A workplace can be fraught with personality clashes, tensions and issues at the best of times. For the Deaf Community, there are a whole host of barriers put up before they’ve even got through the door.
Unemployment in the Deaf Community
Unemployment is a widespread issue among the Deaf Community. Despite having the qualifications and skills to succeed in the job, discriminatory hiring practices result in many Deaf candidates missing out on opportunities.
In the US, 75.8% of the hearing population aged 25-64 years is employed, compared to 53.3% of Deaf people. (Source: Statista)
Discover tips by the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) on How to find a job >
Workplace challenges the Deaf Community face
Unfortunately, many workplaces simply aren’t set up, or willing, to invite a Deaf person to interview and support their emotional and practical needs at work.
While some companies are working hard to change discriminatory hiring practices (see this list of Fortune 100 best workplaces for diversity), most have a lot more work to do to.
Deaf people in a hearing workplace often experience a lack of Deaf awareness from their managers and colleagues due to diversity training not being prioritised.
Many employers aren’t aware of the provision of Access to Work which can take the financial burden off the employer for reasonable adjustments such as sign language interpreters, lip speakers or note takers. This service can also provide a Job Coach prior to starting new roles, to assist with learning the ropes and the unspoken rules of a workplace.
Due to this lack of understanding, many Deaf people experience feelings of social isolation and in some cases harassment, discrimination and barriers to their career progression.
What can Deaf people do to tackle workplace issues?
We spoke to Victoria Nelson, the Director of Deaf4Deaf for her insights.
“When we are feeling harassed, we often feel a sense of shame to speak out,” says Victoria Nelson.
“It’s important to speak out and ask for your needs to be met. Write down all the incidents of harassment and record your feelings.”
For Deaf people feeling heightened stress at work, she recommends that you take time for self-care by asking your employer for a mental health day.
“Make it clear what adjustments need to be made to ensure that your stress levels are kept at a healthy level moving forward,” she says.
“Seek support from your deaf peers, connect with others. Ask your HR manager for emotional support. Encourage the workplace to have deaf awareness training and ensure that the strategies are followed up regularly.”
Repairing the damage done to Deaf self-esteem
For young Deaf people, the parameters on what is and isn’t possible in their career because of their deafness are often set at a very young age. In fact, a survey by the NDCS found that two in three young deaf people would hide their deafness on a job application.
Victoria Nelson believes that broadcasting the stories of achievement and success of Deaf role models plays an important part in healing the damage done by societal discrimination to the Deaf psyche.
After all, if we can’t see examples of people like us in a space, it makes it harder to feel like we belong there.
“We must challenge the low expectations pushed onto deaf people and ask for evidence of deaf role models that have succeeded in the Arts world, the Academic world, and the workplace,” says Victoria Nelson.
Here at Deaf Unity, we love to profile inspirational deaf people in our monthly Deaf Role Model feature. Check out the latest interviews here.
For Deaf people in the workplace, she advises they share stories and tips with other Deaf people and “don’t be afraid to ask for help and support from your mentors.”
Why workplaces benefit from hiring Deaf people
According to a study by Boston Consulting Group, inclusive workplaces who support the diverse needs of their employees see better performance, more creativity and innovation, faster problem-solving, decision making, increased profits, higher employee engagement, reduced employee turnover and better company reputation.
It’s really a no-brainer.
Businesses that actively make workplaces more inclusive, diverse places are the ones that will thrive and lead the way into the future of work.
Victoria Nelson’s top 10 tips for Deaf people to build self-worth
- Get outside.
- Get physical.
- Get creative.
- Get together with supportive people.
- Talk back to your critical voice.
- Get a notepad and start writing your positive qualities down. Write about the times you saved the day or felt powerful and made a positive difference.
- Sit in a quiet place and visualise your next adventure.
- Keep reading and educating yourself.
- Remind yourself how amazing you are.
- Keep at it. Do not give up!
If you are Deaf and don’t feel valued by your employer, the most important thing to remember is that you are an asset to the workplace.
Never accept low expectations of your abilities from yourself or anyone else. Report poor service and seek support to use complaint procedures. Get mental health support where you need it.
Workplaces that aren’t inclusive face major barriers to their productivity and profits so a lot needs to change to improve the working world for everyone.
In the long run, it is the inclusive workplaces that will thrive because they attract the best talent.