Helping Hearing Impaired Workers Succeed

By Mark Swartz

Does your company suffer from “audism?” It’s a form of discrimination against people who are hearing impaired. It may be holding you back from hiring excellent workers who identify themselves as culturally Deaf.
Given the numbers involved, this could be an impediment to your business. Nearly 1 out of every 4 adult Canadians reports having some hearing loss. Close to 10% of us actually identify as culturally Deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing.
With adaptive technologies and basic accommodations, the workplace now has fewer barriers for Deaf employees. Is it time to lend them an ear?
How The Culturally Deaf Contribute
Canadians who identify themselves as culturally Deaf comprise more than 350,000 people across Canada. Ron Kozberg, executive vice president of Lift Inc., says the culturally Deaf are an often-misunderstood group, though they are just as skilled as their co-workers who can hear.
"They seem to have the ability to focus in on a job and not let outside distractions influence them," he says. "They are dedicated and determined, almost more so, because they have had to overcome more than the average worker."
Hiring someone with a hearing impairment can reflect positively on your organization. Diversity makes business sense. You’ll enhance your customer service through increased accessibility as well.
Basic Technology Eases The Way
Dmitri Mamrukov is an applications delivery program associate. He has been deaf since the age of one. Mamrukov explains that everyday technologies help deaf and hearing impaired workers fit into the company culture.
Since interpreters can't always be present, Mamrukov relies on taking notes, instant messaging, texting and email. Eliminating the vocal or aspect of communication makes for universal accessibility.
Adaptive Technology Makes Communicating More Effecient
There are also dedicated, adaptivbe technologies that assist deaf employees. Mamrukov makes use of text telephones (TTYs) — special devices that allow people who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired to type and receive messages over the receiver.
Another technnology, real-time captioning, converts spoken language into text onto a computer monitor or screen. It is very accurate but expensive. While useful for large meetings, it requires the presence of a trained transcriptionist.
Mamrukov points to other advancements that hearing-impaired workers can gain from. These include telephones that display every word the caller says. Additionally, video relay service lets the hearing impaired use video technology to reach a sign language interpreter, who then speaks to the hearing person on the phone (and translates the hearing person's response into sign language).
Hiring services Are Available
Employment Services at the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) aids culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing individuals in finding a job. It works with employees and employers to put the right supports in place. Most of their services are free of charge to employers looking for qualified staff and are available at 15 CHS locations across Ontario.
Services include job placement for qualified candidates, arrangements for unpaid work experience, job trials or wage subsidies. Moreover, there is transitional employment support such as interpreting – for deaf individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL) or la langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) – during interviews and job training. Also available are workplace accessibility and accommodation assessments.
Dining Works For The Culturally Deaf
Looking for creative inspiration on hiring the deaf? Toronto has turned the tables on hearing clientele with Signs, a deaf restaurant and bar that encourages communication solely by sign language. The first of its kind in Canada, customers are asked to order their meals by signing.
The restaurant is mostly staffed by deaf servers. Customers are given a cheat book with the most popular phrases used in restaurants, and instructions on how to sign the menu items.
Listen Up, Employers
Don’t be “audist.” Learn more about communication strategies in the free CHS Accessibility Guide to Businesses & Service Providers. Also contact the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. It is bilingual with branches and chapters from coast to coast.
Open your eyes – and ears – to the benefits of hiring culturally Deaf and hearing impaired employees. That sound you’ll hear will be co-worker and customer appreciation.