Much can be done to make a workspace more accessible to and inclusive of colleagues who are deaf or hard of hearing. Universal design can provide a framework for doing so by underpinning practices that can be applied proactively to make a welcoming and environment and to ensure that appropriate accommodations are available specific individuals.
There are many ways to learn about the experiences of people with disabilities, even if you do not interact with them directly. Many books and articles offer stories about people with disabilities, but many people with disabilities have also shared their own experiences through books, articles, videos, blog posts, and other sources.
In a study by Erickson, W. A., Schrader, S. von, Bruyère, S. M., & VanLooy, S. A., best practices reported to increase hiring people with disabilities included:
Employers may encounter a variety of barriers to recruiting interns with disabilities. These include:
My name is Sara. I have a genetic disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). EDS is largely an invisible disability. It causes systemic health issues, including gastrointestinal issues, visual impairment, chronic pain, and joint problems that can affect mobility. Rest and self-care are my best options when my symptoms are exacerbated.
College students often attend career fairs to prepare for graduation and plan their future in the workforce. Some recruiters set up “virtual job fairs” that take place online rather than in person on a college campus. For students with disabilities, these may provide a way to engage with potential employers without needing to be at a crowded event. But how do they work? Are they beneficial?
Refer to a person's disability only if it is relevant to the conversation. Avoid negative descriptions of a person's disability. For example, "a person who uses a wheelchair" is more appropriate than "a person confined to a wheelchair," which is both inaccurate and negative in tone; people who use wheelchairs are not “confined” to them, they are empowered by them with the gift of mobility.
Many people with disabilities prefer language that mentions the person first and then the disability. They consider, for example "A man who is blind" preferable to "a blind man.”
A large portion of individuals with ASD are unemployed although many of them are capable of working. Students with ASD often find it difficult to communicate in a traditional interview format. Some companies, both in the US and abroad, have enacted programs to specifically recruit employees with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Examples of these recruitment efforts and programs include:
It is common to give a presentation at a conference with accompanying visuals. But what if there are individuals in the audience who are blind, have low vision, or are at a great distance from the screen so that they cannot see the visuals clearly or at all? What if there are individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in the audience and cannot hear your presentation clearly or at all? You can employ presentation practices that ensure that everyone, even those with sensory impairments, can access the content of your presentation.
A learning disability is a neurological disorder resulting from a difference in the way a person’s brain (LD) is wired when compared to most people. Someone with a learning disability may have difficulty reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, recalling, or organizing. LDs cannot be cured or fixed. However, with the right support and intervention, people with LDs can succeed in school and go on to successful careers. People with learning disabilities often think outside of the box, seeing solutions to problems that someone else may not see.