ADA CONSULTING FOR EMPLOYERS WITH DEAF EMPLOYEES
Nearly 15% of Americans report living with some level of hearing loss: this is 1 in every 6 people. Is everyone working at your company prepared to engage with those who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in an effective and productive way? As representatives of your organization, are employees empowered to provide reasonable ADA compliant accommodations for deaf customers, clients, or coworkers whenever appropriate?
Over the years, many organizations have learned the hard way that even one employee who is not Deaf-aware can unfortunately cost the company in both money and reputation. Police departments, for example, still fall behind when it comes to anti-bias training, as demonstrated by this recent incident in California where an elderly Deaf woman was violently thrown to the ground for jaywalking, or the 2012 case where the NYPD wrongfully arrested and detained a Deaf woman who was later awarded a $750,000 settlement, or of course the 2017 case of Magdiel Sanchez who was tragically killed by police in front of his own home in Oklahoma City. Major corporations can be held accountable for the discriminatory behaviors of employees, as Taco Bell, The Cheesecake Factory, and most recently KFC have all faced backlash due to insufficient cultural sensitivity training.
The experience of hearing loss is different for every person: so there is no one-size-fits all solution for communication. Some people are born deaf and learn sign language from infancy, others get cochlear implants as toddlers and learn to speak and read lips, and still others may develop progressive hearing loss as young adults. Deafness is not limited by age, gender, race, or ethnicity. The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community is extremely diverse, and the communication strategies of Deaf/HoH individuals can vary widely based on a person’s background.
The most effective way to establish communication with someone who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing is to ask the right questions and let them lead the conversation. People who are Deaf or HoH live with their hearing loss every single day, and they are skilled at utilizing certain strategies for sharing information and receiving information from others. Simply asking for a person’s preferred communication method (and respecting their choice) is a great way to open up the dialogue.
Creating an inclusive workplace is about more than just being able to communicate; it’s about understanding the differing needs of people and having compassion for one another’s experience. Employees who engage in cultural competency training facilitated by members of the Deaf Community are empowered with the knowledge and tools they need to form meaningful connections. Training with Deaf consultants and program leaders, staff members have the ability to gain firsthand insight into the silent world of Deaf America, ask questions in a safe environment, and widen their overall perspective.
A manager who is culturally competent may be able to spot hidden potential in a Hard of Hearing employee and offer the support they need to tap into their talents. Thus, by learning practical approaches to inclusion, the company is able to increase employee loyalty and see better return on investment.
A cashier who has participated in a cultural competency program might attract a number of local Deaf/HoH individuals to become regular customers because they are so confident and friendly interacting with members of this community. When employees have the training and tools they need to create lasting connections with Deaf and Hard of Hearing coworkers, employees, clients or customers, the company can begin to reap the benefits of diversity.
Innovative Inclusion helps find new ways to establish an accessible, welcoming environment for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community at public organizations and private companies of any size and type. Click here to learn more about Innovative Inclusion Cultural Competency Training, or to refer a company for our training programs! We offer nationwide training from Deaf and Hard of Hearing consultants that can be custom tailored to meet the access and inclusion needs of any business.