Category Archives: Deaf Employment

ASL Interpreters: How to Represent an Agency

asl-interpreting-job-tips-employment-01One of the more interesting aspects of being an ASL interpreter is having the opportunity to work in a wide variety of settings with a diverse array of individuals. As an independent contractor or employee, ASL interpreters are assigned the responsibility to faithfully represent both deaf and hearing consumers in communication. But, beyond that, when contracting assignments for an agency, an interpreter’s work and behavior in the field is also reflective of that organization. How are you representing the agencies that offer you assignments?

First off, it is important for interpreters to take pride in the fact that so many people have faith in their ability to provide the best quality services for all parties. In this way, interpreting is a very rewarding profession! But even in the most causal setting, bridging the communication and cultural gap is a responsibility that cannot be taken lightly or taken for granted.

If you are an aspiring interpreter, a new interpreter, or a practicing interpreter looking to improve on your professional persona, read below for tips on how to be the best representative you can be for the agencies  that offer you freelance work.

Attitude

asl-interpreting-job-tips-employment-02Of course this might go without saying, but customer service is our top priority in the interpreting profession. The consumers are the only reason we even have an job, and Its important that interpreters strive to ensure that everyone feels satisfied with the professional interaction.

Smile. Be friendly. Stay calm and reasonable. Say please and thank you. Mind your manners and communicate with kindness. Make decisions that are ethical. Take the time to explain things if people are confused. Try your best not to get frustrated with anyone. No matter what kind of day you are having, make sure to leave a great and lasting impression! This will help ensure future work, as customers might then request your services moving forward.

Punctuality

In this industry, its very important to remember clients are paying for your time and deaf consumers are counting on you to show up. There is no room for tardiness, as this makes everyone involved look unprofessional. It also impacts the consumer’s faith in you.

If you struggle with punctuality, find ways to give yourself the time you need each day and strive to be early. Don’t book appts too close together; be sure you leave yourself ample time for travel, and always assume the possibility of delays.

Attire

asl-interpreting-job-tips-attire-employment-03You do not need to be a wealthy fashionista to dress appropriately for work! Consider adding a couple business items to your wardrobe that you wear only when you are on assignments. Clothing should always be clean and you should look put-together and appropriate for the setting. If you are unclear what this means, you can always ask the agency for more information.

Even on casual assignments, you are still a professional representative of an organization. Avoid anything with holes, rips, stains, unraveling seams, or items that fit poorly or are fading from overuse. Some agencies will send guidelines for attire, if so it is a good idea to review these to understand expectations.

Professionalism

When interacting with people on site, be sure it is clear that you are interpreting for an agency and if anyone has questions, be sure to direct them to the agency for more information. Do not hand out your personal information or business cards. Most agencies, including LC Interpreting Services, will honor customer requests for interpreters, if the client or consumer wishes to work with a specific interpreter again.

Preparation

Take pride in the work you do and the excellence of the services you can offer. Preparing for an assignment in advance is one of the easiest and most straight forward ways to ensure you provide quality interpretation on site. Ask the agency to send any materials they have and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have them. If you need to do research, do it. Fill the gaps in your own knowledge regarding the topic and setting so that you are ready to communicate any nuances between deaf and hearing parties. This is another quality that will make you stand out and can ultimately get you more work, as clients request your services again and again.

Team Work

asl-interpreting-job-tips-employment-04Working closely with people is one of the greatest, yet most challenging aspects of the interpreting profession. Interpreters cannot be lone-wolf types who have no flexibility in their approach. We are always working as part of a team to create open lines of communication. Sometimes we are just working with one person, sometimes we are working with a variety of deaf and hearing people and other interpreters. When agencies send an interpreter to the field, they are counting on them to be an eager member of the team, so check in with your team regularly to see how you can best support everyone.

