Category Archives: ASL During the Holidays

Including Deaf and Hard of Hearing Employees During the Holidays

ways-include-deaf-employees-during-holidays-01The Holidays Season is generally regarded as a time of togetherness and good will. It is a time when we gather to eat, drink, and be merry with the many people who enrich our daily lives. Unfortunately, the holidays can also be a time when those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing are further marginalized at plays, pageants, parties, dinners, and other events when they are not able to access communications. These social gatherings— where stories, jokes, and common experiences are shared— are important for building rapport and creating strong relationships. Ensuring holiday events are inclusive for those with hearing loss is an easy way to embrace the true spirit of the season!

HEARING LOSS IN SOCIAL SETTINGS

In situations where there is a lot of background noise (such as music or other conversation) or when there are multiple people speaking, especially all at once, those who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing will struggle to keep up with conversation. After years of being excluded from conversations, they may fall back on smiling and nodding along, laughing when everyone else does, when in truth they have lost the thread entirely.

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In professional settings it is extremely common for those who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing to be left out of Holiday events by coworkers and managers who simply haven’t even considered their abilities and limitations. While office parties and seasonal outings may not seem like a big deal, employees with hearing loss can miss chances to build personal bonds with coworkers, and lose valuable opportunities to network with new professional colleagues. In these settings, hearing employees gain an advantage because they are able to gain an understanding of professional dynamics and office politics by observing the subtle communications between peers and management, while those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing are left to fill in the blanks.

CREATING INCLUSION

questions-answers-faq-deaf-employees-during-holidays-03Simply considering the fact that those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing have different communication needs is the first step toward creating an inclusive Holiday Season. Since deafness exists on a spectrum, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for bridging the communication gap; each individual has their own way of adapting to life in a predominantly hearing society. One person who is Hard of Hearing with cochlear implants might only use only verbal communication, while another may prefer American Sign Language. Some Deaf individuals use ASL, while others are exceptionally skilled lip readers who can voice for themselves.

As a rule, the best way to begin creating full communication access for those who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing is to just ask those individuals how they prefer to be accommodated! This is an easy, yet often overlooked, way to develop meaningful connections. Involving employees in the process of creating inclusion can open up a dialogue about hearing loss and accessibility in the workplace that makes Deaf or Hard of Hearing employees feel respected and valued.

“I attempt to communicate with hearing and deaf people every day to break barriers,” Vicky Foster explains. “However, to have hearing people, who lack knowledge on Deaf culture, continue to exclude us from workplaces and social events instead of learning to communicate with us — they miss out on this unique and authentic culture of ours.”

DEAF-FRIENDLY HOLIDAY EVENTS

A person with hearing loss is inevitably going to struggle to keep up with conversation at a holiday cocktail party in a dimly lit bar where 3 people are speaking at once in a room that has an echo. Taking into account the acoustics of a venue or the layout for an event can go a long way toward creating accessibility. For example, choosing a round table for dinner gives Deaf/ HoH individuals a better opportunity to read the lips, gestures, and facial cues of everyone around them. Selecting an adequately lit location where sounds do not bounce around can save Deaf/ HoH attendees a literal headache. Small adjustments like this can be made at little to no cost.

including-deaf-hard-hearing-employees-during-holidays-04For Deaf individuals whose primary language is ASL, a sign language interpreter will typically be the most effective means of ensuring communication access. Hiring interpreters can provide both Deaf and hearing staff with the ability to freely communicate during casual holiday gatherings, which demonstrates a commitment to including all team members in conversation. By recognizing that there are professional repercussions for being left out of social interactions, and addressing this issue head on, organizations can foster cultural awareness and cultivate space for greater diversity among their workforce and clientele.

On the other side of the equation, it’s critical to ensure that hearing employees are comfortable and confident interacting with a person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing— especially if that person is their colleague!

“I have attended several [office] holiday parties- and always sat with my coworkers who were deaf or even socialized with our interpreters for the party,” says Diana Abayeva, a Social Worker who is Deaf. “No other hearing individuals socialized with us or asked us to participate in games. as a result of this, i do not enjoy attending holiday parties at work.”

Too often, those who are unfamiliar with the experience of hearing loss and Deaf culture aren’t intentionally excluding their Deaf/ HoH peers, they simply feel awkward and unsure about how to approach this person or hold a conversation. Once hearing employees understand that they can gently tap a person who is Deaf/ HoH to get their attention, that they may need to face Hard of Hearing individuals directly while speaking (and be prepared to repeat themselves!), or how to work with sign language interpreters, these staff members can start to really integrate.

ways-include-deaf-employees-during-holidays-05“My biggest struggles at work are centered on not catching everything, causing me not being able to participate as I would like to,” said Claire Scanlon, who is Hard of Hearing and uses primarily oral communication. “My inability to participate and prove my impact on the organization is severely affected by my inability to catch everything being said.”

By empowering all employees with the cultural awareness and tools they need to effectively bridge communication gaps, a business begins to establish a foundation for full inclusion. More professional networking opportunities and genuine connections can remove barriers to advancement, improve morale, and set Deaf and Hard of Hearing employees up for long-term career success!

HOW LCIS CAN HELP

We enjoy working with organizations of every type to find new ways to establish an accessible, welcoming environment for Deaf and Hard of Hearing employees during the Holiday Season, and every time of year!

Click here to learn more about Cultural Competency Training, or to refer a company for our training programs! We offer training from Deaf and Hard of Hearing consultants that can be custom tailored to meet the access and inclusion needs of any business. Our programs are offer results individually, or can be combined to create a comprehensive ongoing training program that can be streamlined into any existing organizational processes.

