Post offices need to make it easier for people with sight and hearing loss to access them, a report by Consumer Focus Wales says.
A third of mystery shoppers with sight loss who took part in the mystery shopping exercise reported problems caused by obstacles and trip hazards when entering the post office. Customers who took part in the study found that in four out of five visits to the post office, there was no working induction loop available for people with hearing loss to use.
Talking Sense reports the findings by a network of volunteers with differing degrees of sensory loss who are members of the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) Cymru and Action on Hearing Loss Cymru. They visited 150 post offices across Wales.
Mystery shoppers found that in almost a quarter of post offices with hearing loops there was no sign advertising that the loop was available. In two thirds of cases where loops were installed but not working staff did not attempt to resolve the problem. More than a third of volunteers found the layout and design of their post office a problem, experiencing difficulty finding the counter the first time they visited.
Despite concerns around safety and customer service at post offices, 9 out of 10 who participated in the study praised post office employees for their professionalism, while more than 80 per cent of volunteers said they would feel confident about using the post office in future.
Rhys Evans, Senior Director at Consumer Focus Wales, said:
‘There is much work for Post Office Ltd to do to improve its service for customers with sight or hearing loss. It is not always obvious if someone is experiencing sensory loss and so action needs to be taken to increase staff awareness.
‘Our findings clearly show that if Post Office Ltd are able to develop guidance and training so that its employees are aware of how to identify a customer with sensory loss and communicate effectively with them, then they will be much better placed to provide a service that suits the needs of these customers.’
Ceri Jackson, Acting Director of RNIB Cymru, said:
‘For many people across Wales, the Post Office is much more than just a place to post a letter. It’s at the heart of the community, enabling local people to access a wide range of services without having to travel too far from home: something that is particularly valuable to the many blind and partially sighted people who find independent travel difficult.
‘A significant proportion of Post Office customers will have a visual impairment and, with the number of people with sight loss expected to double by 2050, it is critical that they (and others like them) ensure that their services are accessible. To have one third of people reporting that it was difficult to even get through the door, because of obstacles and trip hazards, is a real concern and I hope that we can now work with them to help make the Post Office a safe and welcoming place for everyone in the local community.’
Richard Williams, director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, said:
‘This work by our volunteers has uncovered a significant problem in the availability of induction loops in post offices across Wales. Post Offices are cutting themselves off from their customers by not making use of important communication tools like hearing loops. When you consider that one in six people in Wales have hearing loss, those post offices are not providing services that are fully accessible to their customers – not only is it poor customer service but it’s also bad for their business.
‘The numbers of people with hearing loss in Wales are predicted to rise by some 40 per cent by 2030 so businesses like post offices need to start thinking and taking action for how they are going to be communicating with their customers in the future. We are looking forward to working with Post Offices to make sure that they have working loop systems that enable the 534,000 people with hearing loss in Wales to be able to fully access this important community service.’
Notes to editors
For more information on each organisation please go to following websites:
We mystery shopped 150 post offices across Wales, with 583 visits undertaken by 78 mystery shoppers from RNIB and AOHL.
Sensory loss is a significant issue affecting one in five people in Wales. The term sensory loss is used to describe:
- People with all levels of hearing loss, from hard of hearing to people who are profoundly deaf. This will include people who prefer to use a hearing aid, lip read or use British Sign Language
- People with sight loss which affects their everyday life, including people who are registered blind or partially sighted, people waiting for or having treatment to improve their sight and people whose vision could be improved by wearing of the right glasses. These customers may have no central vision, no side vision, blurred vision or no vision at all.