Communication

This may not come as a surprise: communication is the most important aspect of the whole interpreting profession! If you are running late, sick, or having any other kind of emergency, contact the agency directly, and do it right away. If your appointment runs over the scheduled duration, or you get asked to come back for another appointment while on-site, let the agency know ASAP.

asl-interpreting-job-tips-employment-05If you encounter any ethical conflicts while on a job, or you have any questions regarding something that happened on assignment, communicate this to the agency! Direct communication and transparency will help create an excellent and productive relationship between yourself and the agencies you contract work through.

Interpreting is a job that we really become invested in. The more a freelance interpreter invests in developing their personality and skill set in the field, the more opportunity they will see coming their way! Through mentorship, experience, and ongoing professional development classes and workshops, interpreters can strive to constantly improve the quality of our services over the course of a lifetime.

LC Interpreting Services is always looking for new experienced and/or credentialed sign language interpreters to join our freelance team! If you are a practicing ASL interpreter in the NYC area, please click the following link to apply: Employment at LC Interpreting Services.

Creating Opportunities for Deaf Employees

deaf-employees-employment-jobs-opportunity“Where do you work?” “What do you do for a living?” In America, these are among the first questions a new acquaintance will ask us. This simple inquiry reflects the cultural emphasis placed on work and career choice in the modern world. But for many, this dreaded question serves as a reminder that even work is a privilege.

A recent survey conducted by TotalJobs, one of the UK’s leading jobs boards, revealed that more than half of d/Deaf and hard of hearing employees have faced discrimination at some point during their career because of their deafness. Approximately 25% of the survey’s respondents reported leaving a job as a result of discrimination. Just last year in the United States, deaf protestors marched on Washington D.C. to demand access to work, holding a banner that read “75% of Deaf are not working in USA.” What these numbers and actions suggest is that while companies are proudly touting diversity initiatives and proclaiming themselves to be “equal opportunity employers,” the reality does not match the narrative.

Discrimination in Hiring

Often, discrimination against deaf individuals begins right in the interview stage. Deaf / HoH job candidates face the difficult task of revealing their disability to a potential employer, knowing full well how this might impact their chances of getting hired.

Deaf job seekers who use ASL as their primary form of communication are forced to decide whether they will hire their own interpreter for a job interview and pay out-of-pocket; or whether they will invoke their ADA right to have an interpreter provided by the company they are interviewing with.

deaf-hoh-job-employment-discriminationWhile it might seem obvious that companies should provide interpreters for interviewees, as legally required, the unfortunate reality is that this makes deaf job candidates seem like a “burden” right off the bat. At this stage, a person who is d/Deaf is trying their best to make a good impression and, fair or not, asking a company to pay for reasonable accommodation during the interview process creates a stigma that is hard to overcome.

Take the example of Ricky Washington who applied for a job at McDonalds in 2012. Washington was a qualified employee with experience as a cook. He disclosed on his application that he was deaf and he was granted an interview, however once he asked McDonald’s to provide an interpreter for the interview, it was cancelled and never rescheduled. The restaurant management continued to interview and hire new workers while denying Washington the opportunity to interview. This is discrimination and it’s a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Enforcement Guidelines on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship:

An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified applicant with a disability that will enable the individual to have an equal opportunity to participate in the application process and to be considered for a job. Thus, individuals with disabilities who meet initial requirements to be considered for a job should not be excluded from the application process because the employer speculates, based on a request for reasonable accommodation for the application process, that it will be unable to provide the individual with reasonable accommodation to perform the job. In many instances, employers will be unable to determine whether an individual needs reasonable accommodation to perform a job based solely on a request for accommodation during the application process.

Although those who use auditory communication (ie: cochlear implants, hearing aids, lip reading) may not utilize an interpreter for job interviews, they face a similar set of difficulties during the hiring process. If the interviewer does not face the interviewee and speak clearly for the duration of the interview, the deaf/HoH person may struggle with understanding exactly what is being said. If the deaf/HoH interviewee asks the interviewer to repeat themselves too many times, the interviewer might become frustrated. If the deaf/HoH person chooses not to disclose their disability, they run the risk of the interviewer assuming they are just not paying enough attention or, even worse, that they are not intelligent because they cannot follow the conversation.

