Accommodation tips for hiring individuals in the deaf community

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Gallaudet University, institution of learning, teaching and research for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and alumni workshop where they were discussing accommodations and tips on how organizations can ensure they’re being inclusive to these potential employees.

The event attracted many employers including Trader Joe’s, Apple, PwC and the US Department of Energy as well as alumni including Arthur Everette II, Kara Gulvas and Angela Marie Vasquez.

After graduating from Gallaudet University, Arthur joined the Defense Logistics Agency as a contract Specialist in early 2012, Kara currently works as a Human Resources Specialist with the Department of Justice, Criminal Division and Angela is works for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services as a Mission Support Specialist in Washington DC.

Tips for accommodations in the workplace for employees who are deaf or hard-of-hearing

There were many tips shared with employers during the alumni panel. Here are some best practices for employers for accommodating individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing in the workplace:

  1. Setting up their desk so their back is to the wall and facing the fire alarm - This helps ensure they know who is coming to speak with them, they can see the alarm notifying employees to exit the building, and they can stay engaged with their surroundings.
  2. Making sure your websites and digital tools are usable to everyone - Controls for timed content, captions and plain language have shown to increase your search engine optimization (SEO) online and boost user engagement.
  3. Having a Buddy system - Many individuals on the panel were in agencies that practiced bomb threats and various drills. Having a buddy near their desk to alert and direct them has proved to be helpful.
  4. Sharing meeting materials before the meeting - This is beneficial for everyone to prepare but specifically helps individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing with being able to keep up during meetings.
  5. Downloading apps and using interpreting services - Apps such as ASL APP, Cardzilla, Captel, CART, VRI, and Speak2Sign can greatly assist with communication. Most apps and services are about $1 or less.
  6. Maintaining inclusion in social gatherings - this should go without saying that employees who are deaf want to be included in team gatherings outside of the office.

A key takeaway for attendees was that in addition to employers receiving tax credits for provisions and accommodations, hiring these individuals can increase retention and boost morale.

The workshop was extremely informative and I appreciate the alumni for sharing their experiences and the simple, inexpensive tips and accommodations that were rich in value. I encourage any company interested in attending the next workshop to reach out to Gallaudet’s Career Center. I look forward to continuing to partner with Gallaudet to educate employers and dispel some of the myths around hiring individuals in the deaf community and providing accommodations.

For more information on accommodations: