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Support for those with hearing and visual impairments

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the human eye in black and white

Hi, my name is Simon Skerritt. I work at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall and in 2017 I founded the Civil Service Hearing and Visual Disability Networks.

The reason I founded the networks was that I myself wear hearing aids and have had 2 corneal graphs at Moorfields Eye Hospital which has twice saved my sight. I got to know people at work who had vision impairment and wanted to give something back and do something to support them and make them feel more inclusive.

The aims of both networks are as follows:

  • To increase awareness of hearing/visual impairment issues across the Civil Service.
  • To offer a forum to raise and address specific concerns related to hearing/visual impairment.
  • To link with the Civil Service Disability Network and establish a pool of role models to promote hearing/visual impairment issues across the Civil Service.
  • To engage proactively with Policy development, Civil Service Disability Network, departmental networks, Facilities Management and key personnel to ensure consideration is given to hearing/visual impairment requirements at an early stage.
  • To support the Civil Service Disability Network (CSDN) as requested, including raising issues concerning hearing/visual impairment to the CSDN and working with CSDN members to implement and support policy changes.
  • To establish links with Diversity and Inclusion staff across the Civil Service, sharing best practice and providing mutual support where the opportunity arises.

To date, the networks have a combined membership of 150 people across a number of government departments and we are very keen to significantly increase the membership. In fact, we want as many people to join as possible, even if you are a part of your own departmental network. It does not matter if you have a visual or hearing impairment or not or where you are located, you can still play a big part in taking our network to the next level. Everyone is warmly welcomed.

Commitment is as much or as little as you want, with no pressure whatsoever. You can be involved in planning or speaking at events, or simply just reading the actions from the meetings. It is entirely up to you.

The Civil Service Visual Network has a Champion (Ben Merrick), whom is also the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Disability Champion. It is hoped to appoint a Champion for the Hearing Network later this year.

Both networks are making some solid progress with buddy programmes, a newsletter, speaker lists for events and mentoring opportunities all being put in place, to help and support the network and all its members.

It is hoped to undertake some events, (the Civil Service Hearing Network has just held its first showcase event very successfully at DSTL, Porton Down) once the membership numbers increase and maybe hold some meetings outside of London, to be accessible to all our people. We also hope to have a webpage for both networks too in due course.

So why join a network, you may be thinking. Well, having led four meetings of the hearing and visual networks, it has been a joy to meet some very friendly people from other government departments and to understand first hand what is happening in their departments on hearing and visual impairment. It is great to be able to share what is going on in our departments so that we all learn from each other, to help each other to evolve and progress. Meetings are held Quarterly. Dial in facilities are available for all meetings.

So what are you waiting for, please get in touch. I would love to hear from you. Please email us and we will add you to the membership list and send you an invite to the next meeting of the network so that you can get involved straight away.

Updated 3 Jun 2021 : the network contact details are no longer Simon Skerritt but and

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  1. Comment by Elspeth posted on

    this is brilliant and hope it will help to make others more aware of the day to day struggles that those with visual impairment experience and to think about ways to overcome them

    • Replies to Elspeth>

      Comment by Simon Skerritt posted on

      Elspeth, thank you for your kind words.

  2. Comment by Lynsey Murray posted on

    Great blog and I am really pleased to be a member of the Hearing Disability Network, just connecting with people across different departments who have experience if a hearing impairment or interest is useful. I would recommend everyone with an interest to join.

    • Replies to Lynsey Murray>

      Comment by Simon Skerritt posted on

      Thanks so much Lynsey, Really appreciate your support

  3. Comment by Chris Orman posted on

    Great blog Simon! I hope that it will encourage people to join the networks and gain support in their work.

    • Replies to Chris Orman>

      Comment by Simon Skerritt posted on

      Thanks Chris, I hope so to.

  4. Comment by Carol Brayshaw posted on

    Looking forward to joining in with others in the network have emailed Simon today.

    My personal experience has been that to get any help is like making your way through a minefield we need to change this across government as employees and also as citizens.

    • Replies to Carol Brayshaw>

      Comment by Simon Skerritt posted on

      Hi Carol, great to receive your email and it will be lovely to have your involvement in the network. Will be in touch next week with details.

  5. Comment by Sue Roach posted on

    Hi Simon, I work in the Disability Service and Dispute Resolution Directorate and we are holding a week of activities during National Inclusion week in September focussing on what more we can do to support our colleagues with any form of disability. I would really like to raise awareness about our colleagues who have visual and/or hearing impairment and what more we can do to support them. Is there someone you can put me in contact with who could perhaps host a session for our people to share their experiences?

    • Replies to Sue Roach>

      Comment by Simon Skerritt posted on

      Hi Carol, thanks for your message. Will be in touch next week. I am sure we can help you.

      • Replies to Simon Skerritt>

        Comment by Simon Skerritt posted on

        Hi Sue, sorry for putting the wrong name. Will be in touch.

  6. Comment by Julia Mazzafiore posted on

    Hi Simon,

    I've e mailed you in my role in training a further 500 Mental Health First Aiders across DWP.
    I'm really keen to make sure that our MHFA Community is diverse and inclusive and that I fully understand the demands around making the material and delivery fully accessible.
    I do hope to hear from you
    With very best wishes

    • Replies to Julia Mazzafiore>

      Comment by Simon Skerritt posted on

      Hi Julia, great to receive your message. Will be in touch next week about joining the network,

  7. Comment by Chris posted on

    Excellent initiative, thanks Simon.

  8. Comment by Simon Skerritt posted on

    Thanks Chris, means a lot.