Workplace Discrimination

If all goes well in the interview phase and the company decides to hire a d/Deaf/HoH employee, they may not even realize that their workplace is not set up for accessibility. They might not notice that their employees are not culturally competent. They might not fully understand what steps need to be taken to ensure a productive work environment for a diverse team. Creating a deaf-friendly workplace begins with basic communication needs and extends all the way into corporate culture.

deaf-hoh-job-workplace-discrimination-03“If an organization or business is interested in hiring deaf people, they must have commitment or buy-in from all levels,” explains Karen Cook, Director of the Career Center at Gallaudet University. “From top executives, CEOs, Board of directors, to managers, supervisors and HR staff. They must educate themselves about deaf people, Deaf culture, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act, section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, and other legislations that can advise them of proper procedures and regulations.”

Management sets the tone for how deaf employees will be treated in the workplace. Cultural competency education is a critical piece of this puzzle. Cultural competency education helps erase stereotypes and assumptions, providing a foundational understanding of what it means to be deaf, what accommodations deaf individuals may need, and how to best connect across the language and cultural divide to most effectively collaborate when working with a diverse team.

deaf-hoh-job-workplace-discrimination-04Of course outright discrimination still exists in the workplace— we can find examples of deaf people being made fun of by other employees or denied interpreters for important meetings— but there are other, more subtle forms of discrimination that can hinder a deaf person’s career. Being left out of social activities, such as lunches or happy hours, can create a sense of isolation. If a deaf employee feels marginalized by their coworkers, they are less likely to share their valuable thoughts and opinions, defeating the entire premise of a multicultural group. If deaf employees ask other workers to repeat themselves and are told “never mind” or “it wasn’t that important” too many times, they may just cease to ask questions and retreat into the background.

The Total Jobs survey showed that discrimination against d/Deaf/HoH individuals in the workplace is sadly common, with 1 in 4 deaf workers having left a job as a result. As previously mentioned, jobs can be difficult to come by and therefore deaf workers are not typically eager to leave their hard earned positions. But when they believe their needs as an employee are not being met, or they perceive hostility from other employees or management, these workers feel left with no other choice.

Barriers to Advancement

deaf-hoh-job-employment-barriers-advancement-05When people who are d/Deaf/HoH are not able to access conversations and are left out of information exchange, they are automatically placed in a position of disadvantage. Even casual communication in the workplace is important, as it builds rapport and a sense of camaraderie.

If a deaf worker doesn’t feel comfortable in a group, or they aren’t able to fully participate in projects due to lack necessary accommodations (ie: captioning, interpreter, etc), they are less likely be considered when the time comes to offer promotions. If hearing workers are invited for dinners or rounds of golf with the boss, while deaf workers are overlooked for these invitations, guess which individuals will feel more confident and self-assured as professionals. In this way, hearing employees are able to benefit from even indirect mentorship simply because access to their superior is not limited by the boss’s willingness to reach across a communication gap.

Often times employees who are deaf are overlooked for promotions just because management is culturally unaware. They may fear that advancing deaf workers will be challenging for hearing subordinates (it’s not), or that the company will incur too many “additional expenses” (ADA provisions are part of running a business). Instead of recognizing the true potential of an individual and striving to remove barriers for everyone’s benefit, organizations tend to end diversity initiatives where the bottom line begins. Instead of analyzing the actual needs of deaf/ HoH employees, organizations might just assume that it will be too costly and time consuming to give deaf workers more responsibility. This uninformed and audist attitude toward creating opportunities effectively prevents companies from getting the most out of their deaf/HoH employees, since there seems to be no hope for upward mobility.

How Can Deaf Individuals Take Action?

