“Deaf people can do anything apart from hear” - a powerful quote that, as if it should be needed, highlights the evident lack of confidence and knowledge that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can, and should, be employed to do the same jobs as a fully ‘able-bodied’ person. Employers and recruiters have woken up to equality, diversity and inclusion, as well as supporting value for staff, but how many have, or would even consider, deaf employees?
We have all experienced rejection - personally and in employment - but imagine being able to do a job but unable to necessarily communicate effectively because the person you’re convincing can’t understand your language (sign). Why would someone not be able to use, type on or design something on a computer, make a meal or fix something or plan a strategy or event just because they are deaf or hard of hearing? Yes, it can affect balance and communication but they remain human beings with exceptional and individual skills that can be utilised to help improve businesses.
Under the Equality Act 2010, you are disabled if “you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities”. It’s therefore somewhat understanding how many people experiencing deafness of difficulty hearing do not consider themselves disabled. The Act - formerly The DDA (Disability Discrimination Act), which came into effect in 1995 before just covering Northern Ireland - prevents discrimination and seeks to promote better inclusivity for anyone in England, Scotland and Wales, regardless of their age, ability, gender reassignment, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation. This includes work life.
One of our team has recently established Deafness Equality Acceptance Foundation to identify gaps and downfalls within businesses and organisations - be it during the recruitment process or somewhere that currently has staff who are deaf or hard of hearing - where there is a lack of understanding, knowledge or support. With an estimated 9 million people in the UK who are Deaf or hard of hearing, it’s more important than ever to ensure talent is recognised regardless of disability.
Consider a new employee asking the colleagues in their pod if they want a drink and making them but leaving a deaf or hard or hearing employee out purely because they didn’t hear the offer or didn’t get a response, unaware of their limitation. Or not knowing of someone’s deafness and leaving a building without looking for a member of staff who had gone on a loo break, during a fire alarm. Extreme scenarios perhaps but they do occur and have an impact, purely because of lack of knowledge and understanding of how to communicate. Facing the person and keeping eye contact can help someone who lip reads, speaking clearly and limiting background noise can benefit someone who is not profoundly deaf and learning basic sign language or gesturing can get the point across to a deaf person. Also, don’t be afraid to write down or draw to help understanding. The basic things are often overlooked and not considered when communicating with deaf or hard of hearing people. It’s not all about spending money and fitting a hearing loop.
Maybe take a step back to identify what areas of your business involve jobs deaf or people with difficulties hearing could do and see whether you can be more open and accepting to them, or supporting/training existing employees.
We’d love to hear your experiences - email firstname.lastname@example.org
• 88% of people said that knowing an organisation was deaf aware would influence their buyer decision
• 97% of people asked told us they believed deaf awareness training should be part of every companies training plan
• 70% of people said they would have little or no confidence in communicating with a deaf person
Tip: Did you know that Youtube has an option to show a transcript to match the vocal content of a video. Click the three dots next to the share icons and select 'Show transcript'. This is great for SEO but be careful that the content, namely your brand name, is correct.