This September, Galt Foundation celebrated International Deaf Awareness Month. To honor the occasion, we are sharing various ways that companies can increase inclusivity and support employees who are deaf or hard of hearing. Employers can update their hiring practices and processes, enroll staff in diversity training, provide technical communication assistance and training, and enact updated safety measures.
This past September, Galt Foundation celebrated International Deaf Awareness Month, as well as the International Week of the Deaf (IWDeaf) during the last week of the month.
The IWDeaf campaign was launched by the World Federation of the Deaf in 1958 and began with the International Day of the Deaf. The campaign has grown immensely over the years, and it continues to increase public awareness of deaf issues, people, and culture today.
This International Deaf Awareness Month, Galt Foundation shares valuable human resources tips for supporting employees who are deaf (they have little to no hearing) or hard of hearing (they have hearing loss that ranges from mild to severe).
With about 28 million Americans currently living with hearing loss – and nearly 1 million Americans who are deaf and using American Sign Language (ASL) – it is important for employers to raise awareness and show support for individuals with hearing impairments.
Employers can do this by improving inclusivity in the workplace. In a presentation titled Hiring and Managing Deaf and Hard of Hearing People, Sarah Morgan, an interpreter for the National Reconnaissance Office, stated, “Deaf people experience inclusion through reasonable accommodations, overcoming communication barriers, and [by] ensuring visual accessibility and safety.”
Workplace inclusion begins at the application process. Employers need to review job postings to ensure that descriptions use inclusive language. For example, a position that requires a candidate to have “excellent verbal communication skills” may deter job seekers with hearing impairments from applying. Instead, hiring managers could emphasize the ability to learn and use various communication tools.
Hiring managers should arrange for an interpreter, if requested, and provide the applicant with a printed copy of the interview questions or an agenda of the interview at the start of the conversation. Throughout the interview, it is important to maintain eye contact with the candidate.
HR managers should consider providing diversity training for staff – especially executives and teams that work directly with employees with hearing impairments. This training helps members of the workforce develop a better understanding of the disability and provides suggestions on how best to collaborate with and advocate for colleagues with disabilities.
In the workplace, employers can strengthen communication with employees who are deaf or hard of hearing by, first and foremost, asking about their communication preferences, such as the best way for them to ask questions or contribute ideas during meetings.
Managers should then provide the necessary tools to help them successfully fulfill their responsibilities and participate in company events. To help staff complete their day-to-day tasks, managers could provide captioned phones or video phones and digital messaging tools.
For meetings, businesses could consider hiring ASL interpreters or securing Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) services, which project closed captioning for spoken words onto screens in real time. Individuals leading meetings should ensure the following:
- There is good lighting.
- Attendees with hearing impairments have a clear view of the speakers.
- Videos have closed captioning.
- Notes or minutes are taken for future reference.
- There are visual cues for who will be speaking next during group discussions.
- Speakers don’t turn their backs to the audience.
- Visual aids, such as flip charts, written agendas, or presentation handouts, are used.
In addition, employers could consider enrolling members of their workforce in ASL courses. This would not only help staff better communicate with colleagues who are deaf, but it would also help team members with hearing disabilities feel appreciated in the workplace and increase their morale.
For additional technical communication support and information about accommodations for employees with hearing disabilities, there are many assistance centers, such as the ADA National Network, that provide an abundance of resources.
Employers must also provide special accommodations in the event of emergencies. Human resources managers are encouraged to walk new hires through their company’s emergency evacuation routes and to install flashing lights that work in conjunction with emergency alarms. Other suggestions include using a buddy system, as well as text messages or emails, to alert employees who are deaf or hard of hearing when emergency situations occur.
Let Galt Foundation Help
Having individuals with disabilities on your team is highly advantageous because it improves the diversity of your workplace. With increased diversity, companies can benefit from a wider range of perspectives, which often leads to fresh, innovative ideas.
If you require assistance with workplace accessibility for employees with hearing impairments, feel free to get in touch with the experts at Galt Foundation. You can reach one of our friendly associates here or call us at 1-877-361-1277 – we’re always happy to help!