Tag Archives: deaf employment

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!

Deaf Talent Everywhere! Part III

Too often, young people who are deaf are discouraged from following their dreams. They are told “you can’t…” or “you won’t be able to…” and they are pushed to into careers that they are not passionate about. In reality, however, there are very few jobs Deaf people “can’t” do, especially once small adjustments are made to accommodate their specific skills and abilities. At the end of the day, our society limits people more than the actual experience of deafness ever could.

#DeafTalent is a cultural movement that is gaining traction in all areas of life. Talented Deaf individuals in fields across the board are working to defy social expectations, remove barriers, and prove that there are NO limits to what people who are deaf can do. My Deaf siblings and young nieces deserve every opportunity to manifest their own destiny and accomplish their own goals without suffering the prejudice of previous generations. It’s time for people to open their minds to the endless potential of our diverse population.

To explore the many facets of DeafTalent, I went right to the source: the Deaf community. Individuals working in a number of different fields were eager to communicate a message of Deaf empowerment. This is part III of an ongoing series about Deaf Talent in America; be sure to check out part I and part II , and follow along for future installments!

Melody Stein

co-owner of Mozzeria

http://www.mozzeria.com/

Ideaftalent-melody-steinnspirations:
I was born into a family of restaurateurs and am a 3rd generation restaurateur. When my parents learned that my younger brother and I were both Deaf, they wanted to provide us better education and made the move from Hong Kong to San Francisco to enroll us at California School for the Deaf (CSD) in Fremont. While we were at CSD, my parents decided to open a restaurant in San Francisco. On the weekends when we came home, we would watch them in action – having meetings with their team, renovating the restaurant space, and testing food. I was inspired and came up with a vision of what my restaurant would look like while talking to my brother.

Fast forward to year 2009. Russ, my husband and co-owner, knew I had the dream to open a restaurant and knowing the fact that “90% of new restaurants fail within 1 year” didn’t help us feel confident. We kept saying to ourselves that we would wait for the right time. We realized there is no such thing as “right time” and that we need to take charge and make it our destiny. We finally launched Mozzeria in December, 2011.

Barriers:
When I was growing up, I didn’t feel different while attending CSD because I was always in an American Sign Language (ASL) environment. When we moved back to San Francisco many years later and finally decided to pursue our dream of ‘opening the restaurant,’ then I felt I was “different” because now I had to work with hearing people. For example, I had to go to City Hall to get the resources I needed to apply for permits. Some city employees would be great and provide an interpreter right away, but the majority of the city’s employees didn’t know how to approach me and found the situation awkward. I asked for paper and pen, or even if I brought my own paper and pen, they were a little resistant about writing back and forth and tried to keep talking to me. Or they would refer me to the manager instead. If a hearing person is asking for same resources or applying for the same permits, that person would be a step ahead of me whereas I would probably need to reschedule an appointment to come back and get the information or service that I needed. I realized at that moment that I had 2 jobs now – trying to open the restaurant, and educating hearing people on how to work with Deaf people.

Deaf Advantages:
Some customers told us that our food is amazing because we are Deaf and our sense of taste is greatly enhanced. I thought that was funny. Actually I never thought that way, but recently I began to see this as an opportunity to promote our culture, and hire an all-Deaf team.

Nearly all of our employees have no culinary background, but that didn’t stop us from hiring them. It is our way of giving back to the Deaf community to train them. Now many of our staff are approaching their 2-year anniversary. They discovered new talents that they never knew they had. Working at Mozzeria, some discovered their true calling in the food industry. Some got a clearer definition of their dreams after watching us in action and went on to obtain higher education, and even pursue masters or PhD degrees. Some use their experience at Mozzeria to get their foot in their next job. This is the type of impact we want to see, especially within the Deaf community.

Advice:
Nothing comes easy, and you have to work hard. Never give up, and find ways to overcome. Russ would say ‘effort’ is the key because putting the effort in pursuing your dream is what it takes.