According to Cook, there are a number of ways deaf job seekers can improve their odds of being hired. Consider the following:

  1. deaf-hoh-job-employment-discrimination-take-actionLearn how to advocate for yourself. Be able to talk about your abilities and what accommodations you anticipate needing in the workplace, and provide five examples of your accomplishments.
  2. Practice interviewing with someone before an actual interview, and receive feedback on how to improve interview skills.
  3. Develop a resume with good format and no spelling or grammatical errors, which clearly highlights accomplishments, education, work experience. A good resume is what gets the attention of an employer and gets you an interview.
  4. Work with agencies that assist people with disabilities to find jobs (i.e. Vocational Rehabilitation)
  5. If individual is a college student or alumni, they can attend job fairs sponsored by their institution as employers who attend these Fairs are already interested in hiring them.
  6. Research employers and organizations such as US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) that promote inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce. Other organizations include National Organization on Disability (NOD) which is a non-profit that focuses on increasing employment opportunities for working-age Americans with disabilities who are unemployed, and Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD) which is a national association of colleges and employers focused on career employment of college graduates with disabilities.

How Can Employers Make Their Organizations More Deaf-Friendly?

Employment and workplace discrimination is a complex problem that requires cooperation at all levels. The foundation for a positive and productive multicultural workplace begins with recognizing diversity as an asset. Cultural competency training for all employees, from the top executives to support staff, can help foster a deeper understanding of the value deaf individuals bring to organizations.

deaf-hoh-employment-workplace-more-deaf-friendly-7Beyond basic cultural competency training, Cook says that Human Resources departments should “work to ensure their processes, qualification standards, and job descriptions do not prevent the hiring and advancement of qualified persons who are deaf/HoH.” This means taking a look at current and future job postings to identify language that marginalizes those who experience hearing loss or deafness.

Cook also suggests that companies develop internship programs that bring in deaf students, with the potential to become full time positions for well-performing individuals. HR coordinators can partner with universities, such as Gallaudet and RIT/NTID, as well as vocational rehabilitation organizations to help create pipelines from school to work. Hiring managers can reach out to organizations involved in providing job opportunities for people with disabilities, such as US Business Leadership Network, Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities, and National Organization on Disability to learn about best practices.

Once the decision has been made to add deaf/HoH employees to the team, employers should take time to learn about that employee’s communication needs and the different technologies that are available to accommodate deafness in the workplace. A great suggestion for welcoming a deaf individual who uses sign language to the organization is to offer ASL classes to any interested supervisors, managers, and coworkers. Besides helping hearing people learn to communicate with deaf individuals, ASL training can be a fun group activity!

If a person who is deaf feels like they are a valuable part of the workforce, they are likely to perform better and feel more invested in the success of the company. Cook points out that if an employer treats deaf/HoH employees well by providing accommodations, increasing job responsibilities, and offering opportunities for promotion, they will also be more likely to tell other deaf people that it is a great place to work. This creates a snowball effect for the diversity of the organization.

Working Together

working-with-deaf-hoh-people-8As we progress through the 21st century, previously marginalized groups are finding ways to fight back against the inherent oppression of mainstream culture. People with different identities are standing up and advocating for access to opportunity, including the basic right to make a living. Without these opportunities, a cycle of financial, spiritual, and cultural poverty is created.

By welcoming people who are d/Deaf/HoH into workplaces and setting them up with the tools they need to succeed, the entire organization can reap the benefits of diversity. Deaf employees bring a unique perspective and new ideas. When they feel comfortable, supported, and included as part of the team, they can focus on contributing to the overall success of your company.

LC Interpreting Services is thrilled to offer Cultural Competency Training seminars for businesses and organizations on a national level. Learn how to effectively integrate Deaf/HoH employees in the workplace and provide them the support they need, while educating other staff members and management about deafness and Deaf culture. Our cultural competency training is comprehensive, informative, and a great team-building exercise!

6 Reasons to Hire Deaf Employees

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-01Applying for jobs can be a test of nerves. Each resume must be tailored and each cover letter is a carefully crafted sales pitch. We highlight our skills and professional experience while explaining why we’d be a great fit for the organization. On employment applications, we are asked to expose so much of ourselves, yet we are expected to keep the most important details private.

