5 Key Ways to Make Your Workplace More Deaf-Inclusive
As a business owner, it behooves you to make your workplace as inclusive as possible to people of all backgrounds — after all, the most valuable team member might not look, live or work the same way as you might assume. With nearly 12 percent of the United States population being deaf or hard of hearing, it’s a sector you simply can’t ignore when it comes to building a work environment that’s 100 percent welcoming.
What are some of the ways you can bolster your workspace to be more inviting and functional for employees who are deaf or hard of hearing?
1. Encourage Language
Though not all hearing employees might be well-versed (or versed at all) in American Sign Language (ASL), it’s important that conversational basics are encouraged amongst the entire team. (We happen to have a crash course in office signing 101 on this very blog!) Not only can this have positive impacts on your team members’ personal lives, but it also predestines your workplace for an inclusive welcome to future deaf or hard-of-hearing employees, clients or vendors. A little bit of effort and intention goes a long way!
2. Turn the Camera On
In our current world, the influence of video conferencing is more pertinent than ever. With apps like Zoom, Teams and GoToMeeting more ubiquitously used in work environments, one key factor can have a huge impact on making your office more inclusive of deaf and hard-of-hearing teammates — turning on your cameras! Whether engaging with ASL or lip-reading, having a visual can have a significant impact on the ability to communicate.
Even better? You can give Relay Conference Captioning (RCC) a try to make for an even more welcoming environment, where no part of the conversation gets misunderstood.
3. Open Up to Accommodations
Though legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) aim to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing employees have the accommodations they need to be effective in their careers, a spirit of an open-door policy when it comes to requesting accommodation is essential. To maintain inclusivity of all employees, set a standard from day one that requesting necessary accommodations, including particular technology needs, conversation preferences or seating arrangements, is not only allowed, but encouraged.
4. Enhance Your Hiring Process
One very simple way you can make your hiring process more inclusive, even before a deaf or hard-of-hearing employee begins working with your organization, is to supply the option of an accessible phone line in the job listing. Give potential candidates access via a TTY service, for instance, to show that your workplace not only is inclusive in environment but also in recruiting.
5. Converse Respectfully
An additional tip that seems simple but needs to be said — don’t conflate an interpreter for a conversation partner. When a company or individual engages with an ASL interpreter, said communicator is there to do accomplish one key goal — to translate the conversation so both parties can engage effectively. When speaking with a deaf or hard-of-hearing employee or co-worker making use of an interpreting service, make sure to make eye contact with your conversation partner, rather than the interpreter. It’s a very simple step you can make to show mutual respect and dedication to the conversation at hand.