Joel Barish

Co-founder and CEO of DeafNation

http://deafnation.com/

Inspirations:
deaftalent-joel-barishI graduated Gallaudet with TV, Film and Photography. Hollywood and TV Network had difficulty hiring Deaf people even though I had great internship with them. I decided to start a coffee shop with travel agency for 4 years before Jed (younger brother) pulled me into the internet age. That time internet was so new. We started many Deaf people with their website, business, organization, media. Started Deaflympics online in 1999 Davos, Switzerland and World Federation of the Deaf online media in 1999 Brisbane, Australia.

I met one Deaf woman at a deaf event. She told me that Deaf people only live in USA. I told her NO, there are millions and millions of Deaf people in different countries. I realized that I should do something about it. Why not start “No Barriers with Joel Barish,” doing positive stories about Deaf people in different countries? I added foodie, culture experience, etc into my show showing that Deaf people can do anything; even TRAVEL remote jungle or remote locations that you never find anything about in the travel books.

Barriers:
Be Brave! No fear to communicate with anyone, even Deaf or hearing people because I have to learn their sign language and culture at the same time. I told some government officers that I don’t carry interpreter in my school backpack!

Deaf Advantages:
Really no different. Just that hearing media staff would say WOW! Deaf can capture their attention. Deaf people are much friendly in different countries, easy to connect with them anywhere if we need their help or support instantly.

Advice:
No Barriers is the key– just DO IT! Do something different that other business or ideas are not same as yours. Don’t do “copy-cat.”

Sheena McFeely

Children’s Book Author and Creator of ASLNook

http://sheenamcfeely.com/

deaftalent-sheena-mcfeelyInspirations:
My life story— being the only Deaf kid in my family and raising two girls using ASL. So I channeled my frustrations into what’s now called ASL Nook. Would I be where I am today without my experiences – both good and bad? No way.

Barriers:
Doing everything on my own – writing my own script, directing my own family, editing, running my own website, and posting everything on social media. But I am fortunate to have those skills to run something like ASL Nook.

Deaf Advantages:
Being Deaf and a momma to two girls – one Deaf and one a CODA – does give me the edge. But that’s not it. It’s working hard – I mean really hard – to get where I am today. As I get older, I’m finding out that more people like to talk than do the work. If you can do the latter, then you’re ahead of the game.

Advice:
Think like a chef. When you decide to show the world your work, go out with a bang each time! And if its not good quality, fine-tune it. Work hard and walk the talk.

It is funny how everything worked out. I used to act and wanted to be a film maker. Then all changed when I realized I wanted more time with my friends, family, and life. As soon I became a mother, my children completed that circle for me. Good thing I had some experience under my belt to eventually put my acting and film making skills from many years ago to good use now. It might not be in Hollywood, but this is for something even grander. Spreading the sign to all kinds of people. That’s something irreplaceable.

Do it only if you are passionate and in love with your vision. And if you do rise, be humble. It’ll only take you even farther.

Braam Jordaan

Filmmaker and Advocate

http://braamjordaan.com/

deaftalent-braam-jordaanInspirations:
(As a filmmaker) I grew up in a colorful environment. Film and animation are very visual-driven and colors are my music, my father is a wonderful storyteller and my mom a perfectionist. I naturally gravitated towards the world of visual arts and entertainment.

(As an advocate) I draw inspiration from the very community I am a part of. Uplifting the communities through my visual work, portraying strong messages of hope and happiness is a true reflection of the cultural pride I inherited as a Deaf person.

Effectively addressing the needs of different abilities called for listening to the “voices” of people with different abilities and proactively engaging them in policy decision-making. They were often overlooked in the policy planning and as result, their programmes were seldom inclusive.

Barriers:
The attitudinal barriers or bigotry are the biggest barriers I had to overcome. People are shocked to learn that Deaf people are lawyers and doctors, CEOs and managers, hold PhDs, have meaningful work, own homes and have families. We are people first, not Deaf first, and our abilities — not our disability — need to be the focus. We can do anything except… nothing!

Deaf Advantages:
Of course! Deaf culture, by its very nature is very visual. From our attuned senses, to our communication methods, we offer a very unique perspective.

Advice:
Using creative methods engages people emotionally, stimulates thinking and creates a climate for greater understanding. Make sure you do your homework and use the power of social media wisely! Advocacy work can be very tough and cumbersome but it can also be a very rewarding experience, especially when you see the difference you are making in people’s lives.