A recent study published in the New York Times revealed that employers were 34% less likely to hire an experienced job candidate with a disability, and 15% less likely to hire a novice candidate with a disability. This study suggests what deaf people already know: even in our modern era, when organizations claim to value diversity, hiring discrimination persists as a sad reality.

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-02Often, employers do not understand how to accommodate people with different abilities, fearing (incorrectly) that it will be costly or complicated. More importantly, they do not understand the value that people who are deaf bring to the team. Below are just a few of the many, many excellent reasons to include people who are deaf/ hard of hearing in any organization.

Adaptable

People who are deaf spend much of their lives finding ways to adapt within hearing culture. Because of this, deaf employees may exhibit impressive patience and flexibility in the face of a challenge.

Mediators

People who are deaf become talented at bridging communication and cultural gaps in everyday situations. This can translate into strong problem solving and interpersonal skills.

Perspective

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-03Deaf employees bring a unique perspective to the team. Because their background and life experiences are inevitably different than their hearing colleagues’, an individual who is deaf/HoH might suggest services, features, or marketing ideas that other employees would never have even considered.

Safe and Reliable

Studies have shown that workers with disabilities are viewed as dependable, loyal, and responsible. They also tend to have overall positive job performance ratings. One study found that deaf/ HoH employees rank among the highest safety ratings in the workforce!

Hard Workers

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-04Since deaf job candidates often face discriminatory hiring practices, it can be a challenge just to get a foot in the door. Deaf employees tend to work hard to secure their position and seek opportunities for career advancement.

Synergy

A workplace that employs deaf individuals can enrich the culture of their entire organization! Adding diversity provides all employees the opportunity to work on effective communication and cooperation skills, while challenging people to explore new perspectives. With proper cultural competency training, each individual in an organization can learn to become more compassionate, open minded, and willing to go the extra mile for the team.

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-05Common fears about hiring people who are deaf are usually unfounded. Those worried about cost should know that most accommodations cost less than $500. The Job Accommodation Network provides some great examples of affordable accommodations that allow organizations to hire and retain valuable deaf/ HoH employees, and there are tax benefits available to help businesses ensure ADA compliance.

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-06For employers who have questions about integrating a deaf individual into the workplace, there are plenty of resources available. Ultimately, the best way to figure out what accommodations a deaf person needs and prefers is to simply ask them! Employers should ensure that they treat deaf employees with respect, communicate with them as professional colleagues, and don’t leave them out of work-related social situations (such as lunches and parties). Managers will need a basic foundation of knowledge about deafness and deaf communication to help everyone develop a comfortable working dynamic.

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-07As our society increasingly celebrates diversity, businesses that do not adapt inclusive hiring policies are sure to fall out of favor. By denying qualified deaf individuals job opportunities, employers are also refusing their current employees the opportunity to learn and grow in a multicultural work environment. Additionally, the employee profile of a business sends a subtle message to potential clients and customers about an organization’s fundamental values.

reasons-hire-deaf-employees-08Before hiring managers start calculating the cost of accessibility, they ought to consider the priceless advantage of a diverse workforce. Deaf individuals deserve an equal chance to succeed in any field they choose. Creating a deaf-friendly workplace enhances many people’s lives, and brings us one step closer to a deaf-friendly world. It’s progressive, it’s equality, and it’s the right thing to do.

LC Interpreting Services is thrilled to offer Cultural Competency Training seminars for businesses and organizations on a national level. Learn how to effectively integrate Deaf/HoH employees in the workplace and provide them the support they need, while educating other staff members and management about deafness and Deaf culture. Our cultural competency training is comprehensive, informative, and a great team-building exercise!

