Tag Archives: Cultural Competency Training

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.

Why Cultural Competency Training Matters

best-cultural-competency-training-consultant-nyc-01The experiences of marginalized people are being shared more widely than ever thanks to social media. This is certainly true within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, where people from all backgrounds can utilize various platforms to connect with an engaged audience and publicly share their everyday lives, their success stories, and unfortunate personal experiences of injustice.

Sometimes incidents of discrimination can occur at a business, which then places that organization under scrutiny for practices that limit diversity. This could be a cashier who mocks a Deaf customer, such as this unfortunate example, or perhaps or a supervisor who doesn’t give their Deaf/ HoH employee a shot at promotion because there’s no verbal connection, nor interpreting services provided for professional development workshops.

top-ada-compliance-consultant-usa-02Every employee at an organization — whether they are in Human Resources, Customer Service, or Tech Support — serves as a public representative of that business. An employee’s behavior can have a direct financial impact, as well as a long term impact upon brand reputation. When employees receive the kind of training that enables them to make culturally competent decisions on the job, they are empowered with the tools they need to create and maintain productive relationships.

No one can speak to the trials and triumphs of a marginalized community better than a member of that community. The most effective Cultural Competency Training is facilitated directly by those who have firsthand experience navigating specific systems of oppression. Here at LCIS, we utilize the skills of Deaf and Hard of Hearing consultants to offer unique insight through our engaging cultural competency training programs. Employees are encouraged to ask questions and engage in candid dialogue with Deaf and Hard of Hearing consultants in an educational setting where confidence can be developed.

top-ada-compliance-deaf-HoH-low-vision-consultant-usa-03A thorough cultural competency training program can benefit any organization. By offering employees the opportunity and support to learn, inclusion efforts establish loyal relationships with employees and customers. Additionally, these professional development programs demonstrate a real commitment to social integrity. Effective cultural competency training fosters a more multicultural environment moving forward, where culturally competent HR managers are able to attract, hire, and promote talented candidates representing a variety of marginalized identities; which in turn welcomes even more diversity!

best-ada-compliance-deaf-consultant-new-york-04Proper cultural competency training is an investment in the very foundation of an organization. By offering employees these opportunities and support to grow, companies can build awareness right into their corporate culture. As some businesses discover the hard way, it’s much better to get ahead of social progress than to fall behind and risk having employees without training representing the company in a way that is not true to its values.

Click here to learn more about Cultural Competency Training, or to refer a company for our training programs! We offer customized training from Deaf and Hard of Hearing consultants to help organizations of any size develop meaningful connections with the Deaf and HoH community: including employees, customers, and clients.

Deaf and Hearing World: Bridging the Cultural Gap

Most people know, of course, that a language difference exists between people who are deaf and those who can hear. People who are deaf communicate using a variety of strategies, ranging from lip reading and speaking, to writing notes, using gestures, or communicating via American Sign Language. Deafness can be a different experience for every person, and people come from all backgrounds and walks of life. So when we bridge only the communication gap between a deaf and a hearing person, there is still a lot of room for cultural misunderstanding!In America, many people who are deaf prefer using the visual language of ASL to communicate. These individuals consider themselves members of Deaf Culture, a linguistic minority group that has its own unique traditions, jokes, stories, and cultural norms. Deaf culture has no age, gender, race, or religious barriers, and members of Deaf culture frequently exist within several other intersecting cultural identities. To create truly effective communication with the Deaf community, hearing individuals must come to a greater understanding of what it means to be both medically deaf, and culturally Deaf.

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It’s become trendy for businesses and organizations to use words like “Diversity” and “Inclusive” without actually taking any steps toward creating diversity or inclusion. Hiring an individual with a disability, but then making no effort to support their success, does not empower anyone, and can create resentments between people in the workplace. When a deaf individual shows up for a medical appointment (or any appointment at any business) and nobody in the organization knows how to accommodate their needs, that business has failed at providing equal access to their goods/services.

If an organization chooses to embrace diversity and multiculturalism, and truly wants to empower people of all abilities, Cultural Competency Training is a great next step. Educating staff from the top level down, and from the bottom levels up, offers a chance for organization-wide professional development and a much greater understanding of what diversity really means.

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The first step toward welcoming d/Deaf individuals to connect with an organization is to get a contract on file with a local interpreting agency that offers high quality sign language interpreting services. Look for deaf-owned or ASL interpreter-owned agencies, or ask a deaf individual if they have a preferred agency to contact.

Cultural competency is not a feat, it is an opportunity! This is a chance to strengthen relationships within the organization, as well as relationships with customers, clients, and the community at large. Cultural Competency Training helps to identify the many different perspectives— employer, employee, deaf, hearing, interpreter, customer, consumer — and assists in creating mutual understanding from all sides. By working with deaf trainers to explore the various scenarios where d/Deaf and hearing people interact, everyone

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gets an opportunity to ask those awkward cross-cultural questions, or clear up any misconceptions in a safe environment. With proper training, buzzwords like “diversity” become very real and applicable concepts and everyone reaps the benefits.

LC Interpreting Services is thrilled to offer Cultural Competency Training seminars for businesses and organizations. Working with a set of Deaf consultants, employees at all levels can deepen their understanding of deafness, Deaf culture, and Deaf communication to effectively bridge the persistent gaps that exist. Cultural Competency Training is an excellent solution for progressive companies ready to take it beyond basic communication.