Tag Archives: Deaf Employees

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.

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!

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.