Deaf Protestors in DC Demand the Opportunity to Work

deaf-hoh-employment-protest-dc-01On September 5 and 6, 2015, a group of Americans marched on the White House to advocate for their rights. Marginalized and generally silenced within mainstream society, members of the Deaf community stood together at the Deaf Protest in Washington, DC to make their voices heard loud and clear. A large banner held by those at the front of the march explained to onlookers what they were witnessing: “Deaf Protest on Jobs. 75% of Deaf are not working in USA.”

deaf-hoh-employment-protest-district-columbiaThe Deaf Protest march was intended to raise awareness about the discrimination, high rates of unemployment, civil rights violations, and lack of communication access that deaf people endure on a daily basis. Frustrated by his own experience trying to find a job, protest organizer Charlton Lachase decided it was time to take action. Although Lachase is educated and qualified, he is deaf and has low-vision, so he says prejudiced employers would rather not hire him. “Deaf people are discriminated against regularly,” he explained. “And we just put up with it. We’re not getting the services we deserve and we need to speak out.”

deaf-hoh-employment-protest-dc-03There are millions of deaf Americans who struggle from the time they are children just to access the world around them and more than 500,000 deaf individuals who use ASL as their primary language. Because English is challenging to learn, especially for those who cannot hear it, deaf people find the odds stacked against them. Even deaf people who work hard to excel in school and obtain a degree or certification face discrimination in the hiring process. Take the recent case of Kelly Osborne, a qualified plasma center technician whose conditional job offer was rescinded after her employer realized they would need to make a few adjustments to the workflow to accommodate a deaf employee.

Misconceptions about deafness and inadequate cultural competency training serve as barriers to employment. Organizations claim to encourage diversity, while at the same time denying career opportunities for qualified individuals. These businesses use diversity as a buzzword without ever considering the infrastructure that is necessary to support employees with a variety of skills and needs.

deaf-hoh-employment-problem-04It is well known in the Deaf community that a person’s best chance of being considered for a job is to bring their own interpreter for the interview— even though the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) legally requires hiring entities to cover this cost. Sadly, instead of organizations accommodating the needs of a diverse workforce, deaf individuals have to accommodate for discriminatory hiring practices. Then if they do get hired, after paying for their own interpreter, deaf individuals often continue to encounter both overt and subtle workplace discrimination. They are left out of meetings, discussions, and social events. There is little support or opportunity for advancement.

deaf-hoh-employment-problem-05Deaf people want to work and they deserve to feel successful. They are tired of enduring the same oppressive practices that the ADA was supposed to protect against. More than 1500 people turned out for the Deaf Protest to make themselves seen and heard. Not because they expected a major victory, but because they are tired of sitting idly while their community struggles for the basic right to gainful employment.

deaf-hoh-employment-problem-dc-protest-05The spirited Deaf Protest went on for two days— but where were the reporters and TV cameras? Lachase contacted several news outlets to cover the Deaf Protest, but the mainstream media decided that a civil rights rally happening right in our nation’s capital was not newsworthy. While major networks simply ignored the march, passing up a great opportunity to support a growing movement, DeafNation did an incredible job documenting the Deaf Protest on social media. A short documentary about the experience can be found on the DeafNation website. In the video, deaf people share their powerful stories of oppression, demand equal opportunities, and call upon the rest of America to fight for true equality.

deaf-hoh-employment-problem-dc-protest-05b“People were very motivated and helpful,” reported Joel Barish, host of “No Barriers with Joel Barish” on DeafNation. Barish added that he was excited to take part in the march and document the experience, saying, “at least we made some noise in DC.”

Justice and inclusivity remain at the center of our current national dialogue; now we need to turn all that talk into action. Minority groups across the spectrum are battling for equality in both a social and legal sense. The success of movements such as marriage equality reflect the changing tides of public opinion.

deaf-hoh-employment-problem-dc-protest-05c“I think that what it comes down to is visibility,” said Lachase. “The deaf community needs exposure. We need to use social media and get out in the streets. We are looking to do another protest in March or April and we hope to see our numbers grow.”

Let us be fueled by the passion that burns within our community! The time is right for deaf/ HoH individuals and deaf allies to bring national attention to the shameful employment gap that keeps the Deaf community in a state of social and economic poverty. Let’s encourage one another to keep moving forward, again and again, until we break through those barriers of institutional oppression together.

