New badge boosts confidence of hard of hearing colleague Vonnie at Asda Pwllheli

August 28, 2020

Our friendly checkouts colleague Vonnie Jones was born hard of hearing and lip reads to understand what customers are saying to her at her till at our Pwllheli store.

With many people now wearing face masks while they shop she found communication increasingly difficult.

So she was delighted when we created a new badge for her which reads "Please Speak Up, I'm Hard of Hearing" and says it's really boosted her confidence and made it much easier to communicate with people at her till.

Vonnie, who wears hearing aids, says face coverings muffle sounds and removed the ability for her to lip read.

She said: "I learned to lip read with a help of speech therapist while in school but with people wearing face masks I'm unable to see their mouths. I didn't want the customers to be frustrated with me as I had to ask them to repeat what they were saying. I did struggle. But the new badges are brilliant – they sure made my day.

"Customers have noticed the badge and they've been fantastic with me. They just point to the bags and how many they need with their fingers. It's so much easier now.

Vonnie Pwllheli pic 2

"I think customers and staff are more aware about the colleagues who are deaf or hard of hearing. I love how Asda has helped and supported me to continue to work on checkouts in a job I love. I'd encourage anyone if they need help in their workplace to just ask."

Vonnie, who's 49 and has worked at the store for nearly two years, uses Makaton and some British Sign Language. She's even been teaching colleagues some simple phrases such as 'Hello, how can I help you?' and 'Thank you'.

She said: "Working at Asda Pwllheli is the best thing I've ever done in my life. I love it as I get to meet lovely customers from all walks of life – it doesn't feel like I'm working.

"It's a great place to work and all staff, especially our community champion Jo Scott, are fantastic. The managers are fantastic too. Even on my days off I've also helped with tombolas or with BBC Children In Need's Pudsey Bear. I can't seem to stay away!"

Store manager Stuart Lee says he wanted to help as soon as Vonnie explained her problem.

He said: “I recall when Vonnie spoke to me and explained that she may not be able to understand people wearing a mask and relies on lip reading.

"Vonnie always enjoys talking to the customers and I could see that this was clearly on her mind, so she was over the moon to receive her badge and now is more confident that customers understand her disability."

Community champion Jo says Vonnie is a wonderful colleague.

She said: "Vonnie never moans and never complains about anything – she's the most positive colleague. She's such a shy person but she's lovely and we all love Vonnie here – customers and colleagues alike. "

Vonnie's a firm favourite with customers including Ursula Roberts, from Pwllheli, who says Vonnie is "a wonderful asset to the store".

Ursula said: "Vonnie's got a beautiful smile which matches her personality. She always shows concern for the well being of the customers in spite of her hearing impairment, which must make life difficult for her at times.

Her comments were echoed by customer Jane Picken, who said: "I've known Vonnie for a number of years now. I know that she struggles with hearing and think she is amazing. This new initiative doesn't surprise me at all – she is always so positive and wanting to help people. She is an asset to Asda, and throughly enjoys her job in Pwllheli."

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