business learning accessibility

A Guide to Accommodating Deaf Employees

As a employer it is your responsibility to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for deaf or hard of hearing employees. This means helping them communicate and providing the resources they need to be able to succeed in their position. It is helpful to put some of these practices to use even before they are requested, because even those without hearing loss have different preferences when it comes to communication. It is also important to discuss a plan for accommodation on a case-by-case basis for new employees who are deaf or hard of hearing. Below are some options for accommodating a deaf or hard of hearing employee.

Common Workplace Accommodations for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Employees

  1. Closed captioning
  2. CART or real-time captioning
  3. American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter
  4. Text phones or video relay services
  5. Written memos and company communications
  6. Visual emergency notifications
  7. Changes in workspace arrangements

Now let’s discuss in what environments and situations these accommodations can be used.

Corporate & Company-Wide Communications

Communications from the company to all employees should always be available in text format. Make sure there is a designated person that knows to inform the deaf/HoH employee of any audio announcements.

Training videos

During the training process, providing captioning on all training videos will not only make them accessible to the deaf, it can actually help all new hires retain more information.  It is important that deaf/HoH employees have access to all training materials to have a fair chance at succeeding in their new job.

Workspace & IT Setup

An employee’s workspace and set up should also be discussed. If they are expecting to get phone calls you can provide a phone that is capable of video relay calls if they know ASL or a text phone. There may also be computer applications that can help them communicate.

Colleague Communication & Department Awareness

During a new employee’s orientation, everyone who will be working with them should be notified of the new hire’s preferred communication methods. Educate the department on the proper etiquette and how to provide an inclusive environment. Colleagues should know the best way to get the individual’s attention when needed and how to communicate through writing or verbally.

Meetings

When setting up for a meeting, choose a space that will provide the deaf/HoH employee with good visual access, with ample lighting and in direct line of sight if there is a primary speaker. Before the meeting begins, ask the employee how they would like to communicate and contribute in the meeting. Providing an agenda, presentation handouts and other written materials is also a good idea. Try to inform others in the meeting that they should avoid talking over each other and participate one at a time so it is clear who the speaker is. Make sure the meeting is transcribed and noted thoroughly with visual aids, or that CART or real-time captioning is provided.

Emergencies

In an emergency situation, most environments are not set up to properly notify a deaf/HoH employee. Flashing lights should accompany any alarms that sound. For emergency announcements made over loud speaker or intercom, use a buddy system to ensure the employee gets the message. Make use of text and email emergency alerts. All new employees should be walked through evacuation plans during their orientation.

The employment rate among the deaf/HoH is only 48%. This is partly due to a lack of welcoming and inclusive workplaces where deaf/HoH employees feel comfortable. Providing these accommodations can ensure that the deaf/HoH employee can succeed in their position and produce their best possible work to the benefit of the company.

Resources:

DeafTEC –  Accommodation for the Workplace

National Deaf Center

Society for Human Resources Management

Etiquette for Colleagues of deaf or HoH

6 Comments

  1. If working in a warehouse environment with someone deaf that drive equipment doing an emergency how would the buddy system work?

    • Angela,

      You might check out the articles in the resource section as those organizations have more expertise in the type of situation that you bring up. But I think the idea behind the buddy system is that if you are paired up with a deaf/hoh team member and an emergency occurs, you make sure that your buddy is on his/her way to safety before you leave the site. Perhaps you could use text messaging if long distances are involved?

  2. DID YOU KNOW THAT VIDEO PHONE INCLUDING ASL INTERPRETER IS VERY POPULAR FOR DEAF USE? WHY IS TTY STILL ON? VERY OLD FASHIONED. TRASH TTY. DEAF CAN NOT UNDERSTAND TTY AS TEXTED ENGLISH. I AM VERY SICK OF EVERY PLACE SHOWING TTY TODAY.

  3. I really appreciate the effort you have put in this article. And it is really sad to know to that the employment rate among deaf people is only 48%. Every offices should be capable of accommodating Deaf employees.

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