This page aims to give guidance to businesses, public authorities and other service providers on how to make services accessible for customers/clients who stammer. It is a bullet point summary, with links to more detail. The provisions of the Equality Act 2010 are dealt with elsewhere on this site.
These pages on making services accessible for stammering are likely to develop over time. I welcome any feedback (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Equality Act and awareness training
- A stammer will very often be a ‘disability’ within the Equality Act 2010, so that the obligation to make reasonable adjustments and other Equality Act duties apply. It is sensible for a service provider to assume that a stammer is covered by the Equality Act.
- Disability awareness training should encompass stammering and other communication impairments. This field is often neglected. See training providers.
Talking with someone who stammers
- Allow the person time to speak. Do not finish words/sentences or interrupt. (Allowing more time)
- If talking face-to-face, maintain natural eye contact rather than looking away when someone stammers.
- More on talking with a person who stammers: In conversation with a person who stammers (link to BSA website).
- Voice recognition systems can be a major barrier. They should include an option to press a key to speak to a real person, either in the initial menu or the first time a person is not understood. (Voice recognition telephone systems)
- People who stammer can find the telephone particularly difficult. Allow the option of dealing with any matter by email or post if that is what the customer prefers, rather than requiring a phone call. (Alternatives to the telephone)
- If there is a time limit on phone calls, it may be necessary to waive this. (Allowing extra time on the phone)
- Voice risk analysis should not be used to flag up people with communication impairments as potentially dishonest. (Voice risk analysis).
- Do not set answering machines to cut off after just a few seconds of silence.
- More on phone calls.
- Face-to-face speech is often easier. If non-face-to-face speech is required, consider alternative means of communication. As well as telephone calls (above), possible problems include entryphones, or microphones at the entrance/exit of car parks. (Providing alternative ways to communicate)
- Stammering should not be mistaken for dishonesty. See Mistaking stammering for dishonesty (in context of courts), external link to Presentation for Emergency Services Personnel, and concerns on Voice Risk Analysis.
- I have a separate page on adjustments related to Appearing in court.
- The British Stammering Association helpline on 020 8880 6590 can help service providers wanting information on how to deal with people who stammer, and on maximising accessibility to them of goods and services.
- In conversation with a person who stammers – British Stammering Association
- Notes to listeners (pdf) – the equivalent guidance from the US National Stuttering Association (NSA), on speaking with someone who stammers – or ‘stutters’ as they say in the US.
- Service Providers page on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.
A separate page gives links to training providers.