsheet to record what went wrong and how we put it right.

The Equality Act 2010

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The Equality Act 2010

It’s been 8 years since the Equality Act became law. But it seems that the interpretation of this law still befuddles some people. This has been highlighted recently in the case of Sally Reynolds and the Little Mix Concert. Sally, is a British Sign Language user and is Deaf. Her daughter isn’t deaf. And her daughter wanted to go to the Little Mix concert. In a nutshell, Sally requested that the concert provide a BSL to English Sign Language Interpreter so that she could have access to the concert. After the concert organisers had refused her request, a court injunction was sought.

This step resulted in Sally being provided with a BSL Interpreter for the Little Mix part of the concert. But not the two warm up acts that came before Little Mix. Subsequently Sally has taken the unprecedented step in issuing legal proceedings against the concert organisers for failure to provide reasonable adjustments.

You can read the BBC report here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42776454

The outcry

There has been much commenting on this case. The Daily Mail comments are full of outrage “Why should the venue provide an interpreter at great expense just for you? You can lip read. Get over it.” and “What a load of cr*p how on earth is an interpreter going to keep up with someone singing,perhaps they also asked for the song to be sung slowly, if it goes to court I hope the mother not only loses and pays all legal costs”, for example.

Read more, if you want to but try not to get too angry: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5308059/Deaf-mother-sues-Little-Mix-promoter-sign-language-row.html#ixzz55lHdgUxP

The response

That little thing called the Equality Act. I know its only been around 8 years. But it clearly states that providers of goods and services must take reasonable adjustments to make sure a person with a disability receive the same services, as far as is possible, to that of a non disabled person. The Equality Act even calls these adjustments “reasonable adjustments” to take into account the organisations size, practicality, the disability. Moreover the Equality Act makes it clear that sometimes purveyors of goods and services need to provide an extra aid or service. This is an auxiliary aid. Guess what a BSL Interpreter is? That’s right! An auxiliary aid.

So, lets just re-cap. Sally bought tickets to a concert, because she is taking her daughter there. She would like to have full access to the concert that she is attending with her daughter. The request for a BSL Interpreter is entirely legal. Because without one she is unable to access the lyrics to the songs. This places her at a disadvantage to other concert go-ers. By only having an Interpreter for the Little Mix part of the concert, this effectively means Sally only has access to 1/3rd of the acts. This again, is not equal to other concert goers and places her at a clear disadvantage. Which the providers already know how to overcome because they have provided an Interpreter for the Little Mix part of the concert.

Responding to the comments

Why should the venue provide an interpreter just for you? – Well, it is the Law (see the Equality Act).

You can Lip-read: Well, only 30% of spoken English is visible on the mouth. Lipreading is a blend of other skills, including knowing the context and topic, so unless Sally knew all of the acts songs off by heart, this would be impossible. In addition, lipreading works well when the person doesn’t move about, if only one person is speaking at anyone time and that the light is in the speakers face. Oh, and you have to be quite close to the speaker too. So, no, lipreading isn’t going to cut it here.

How is an Interpreter going to keep up with a singer: Hmmm, BSL – English Interpreters who undertake performance Interpretation are highly trained to interpret and will put in hours of preparation to ensure they have been able to translate the song from English into British Sign Language. A quick look on Youtube has countless examples of people (some of whom are not qualified BSL – English Interpreters) signing along to songs. And, what a surprise, these songs aren’t slowed down.

The Equality Act and what it means for the wider Deaf community

Taking this issue to court will set a legal precedent. As yet no-one has tested the Equality Act in this area. If Sally wins the case, then it should make it much clearer for people with a sensory need to make their needs known. And for suppliers of good and services to meet the reasonable adjustment. This could mean more audio described plays, additional subtitling at concerts, BSL – English Interpreters being booked.

We should celebrate the courage of Sally Reynolds for taking this step. Rebecca Halliday did  a courageous thing in 1997 (and changed the way DLA was awarded to people who were Deaf as well as people who were Blind). Only by using the law can people hope to redress the innate discrimination that currently abounds.

