Supporting the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Community in the Workplace

As April is Deaf History Month, it’s important to dedicate some time to learning more about supporting the deaf & hard of hearing community in the workplace and the challenges they face.

Deaf people face unique challenges in the workplace, from communication barriers to discrimination. Although many countries have laws in place to protect workers with disabilities, this is often not enough, and deaf people still encounter obstacles in finding employment, securing accommodations, and advancing in their careers.

Discrimination in recruitment

Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can struggle to find employment opportunities that match their skills and interests. This can be due to a lack of accessible job listings, limited opportunities in certain fields, and a lack of understanding about the capabilities of deaf employees.

People with physical and neurological differences deserve not only to earn a salary, but to find opportunities that will bring them purpose and joy. It’s crucial that we work on making recruitment processes more inclusive so that all individuals, including the deaf & hard of hearing community, are able to apply for jobs, and have an equitable chance of receiving an employment offer.

Discrimination in employment

Discrimination can be overt, such as workplace bullying and harassment, or it can be covert, such as overlooking the abilities and hard work of disabled employees and therefore offering less career progression opportunities. Discrimination comes in many different forms and can come from anyone within the organization, this is often scary, upsetting, and damaging to the employees who are experiencing it.

Lack of inclusivity in the workplace

One of the key challenges that deaf people can face in the workplace is communication barriers. Communication is a fundamental part of any job, but it can be particularly difficult for deaf and hard of hearing individuals who rely on sign language, lip-reading, or other forms of visual information sharing. Many colleagues and employers may not be familiar with sign language, making it difficult for deaf employees to find people who can communicate with them in their preferred language.

Further, workplace accommodations for the deaf community can be expensive and difficult to obtain. Some employers may resist making changes to their workplace, such as installing video relay systems, providing interpreters, or adapting communication methods.

As there is often a lack of representation due to there often being few deaf employees in an organization, individuals who are deaf may face isolation in the workplace. This can be damaging to the individuals’ mental health, leading to feelings of loneliness and frustration, as well as a sense of being misunderstood and ignored.

Making things better

Firstly, organizations can work to make the recruitment process more inclusive so that nobody is excluded from consideration. For the deaf and hard of hearing community, this could be done by ensuring that interview stages can be completed in sign language or in the individual’s preferred method of communication. Different individuals have different needs, so it’s important to ask people to disclose the accommodations they need to ensure the process is equitable.

Once hired, there are various steps that can be taken by organizations to improve the experience of deaf employees at work.

Setting strong foundations ensures that there is no tolerance for discrimination. This can be done by enforcing strict rules and consequences for team members who engage in discriminatory behavior. Disabled employees, such as those within the deaf and hard of hearing community, should be respected and valued at work, and must be offered the same opportunities to progress as well as given the same fair pay as other employees.

Education is a great first step to building more understanding and consideration throughout all levels of the employee hierarchy. This can include providing training to colleagues about the challenges faced by the deaf community and the ways in which they can be supported.

In addition to training, it’s crucial to follow up with practical policy implementation. In other words, organizations must continue to adapt the working environment by understanding the types of accommodations that are needed and finding a way to provide them. This could include investing in supportive tech to provide more fitting styles of communication, offering flexibility on schedules and working methods, and ensuring employees have mentors who can check-in and offer support.

Listening to individual employees is fundamental in ensuring that solutions are effective for them, and that everyone is able to thrive. There may be something that is a great accommodation for one person, but that creates further challenges for another, so encouraging open discussions and supporting differences should always be prioritized when building a more inclusive workplace.

Overall, the challenges faced by the deaf & hard of hearing community in the workplace are significant and should be considered continuously, but workplaces can support employees to overcome these challenges with education, accommodation, and a commitment to inclusion. By working together, employers and employees can create a more accessible and supportive workplace for deaf individuals, enabling them to thrive and succeed in their careers.

Is your workplace accessible for all your employees?

The Diversio platform enables organizations to understand the different backgrounds and identities of their employees, what the employee experiences are, and what policies can be put in place to ensure the workplace is inclusive for all.

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For more information on Diversio, how you can support the deaf & hard of hearing community in the workplace, or how we can help you start your DEI program contact us at

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