Hiring and Supporting Deaf Employees

hiring-deaf-employees-01Applying for jobs can be exciting and nerve-wracking. You revise your resume until it is in top form, hoping your professional skills are strong enough about to be considered for the position. When a company contacts you to schedule a formal interview, gushing about how well qualified you are, they suggest that the job is essentially yours. It seems like everything is going great, right up until you inform the hiring manager that you are deaf and will need a sign language interpreter for the interview. “Oh, we will have to get back to you about that,” they say. But they almost never do.

hiring-deaf-employees-02It is well known in the Deaf community that a persons’ best chance of being considered for a job to bring their own interpreter for the interview– even though the ADA legally requires hiring entities to cover this cost. Sadly, instead of organizations accommodating the needs of a diverse workforce, deaf individuals have to accommodate for discriminatory hiring practices. And if they do get hired, after paying for their own interpreter, deaf individuals often continue to encounter both overt and subtle workplace discrimination.

supporting-deaf-employees-03Deaf people have to constantly push back against a society that was not designed for them to succeed. As an interpreter and CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), it can be hard to witness the structural injustice faced by my deaf colleagues and family members on a daily basis. I was recently on an assignment where the deaf consumer shared with me their frustration that the only times they were ever provided an interpreter was when it was absolutely necessary to moving forward on a project. This deaf individual works for a federal agency– an organization with plenty of funding to properly support their employees– yet has to work harder than any of their coworkers just to participate in the workplace.

Hiring-Deaf-Employees-of-ColorAlmost everyone has been in a work situation, at one time or another, where you were not provided the appropriate resources for the job. When you don’t have the tools you need, it can be difficult or even impossible to complete a task. This is discouraging and, if this pattern continues over a period of time, employees begin to feel disengaged from the organization. Employees perform best and are able to excel when they feel supported. The needs of deaf employees are a little different, and can vary from one situation to the next, but accommodations are generally not hard to make. Forming a positive relationship with deaf employees starts, just like any relationship, with a sense of respect.

hiring-deaf-employees-05Respect comes from understanding, from communicating, and from making a person feel appreciated. Before you even interview a deaf job candidate, do a little research on deaf communication and Deaf culture. We live in the age of the internet, where there is a wealth of information available; it only takes a short amount of time to give yourself a basic education. Nobody expects you to be a scholar on deafness– simply that you look beyond the stereotypes and approach the topic with an open mind. Learn that the deaf experience is different for everyone, about the different methods deaf individuals use to navigate the hearing world , and how to provide accommodations for equal access in the workplace.

hiring-deaf-employees-06Besides possessing the general skills required for the job, deaf employees can bring a unique perspective to your organization. Unfortunately, if deaf people do not feel like they are truly part of the team, they are unlikely to open up and contribute. If deaf employees are not able to participate equally in training seminars, team building exercises, meetings, or day-to-day office activities, they will probably not feel connected to the success of the organization. The best way to include deaf individuals in the workplace is to simply ask them what accommodations would make them most comfortable in each situation. Accommodations might range from from creating closed captioned training videos, to implementing Video Relay Service, to acquiring sign language interpreters. Reasonable accommodations will vary from person to person, but they are generally neither inconvenient nor cost prohibitive to provide. In the end, the entire organization benefits when they can get the most out of their employees.

hiring-deaf-employees-07In our current shifting social climate, organizations of all sizes are looking for ways to create workplace diversity. Diversity initiatives might be good intentioned, but many times they are poorly implemented, leaving these minority employees to sink or swim. Supporting deaf staff on an ongoing basis is like providing hardware and software updates, it is like making sure the break room has coffee– it is a crucial part of creating a healthy and functional working environment. It is simple, and the right thing to do.

LC Interpreting Services is pleased to offer sign language interpreting services and cultural competency training for businesses and organizations. Provide your deaf employees with the professional support they need; and learn how to truly benefit from having deaf employees join the team.