These interviews represent only a small number of the countless individuals who are out there proving on a daily basis that when you have passion and motivation, anything is possible! Talented people who are d/Deaf can be found in every field at every level, working harder than most to rise up through the ranks. Deafness is not a barrier to success, but prejudice ignorance can be. I am excited and honored to share perspectives from Deaf professionals pursuing careers they love, and I look forward to future installments in this series!

DeafTalent Everywhere! Part I

Too often, young people who are deaf are discouraged from following their dreams. They are told “you can’t…” or “you won’t be able to…” and they are pushed to into careers that they are not passionate about. In reality, however, there are very few jobs Deaf people “can’t” do, especially once small adjustments are made to accommodate their specific skills and abilities. At the end of the day, our society limits people more than the actual experience of deafness ever could.

This year, the #DeafTalent movement caught on across social media as deaf people began to raise awareness about Hollywood casting hearing actors for deaf roles. Instead of hiring qualified deaf performers who are seeking work, of which there is a significant pool, Hollywood and theater productions have continued to select hearing actors and actresses to portray deaf characters. The Deaf community decided it was time to push back against the mainstream media, and began using the internet as a platform to bring this issue to light.

DeafTalent is so much bigger than the entertainment industry— it’s a cultural movement that is gaining traction in all areas of life. Talented Deaf individuals in fields across the board are working to defy social expectations, remove barriers, and prove that there are NO limits to what people who are deaf can do. My Deaf siblings and young nieces deserve every opportunity to manifest their own destiny and accomplish their own goals without suffering the prejudice of previous generations. It’s time for people to open their minds to the endless potential of our diverse population.

To explore the many facets of DeafTalent, I went right to the source: the Deaf community. Individuals working in a number of different fields were eager to communicate a message of Deaf empowerment. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing brief interviews with ambitious people following their life purpose; people who just so happen to be deaf.

Jules Dameron

Director and advocate behind the #DeafTalent movement

jules-dameron-deaftalentInspirations:
When I attended a family reunion at seven years old, my uncle used a video camera to film the event. He hooked it up to the living room television and I saw on the screen whatever he was recording— I was hooked by the process. He let me hold the camera once and that was it. I wanted to make movies from that point on.

Barriers:
Filmmaking is a tough barrier in itself, whether you’re hearing or deaf. So being deaf doesn’t make much of a difference to me, personally. It’s different for everyone, but for me, I’ve been fortunate to be supported for the most part throughout my journey. If I had to point out anything— it would have been dealing with having interpreters on set, but I’ve been fortunate to meet some amazing film set interpreters in Los Angeles, and I am grateful for their support, and working with me on devising an efficient system for working with deaf people on film sets.

Deaf Advantage:
I believe my brain works differently since I have learned in a mostly visual way, and filmmaking is a very strong visual medium. So anything visual-based plays to my advantage. I feel I have made a unique contribution to professional actors in general because I make sure that they tell their story visually, not only audibly.

Advice:
I say go for it, because honestly, there is no better field than filmmaking to tell your own story. I strongly feel that the film industry helps the deaf community, and worldwide awareness about deaf people everywhere. So if you have a passion for it, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I absolutely mean this. It is ridiculous to me to think that there are many deaf people out there who are being told not to be an actor, film director, film producer, screenwriter, et cetera because they are deaf. I think the fact that they ARE deaf contributes to those industries, since they bring a special spice to this world.

Andrew Baker

Doctor

andrew-baker-deaf-doctorInspirations:
I decided in third grade to become a doctor. I was not sure what kind, but wanted a career where I would always be comfortable and secure. Plus I like math and science.

Barriers:
One of the biggest barriers I had to overcome was getting teachers to look at me instead of talking to the blackboard. Boy, some teachers just wouldn’t get it!

Deaf Advantage:
It’s tough to say if being deaf gives me any advantages in this field, but I was able to create the first vision care clinic for Deaf people at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and it is still going strong 30 years later. Any Deaf person that wishes to pursue the medical field should have good interpersonal skills, unless they go into a research position where they spend all their time in labs.

Advice:
Study hard, get good grades, try to develop effective oral skills because others don’t know sign language, and go where the money is!

