SHOPS in Worcester are failing in their duty to support deaf people, a charity supporting people with hearing problems has found.

As part of last week’s Deaf Awareness Week, volunteers from Deaf Direct carried out mystery shopper visits to 84 shops in the city centre.

They found in 75 per cent of cases staff were not properly trained in dealing with deaf people and 82 per cent did not know how to offer a sign language interpreter where needed.

The organisation’s community manager, Gordon Hay, said: “The questions we asked included simple and easy measures that can be put into place quickly by retailers.

“These included whether there was a member of staff who was trained in deaf awareness or in using British sign language.

“A great example of a helpful place to shop would be the Apple stores in Birmingham and London that employ deaf staff who can converse in British sign language.”

The study included large chain stores and smaller independent retailers.

The volunteers praised Thorntons in The Shambles for training their staff in deaf awareness and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, in The Hopmarket, for booking interpreters.

But one shop had said they had not had a deaf customer in more than 15 years of trading – despite an estimated 64,000 people in Worcestershire living with hearing loss.

One of the volunteers said: “Everybody we talked to was very kind and helpful but hadn’t really thought about the everyday barriers that deaf or hard of hearing people face when out shopping,” he said.

“It would be lovely if we knew there were banks, pharmacies and retailers in our local Worcester community who made communication easy.

“Sometimes it’s hard to make yourself understood.”

Head of Worcester Business Improvement District (BID) Adrian Field said the organisation was happy to promote sign language taster sessions run by Deaf Direct on Monday, July 21.

“If increased awareness and knowledge helps deaf people and traders to communicate with each other then you would expect more transactions and a better level of customer service to take place, which is good news for everybody,” he said.

Measures shops can put in place to help deaf shoppers include installing a hearing loop system or allowing customers to contact them via text message, email or telephone.

For more information on Deaf Direct call 01905 746301.