Surviving the holidays with a hearing loss

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Hearing loss and the holidays

With the holiday season in full swing it is often a difficult time for people with a hearing loss. Meals out in noisy restaurants, group conversations and the twinkly lights can make communication that little bit harder.

So what are our top tips for surviving the festive period?

If you have a hearing loss

Sit at the table where you can see most of the other guests. A round table is best. But if you are on a rectangular table try for the middle. And I don’t mean sitting in the middle of the table, that’s where the turkey should be.

Stand or sit with your back to the wall. Conversations and noise can’t escape as easily.

Wear your hearing aids and glasses. Remember to have spare batteries.

Move to where there is better light. The fairy lights might look nice but it creates shadows which can impact on how much you will be able to see!

Let people know. If you have a preferred side ask them to move to it. If you haven’t understood as them to repeat, rephrase or write it down.

Don’t drink too much alcohol. (Boo – hiss) I know, you might relax a little more, which can help with lipreading. Too much and your residual hearing can be affected. And it’s harder to make sense of conversations and fill in the gaps when your brain is a bit under the influence.

If you know someone with a hearing loss

No-one wants to be left out. So get the person’s attention. Give eye contact. Introduce the topic by saying “we are talking about this ….”

If they haven’t understood repeat, rephrase and write it down.

Don’t drink too much alcohol. (Boo – hiss again). Lipreading becomes more difficult if you are slurring your words.

Ask the person if there is anything you can do to make communication easier. Is the lighting too dim? Are you talking too quickly?

Be patient.

Wishing you all a happy holidays!

Indigo Access will be closed from 5pm on the 22nd of December through to 9am on the 2nd of January.

We wish all of our customers and colleagues a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Careers event at Furze Platt Senior school

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A successful Careers event

Elaine and I attended Furze Platt Senior School’s careers event on Thursday 23rd of November. A large number of Universities, Colleges and Employers were on hand. And a good number of year 9-11’s attended with their parents.

Now I had to admit, as a previous student of FP seniors, the careers advice I received certainly didn’t include working with Deaf people. Despite having passed CACDP Level 1 when I was 14, the school didn’t really nurture this interest. Which is why it is awesome to be able to go back and widen the children’s perspectives on their potential employment options!

Interactive stall

Armed with plenty of new leaflets and a big box of Cadbury’s heroes, Elaine and I sat up our stall. We took along our simi specs. These have different examples of sight loss. And we persuaded the children to try them on. We also had ear defenders. Using the simi specs of cataracts and macular degeneration proved popular. Most of the children, and a number of their parents, knew of older family members who had these sight conditions. We asked the pupils what they could and couldn’t see with these glasses on. With the macular degeneration glasses most children said they would find it difficult to leave their house, to see who they were talking to and everyday tasks such as reading would be difficult.

Then we asked them to add the ear defenders. A great number of our stall attendees at this point went rigid. “It’s horrible”, “I feel underwater and isolated”, “It’s quite scary” were a few of the comments. Some of the braver ones were willing to be guided around a very crowded library.

Future options

This evening was a great way to insert a small bit of sensory awareness training. But the aim of the evening was to provide information about the careers that are available to school leavers. As followers of Indigo Access will know, we are often looking for new staff, because of the demand on our service. But we know that as well as Communicator Guides and Communication Support Workers, there is a raft of jobs connected to Sensory needs.

So once we had captured their attention with the experiences of dual sensory loss, Elaine and I were able to tell them about the career pathways available. Social Work, Rehabilitation for people with a visual impairment, BSL-English Interpreters, Teaching Lip-reading. Moreover we also promoted the colleges and Universities that provide specialist degrees and diplomas. There is a surprising number of careers when you look into sensory needs!

We look forward to returning to next years careers event. And we’ll definitely think on how to make our stall even more interactive and fun for the next round!