Happy Holidays from LC Interpreting Services

The holiday season is a great time to build meaningful connections and find new ways to communicate. This year, we’d love to help the hearing population learn to spread a little Holiday Cheer to their deaf friends, family members, customers, or just complete strangers!

In the accompanying Video Blog, Tiffany will demonstrate the following holiday words and phrases in ASL:

  • Happy Holidays
  • Merry Christmas
  • Happy Hanukkah
  • Peace on Earth
  • A gift for you
  • Warm Wishes
  • Happy New Year
  • Snowman
  • Santa
  • Reindeer
  • Jingle Bells
  • Hot Cocoa
  • Festival of Lights
  • Family gathering

Sign language is fun for the whole family to learn— children especially love exploring this 3D language. Practicing ASL together can be a fun activity during holiday breaks or gatherings; and when you take it out in the world, is the gift that keeps on giving.

Now go make someone smile! Happy Holidays and best wishes for an incredible 2018 from the LC Interpreting Services family to yours.

Happy Holidays in ASL

asl-during-holidays-christmasasl-during-holidays-chanukaThe holiday season is a time for family and friends. It is a time to bring joy to the people you know, and spread cheer to the strangers you meet. There are an estimated half million people in the United States who use American Sign Language as their primary form of communication. This year, let’s work on bridging the communication gap between the deaf and hearing worlds!


Here are the signs for 10 popular holiday words and phrases:


asl-with-santa-clausLearning even a few holiday signs can bring a smile to a deaf individual’s face. A mall Santa who uses ASL can make a deaf child light up with happiness. Your deaf customers are sure to appreciate it when you wish them a happy holiday in their own language. Whatever you believe in, and whatever culture you are from, I hope your holiday season is filled with love and light!

If you’re interested in American Sign Language training, LCIS is thrilled to offer an END-OF-YEAR SPECIAL! Get three (3) personal ASL lessons for only $150!

These one-on-one sessions are custom tailored to match your skills and goals, and can be scheduled at a time that is convenient for you. Meet in person in NYC, or remotely via video chat. Discover the beautiful silent world of ASL while learning about Deaf culture in America. Don’t wait to buy! This low price is only available through 1/1/2015.

 

Bridging the Communication Gap in Your Own Family

deaf-hoh-communication-family-holidays-01This holiday season, try to imagine what it would be like if no one sitting around the dinner table took any interest in getting to know you. What if no one in your family asked about your life, or seemed to care how you were doing? Picture how the holidays would be different if you were excluded from the stories, the jokes, and the games that your family shares.

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The feeling of isolation at family events is sadly common for deaf people. Deaf individuals who come from hearing families often grow accustomed to spending holidays quietly in the background. They get used to watching captioned TV, texting with friends, or simply daydreaming in a corner during holiday gatherings. If hearing family members choose not to learn sign language, deaf children grow up without ever really getting to know their own relatives or learning their family history. When there is no communication, it is difficult to form relationships. After years go by, it becomes harder and harder to bridge the gap.

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As a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), I spent many family events doing the best I could to provide my Deaf mother and siblings with access to conversations. CODAs often fall into the role of interpreter for deaf family members, and we usually don’t mind doing it. But one person can not realistically provide full access to communication when there are multiple deaf and hearing parties. Additionally, a person who is involved in the social dynamics of the family can not facilitate communication in an impartial way. For example a CODA might alter one family member’s actual message to avoid hurting another relative’s feelings.

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For my deaf family members, holiday events were always pretty boring. Any conversations they did have with hearing family members were limited and generally basic. So last year, for my mother’s birthday, I hired an team of ASL interpreters to provide services for her surprise party. My hearing family absolutely loved getting to know our deaf family in a whole new way. My deaf siblings and nieces were thrilled to have real conversations with all these people they had only known on a superficial level; the ability to communicate allowed their relationships to grow and strengthen.

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But for my mother, a whole lifetime of feeling excluded could not be erased in one day. While she appreciated the way the interpreters connected the family, it was hard to make up for all the family gatherings spent as an outsider. At the end of the party, everyone kept asking “why haven’t we hired interpreters before?” It hadn’t occurred to them what a big difference the ability to truly communicate would make.

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As a hearing person, maybe you’ve never considered what it is like to be deaf in a hearing world. You might take it for granted that you can walk around a party and casually chat with people, whether they are friends or total strangers. You can easily discuss current events, gossip, or TV shows. The ability to communicate aurally/ verbally is a cultural privilege shared by many. It can be easy for people to forget how much of our social bonding relies on communication.

deaf-hoh-communication-family-holidays-07When you provide professional interpreters, you actively welcome your deaf relatives into a hearing space.You invite them into your family– all the laughs and debates and reminiscing that bond us with our kin. Providing communication access for deaf relatives sends a clear message that their participation is valued. It was such a joy to watch my deaf siblings and little nieces get to know my hearing aunts, breaking through generations of communication barriers, making real connections. It’s hard to believe they all went so long without sharing these moments!

At your next family gathering– whether it’s a holiday dinner or a wedding– consider providing a professional sign language interpreter so that your deaf and hearing family members can get the most out of the time they spend together.

LCIS is pleased to offer event interpreting services in NYC and the surrounding areas. If you are seeking a high quality interpreter for your next family gathering, or other event, please contact me to request interpreting services. I strive to make the process of hiring an interpreter as simple and seamless as possible!