'Mask-wearing and remote working were very tough for deaf officials – but there are positive Covid-19 legacies too'

A huge diversity of people and roles make up the modern civil service. Here, Lisa Baldock tells us how her own experiences help her make the DWP’s tech as inclusive as possible

By Civil Service World

02 Aug 2022

Lisa Baldock – associate digital user expert, DWP, London

When and why did you join the civil service? 

In 2001 – 21 years ago! I have a profound hearing loss and I always wanted to work in an organisation such as the civil service. I wanted to share my knowledge and make a difference to society.

Tell us what you do and how it helps citizens

I work in the DWP and am currently on loan from HR to the digital team. My current role has been by far the most interesting. I work in a team supporting colleagues to ensure our Microsoft 365 systems work with accessibility software, which in turn enables them to communicate and collaborate effectively to do their everyday jobs. No two days are the same: I could be working screen reader users one day, and reviewing our website’s fonts, colour contrasts and page layouts the next. I also help our colleagues use functions such as captions, subtitles and transcripts or simply show them how to access interpreter provision remotely. We want our colleagues who use accessibility to fly, not to fall. I call our team the A-Team!

How did your role change over the pandemic? Did your hearing dog miss going into the office? 

I faced my own personal issues with obtaining remote access for my interpreters both inside and outside work, and mask-wearing and not being able to lipread others prevented me going out, which made me feel very isolated. I needed communication support more than ever: without it I cannot function and do my job. 

I retired my previous assistance hearing dog Inca during the pandemic and was matched with a totally new dog named Lima. Not working in office and pandemic restrictions meant I had to train him at home – which was really hard work as the trainers worked remotely. Luckily, we were allowed to keep Inca with us, which meant she was able to show him the way! It’s not been easy but now the pandemic restrictions are easing, Lima is now learning more about socialisation and adapting to working both in the office and at home.

"I always had an interest in technology, I wear two cochlear implants and used FaceTime outside of work, so to see similar advances in work was incredible"
 

How have things changed for deaf civil servants in the last decade?

To begin with it was hard, access was so restricted. Myself and deaf peers were isolated. I had to depend so much on other people to help me and did not venture far. I became isolated, depressed and suffered huge anxiety. My line management really supported me, and, over the years, we have worked together to change people’s perspectives. It made services rethink their access strategies. We had to become innovative and think more about how to communicate. 

Although during the pandemic masks were a huge barrier for most deaf officials, there were some positive legacies from Covid-19: we advanced our technology to allow captions and transcripts and we gave interpreters remote access too. It also led to really productive conversations between colleagues with hearing loss and their managers, and enabled everyone to consider different ways of working. 

I always had an interest in technology, I wear two cochlear implants and used FaceTime outside of work, so to see similar advances in work was incredible. More opportunities have opened up so those like me can flourish. 

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