Sean Gerlis

Interpreter & Business Owner

sean-gerlis-deaf-business-ownerInspirations:
The deep passion for helping others to achieve in equal access to everything in this world prompted my desire to do advocacy work for the community. The advocacy work I’ve been doing has everything to do with the barriers I’ve experienced as an individual living here in this country. In the nutshell, I do not want anyone else to experience the frustrations/barriers I am currently enduring.

Barriers:
Inability to speak is often perceived as an uneducated individual. I have to show people that my intelligence is not as they believed. I have to show them I’m much more than not being able to speak fluently. Sadly enough, there are so MANY people out there won’t give us deaf people the benefit of doubt in the first place. The battle (barrier) still continues.

Deaf Advantage:
I believe my productivity/contributions as a deaf person have given me advantages. For example, I’m able to finish my projects ahead of time due to being distraction-resistant. Another example would be that I’m more observant on projects I am working with, which makes me being more contributing employee.

Advice:
Keep your minds open. Gracefully accept diverse perspectives and weight them accordingly. This will make you a better interpreter.

Shoshannah Stern

Actress

shoshannah-stern-deaf-actressInspirations:
According to my mother, I’ve said I wanted to be an actress for even further back than my memory reaches. She says that I asked her for an agent for something like my sixth birthday. I don’t know how I even knew what an agent was!

My sister is an artist and a writer, and I’m pretty sure we both get that creative gene from my mother. She has always had a deep appreciation for the arts and for the theater, and she always made sure we were exposed to that. We grew up in Fremont, and when I took my husband there to see my hometown a few years ago, he was shocked at how small it actually was because he always thought I came from the city. I told him I feel as if I did, because my mom would put us all on BART on the weekends. We’d go to San Francisco or Berkeley and go to the museums and watch foreign films (they had subtitles, after all!) and eat in small restaurants that served food from different places all around the world.

Barriers:
My biggest barrier is one that I’m still trying to overcome, and that’s just to keep working and to keep creatively pushing myself in different directions. I’m fine with that, though, because as a creative person you have to keep moving. It’s the same for everyone in this business, whether they hear or not.

I feel like Viola Davis said it best when she talked about opportunity being the only thing that separates women of color from everyone else. Every audition I get is a win for me, because it means that I’m still moving forward, whether I book that audition or not. Most mainstream actors talk about the frustration they get when they don’t book things, but I think for myself and other talented deaf actors, getting in the room is the biggest challenge of all.

Deaf Advantages:
The first piece of advice I got in acting class when I was starting out was to know your niche and if you didn’t have one, to find one, so that you could stand out from the crowd and be memorable. Many other students who weren’t deaf in my class were at a loss, but that wasn’t an issue for me. I feel like it still helps me now, ten years later, because I’ve always felt like acting is about finding the truth in things. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a deaf family, but I’ve never felt as if being deaf has made me any different from anyone else. It’s always just been a part of who I am. However, when I meet people who don’t come from my community, I’m almost always faced with the reality that the majority of them perceive me as being different from them. I think there’s something about that experience that has allowed me to stay connected to my own truth, and I’m very thankful for that.

Advice:
Push yourself, work hard, think outside the box and most of all, to create a space for yourself. I think we’re having such a great year with so many talented deaf people that are visible out there right now, and I’m so in love with that. The funny thing is that I’ve found that all that visibility has made me think about what’s invisible–and that’s the work that most of us never see. Without that work, the visibility we have now would never be possible, and I feel like there’s so much potential for more deaf people to do work like that. That’s work like producing, directing, writing, casting, or even crewing. I don’t see any reason anybody could give about why a deaf person couldn’t be a PA, a grip, or a makeup artist on set. No piece of advice is ever as easy as it seems, but I feel like if you really want something, you just have to figure out a way for you to show people that you can and will do it, no matter what that something is.

These interviews represent only a small number of the countless individuals who are out there proving on a daily basis that when you have passion and motivation, anything is possible! Talented people who are d/Deaf can be found in every field at every level, working harder than most to rise up through the ranks. Deafness is not a barrier to success, but prejudice ignorance can be. I am excited and honored to share perspectives from Deaf professionals pursuing careers they love, and I look forward to future installments in this series!

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!