WALTHAM Forest and Stratford businesses are risking court action under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), but advice is on hand from a national charity.

Around 31,000 deaf and hard of hearing people live in the two areas and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) wants to improve their access to businesses.

The RNID is offering free inspections and guidance to the first 30 small to medium-sized businesses to register for the Louder than Words project. Funding from the Big Lottery is backing the scheme.

Businesses which miss out on the freebies will be able to get competitively priced help from experts, also through the RNID.

Jacquie Haskell, RNID access coordinator, said: "Nine million people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing.

"This means that up to one in seven of businesses' potential clients and staff could have a hearing loss."

"With this number of people having the right to make a legal case should they feel discriminated against through lack of accessibility, the risk and potential damage to an organisation is tremendous."

Ms Haskell added that very often the improvements to access could be cheap and easy to introduce.

More information on whether your business is eligible for the Louder than Words scheme is available by sending an email to jacqueline.haskell@rnid.org.uk or by contacting David Bourne on 7296 8060.