October is Blindness Awareness Month and it’s the perfect time to reevaluate some of your accessibility practices. Approximately 12 million Americans over 40 are visually impaired, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 1 million are blind and 2 million have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of low-vision and blindness among adults over 50.
Not all visual impairments are obvious, so it’s important to offer options to your employees.
What you can do to help employees
Accessibility doesn’t necessarily mean committing to big digital and office modifications. Being mindful of blind and low-vision employees and their needs can create a better office experience for everyone involved. A little bit of awareness goes a long way in creating a safer and more dignified workspace.
- Communicate important information electronically. While sending paper mail may be standard for some communications, visually impaired or blind employees may have trouble finding the information enclosed. Sending a screen reader–friendly email, text message or audio file may be a better option. Talk to your employees about their preferences. Large type may be suitable for some people with low vision.
- Equip your office. Assistive technology in the office creates a more inclusive workspace and gives low-vision and blind employees the tools they need to succeed. Scanners, magnifiers, screen readers and Braille displays are all helpful resources.
- Make your company’s website and intranet accessible. Even the simplest webpages can have coding that’s difficult for screen readers. Make your webpages easier to use for blind and low-vision employees by using alt-text for images, being thoughtful with colors and choosing descriptive phrases for linking.
- Don’t assume you can pet an employee’s guide dog. Tempting as it may be, guide dogs have an important job to do. If an employee relies on a guide dog, understand that by petting it or offering treats, you may be distracting it from helping its owner. Always ask the owner before approaching their guide dog.
Resources from Delta Dental
Studies have linked periodontal disease to retinal degeneration and certain oral bacteria to glaucoma. For those with good to moderate vision, seeing their dentist regularly can help protect their mouth and their sight. When your employees need a little extra help with their benefits, Delta Dental is here to help.
- Document translation. Written materials, such as plan information, can be translated to Braille or audio formats for blind and low-vision patients.
- Customer service. For any questions about their coverage, members can simply call 866–530-9675 and speak to a customer service representative. Contact customer service to request material translations.
All people deserve equal care and dignity when receiving it. For more resources, visit the Perkins School for the Blind’s workplace accommodation tips.
Language should never be a barrier to receiving proper care. One in seven people in the U.S. speaks Spanish at home, yet Hispanic adults with limited proficiency in English receive about one-third less health care than those with English proficiency.
In taking steps to bridge this gap, Delta Dental offers a variety of language assistance options for both you and your Spanish-speaking employees with a limited proficiency in English. Whether your employees are looking to improve their health from home or in their dentist’s chair, there is a resource just for them.
Resources for benefits administrators
- Our website, and all its offerings, can be found in Spanish. This includes plan information, wellness articles, videos and even Grin! magazine and is a perfect introduction to Delta Dental for new employees with limited English. You can assist your employees in finding the information they need about their plan by sharing helpful links that have already been translated.
- Flyers are a great way to share important information on common issues and conditions with your employees. Many of our monthly wellness materials and benefits resources can be found translated and ready to print on our Employee Resources page, which is also available in English. Looking for a document that’s available in English, but not yet in Spanish? Let your account manager know and our team will be happy to make a translation available.
Resources for employees
- Customer Service is available in Spanish, as well as English. To talk to a representative in Spanish, members can call 866–530-9675 and dial 8 when prompted. Answers to our most frequently asked questions are also available in Spanish on our website.
- Interpretation services are also available for in-person dental appointments when a Spanish-speaking staff member isn’t available. To request this service, members should contact Customer Service at least 72 hours in advance of an appointment.
- The online dentist directory is not only available in Spanish, but it includes information on which practices have Spanish-speaking staff. Members can use the Refine Search tool to find a Spanish-speaking dentist nearby.
Helping your employees find the right dentist to fit their needs has never been easier. Learn more about Delta Dental’s Language Assistance Program and how it can benefit your diverse team.
Language should never be a barrier when it comes to health care. If any of your employees have limited proficiency in English, direct them to Delta Dental’s Language Assistance Program (LAP). This service is free for members and perfect for employees who communicate in languages other than English to better understand their plans or even to communicate with their dentist.
The LAP offers a variety of language accessibility services, including:
- The Delta Dental website in Spanish offers information on Delta Dental’s different plans, as well as articles jampacked with valuable wellness information.
- Customer service is offered in 170 different languages. Simply call 866–530-9675 and request an interpreter.
- Delta Dental’s online dentist directory is available in both Spanish and English and includes the languages spoken by dentists and staff members. This is a great tool for helping members find a dental office where their language is spoken.
- In-person interpretation services are also available for dental visits. If a member cannot find a dentist who speaks their language, Delta Dental can arrange to have an interpreter present during their next appointment. In addition to non-English languages, American Sign Language interpretation can also be requested. All the member needs to do is contact Customer Service at least 72 hours in advance and make the request.
- Document translation to any non-English language can be requested for any written materials, such as benefits information. Accessible formats like braille and audio files can also be requested.
If any of your employees are having trouble communicating with their dentist, call Delta Dental to arrange for a qualified interpreter to help via phone.
Delta Dental telephone numbers for interpretive services:
- State Government Programs: 877–580-1042
- Delta Dental Premier®/Delta Dental PPO™: 888–335-8227
- DeltaCare® USA: 800–422-4234
- DeltaVision®: 888–963-6576
- TTY 711
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and it’s a great time to celebrate and honor your AAPI employees. In addition to fun and festivities at work, one way to help your employees feel seen and heard is to offer them quality benefits that fit their needs. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to let your AAPI employees know you have their back.
