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Providing services to D/deaf and hard of hearing people

Last updated: 12 July 2012

What is the issue?

  • D/deaf and hard of hearing people can have specific requirements when they use legal services that depend on their personal circumstances, and on the style of communication they prefer. They may also describe their ability to hear and identify themselves differently.
  • Important distinctions between 'Deaf', 'deaf' and 'hard of hearing' are set out in the terminology section.
  • In 2011 the SRA commissioned a research project to interview D/deaf and hard of hearing people across England and Wales, and to ask first-hand what they wanted from their solicitor or their law firm to help them get the best from legal services.
  • Download the SRA's study into the experiences of D/deaf and hard of hearing people (PDF) in accessing solicitors.
  • This practice note specifically focuses on different ways that you can work with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and offers some practical advice in this area.

Legal status

This practice note is the Law Society's view of good practice in this area. It is not legal advice.

Practice notes are issued by the Law Society for the use and benefit of its members. They represent the Law Society's view of good practice in a particular area. They are not intended to be the only standard of good practice that solicitors can follow. You are not required to follow them, but doing so will make it easier to account to oversight bodies for your actions.

Practice notes are not legal advice, nor do they necessarily provide a defence to complaints of misconduct or of inadequate professional service. While care has been taken to ensure that they are accurate, up to date and useful, the Law Society will not accept any legal liability in relation to them.

For queries or comments on this practice note contact the Law Society's Practice Advice Service.

Professional conduct

The following sections of the SRA Handbook are relevant to this issue:

  • Principle 9: You must run your business or carry out your role in the business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity
  • Chapter 2 of the SRA Code on Equality and Diversity

Our practice note on the SRA Handbook Equality and Diversity requirements sets out your requirements under the Handbook, along with some good practice examples.

SRA Principles

There are ten mandatory principles which apply to all those the SRA regulates and to all aspects of practice. The principles can be found in the SRA Handbook.

The principles apply to solicitors or managers of authorised bodies who are practising from an office outside the UK. They also apply if you are a lawyer-controlled body practising from an office outside the UK.


Deaf with a lower case 'd' - Describes severe to profound hearing loss. A person who is deaf may or may not also identify themselves as Deaf (see below).

Deaf with a capital 'D' - People who identify as members of a cultural and linguistic minority whose first or preferred language is British Sign Language. The capitalisation is significant and is communicated as 'big D Deaf' in speech and sign. Members of the Deaf community do not view deafness as a disability.

Hard of hearing - Describes a person who has some level of hearing loss. A hard of hearing person may have had a hearing loss since childhood, or have acquired it later on in life. The majority of hard of hearing people communicate using speech, possibly with a hearing aid and lipreading.

Must - A specific requirement in legislation or of a principle, rule, outcome or other mandatory provision in the SRA Handbook. You must comply, unless there are specific exemptions or defences provided for in relevant legislation or the SRA Handbook.

Should - Outside of a regulatory context, good practice for most situations in the Law Society's view. In the case of the SRA Handbook, an indicative behaviour or other non-mandatory provision (such as may be set out in notes or guidance).

These may not be the only means of complying with legislative or regulatory requirements and there may be situations where the suggested route is not the best possible route to meet the needs of your client. However, if you do not follow the suggested route, you should be able to justify to oversight bodies why the alternative approach you have taken is appropriate, either for your practice, or in the particular retainer.

May - A non-exhaustive list of options for meeting your obligations or running your practice. Which option you choose is determined by the profile of the individual practice, client or retainer. You may be required to justify why this was an appropriate option to oversight bodies.

SRA - Solicitors Regulation Authority

LSB - Legal Services Board

The Law Society also provides a full glossary of other terms used throughout this practice note

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The Practice Advice Service provides a dedicated support line for Law Society members and employees of law firms. Call us on 020 7320 5675.

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