What hurdles do AAPI populations face when accessing dental care?
In general, racial and ethnic minorities can face extra difficulties when it comes to accessing oral health care in the United States. When it comes to AAPI populations, individuals’ time spent in the United States is the strongest predictor of whether or not they’ve recently visited the dentist. Native-born and long-time residents are more likely to visit the dentist than recent immigrants for three reasons:
- They’ve likely had more experience with the U.S. health care system. Outside the U.S., dental and medical are often both covered through the same insurance system and may even be available within a single medical center. New immigrants face a learning curve navigating the U.S. system.
- They’re likely more comfortable communicating in English. Language barriers can make it difficult to find dental insurance, understand coverage and communicate with a dentist.
- They’re likely wealthier than recent immigrants, so they have an easier time accessing and affording care. Wealth increases for immigrants of all races as the time they spend in the U.S. increases.
These may seem like issues that can only be solved by time, but dental insurance can help to address them. Dental insurance:
- Assists employees in understanding the care they need by making diagnostic and preventive care available at no cost or low-cost
- Reduces employees’ out-of-pocket costs with contracted rates at in-network dentists and cost sharing
- Helps to bridge language and experience gaps with written material in multiple languages and in-person interpretation
How can I support my AAPI employees?
When it comes to supporting AAPI employees, actions are more important than words. Offer resources that help them get the care they need and alert them to the existence of these resources. If employees are unfamiliar with insurance or dental care systems, they may not know what they need!
If you have a large population of AAPI employees with limited English proficiency, consider providing materials (such as benefits highlight sheets) in their native languages to help them understand their coverage. Delta Dental can provide translations of these essential documents for you to distribute. Just talk to your account manager.
What resources does Delta Dental offer to its AAPI members?
Language barriers can be a major impediment to effectively communicating with a dentist and getting needed care. Approximately 77% of AAPI families speak non-English languages at home. The most common AAPI languages in the United States are:
- Hindi and Urdu
Delta Dental offers resources and tools to all of its members that may be especially useful to your AAPI employees and their families, including:
- The Language Assistance Program (LAP). The LAP is a free service that employees can use to get professional interpretive services for their non-English needs. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more, including an in-person interpreter when given 72 hours’ notice.
- The Find a Dentist tool. Employees can use Delta Dental’s online directory to locate dentists who fit their specific needs. They can search by distance and specialty or search by languages spoken (such as Chinese or Tagalog) and accessibility features.
May is AAPI Heritage Month, but there’s no bad time for considering your employee’s dental care needs. Offering quality benefits like dental insurance is a great way to support the health of your AAPI employees, their families and everyone else on your staff, too.
Happy National Deaf History Month! If you haven’t heard of this awareness month, it runs from March 13 to April 15. Nearly 15% of adult Americans report trouble hearing, so you likely have some employees among your staff with hearing issues. They may not even be aware of it!
Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals face some unique challenges when it comes to getting dental care. Even making an appointment can be difficult. Fortunately, there are solutions available to ensure that no problem is insurmountable. Here are some of the common issues that deaf and hard of hearing employees may encounter and what tools are available to help solve them.
Challenges and considerations
The challenges that employees who are hard of hearing face when it comes to getting quality dental care can begin before they ever set foot in the office.
- Employees may have difficulty just making appointments. Not every office will have someone fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) on staff, but if an office isn’t set up to schedule appointments by text or email, it can be impossible for the hard-of-hearing to even step foot inside.
- Dentists that don’t speak clearly, slowly and while looking at employees make it hard to read lips. The deaf and hard-of-hearing may rely more on lip-reading than others. Seeing a dentist who is in a hurry or who talks while moving all about the practice can make it more difficult for the deaf and hard-of-hearing to follow what’s being said. To make things even harder, the fact that everyone is wearing masks because of COVID-19 only compounds this issue.
- Employees may not even realize that they’re hard-of-hearing. Because most everyone loses some of their hearing as they get older, the change can happen so gradually that the employee isn’t even aware of it. Younger employees can also develop hearing loss if they work in a loud environment or regularly attend loud events without proper hearing protection. For this reason, an attentive dentist who notices when their patients seem to have difficulty hearing them or following a conversation can be indispensable.
Solutions and tools
Whether employees have recently become hard of hearing or have been deaf since birth, there are two major tools available to help them.
- The Language Assistance Program (LAP). The LAP is a free service that Delta Dental members can use to get professional interpretive services for their non-English needs. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more, including an in-person translator when given 72 hours’ notice. Most importantly for employees who are deaf, this means that they can have an interpreter fluent in ASL accompany them to their dental visits!
- The Find a Dentist search tool. The Find a Dentist search tool is perfect for employees looking to find an in-network dentist that fits their specific needs. Employees can search by distance and specialty, but they can also search for dentists by the languages their offices support, such as ASL, and available accessibility features.
More than 35 million people in the United States report having trouble hearing, whether they suffer from mild hearing loss or are completely deaf. Fortunately, valuable services like the Language Assistance Program and thoughtful features like the Find a Dentist search tool make it easier for hard-of-hearing employees to get their dental needs taken care of.