National Deaf History Month, which runs from March 13 through April 15, is a celebration of contributions of the hard-of-hearing and the deaf community to American society. The term “deaf” can focus on a wide range of individuals with varying degrees of hearing loss and communication preferences. According to Deaf People and Employment in the United States, in 2019 there were more than 28 million people with hearing loss that live in the United States. Additionally it was noted that nearly one million people who are deaf use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. We wanted to take this time to focus on deaf people in the workforce.
According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with disabilities ages 16 to 64 participated in the U.S. workforce at a rate of 33.6% in 2019, compared to a rate of 77.4% for people without disabilities. Deaf and hearing people have unemployment rates of 3.8% and 3.4%, respectively. This difference, while small, is statistically significant. This suggests that deaf people are more likely to be actively looking for work than hearing people but aren’t necessarily finding jobs. So while employers are having trouble finding qualified candidates it should be noted that qualified candidates are out there looking for jobs as well.
A common misconception in the workforce is that people with disabilities will cost the employer a lot of money. This is untrue, on average accommodations will be a one-time cost of $500 or less and 58% of job accommodations cost absolutely nothing (Job Accommodation Network). There is a lot of great assistive technology out that can be used in the workplace including accessible telephones, speech recognition software, telephone amplifications, video relay services and many more.
As employers are looking to be more diverse in their hiring they also need to be more mindful as well about reaching out to the disabled community. Our Diversity Recruiting Solution has more than 30 community partners that are just focused on the deaf community and more than 5,200 community partners focused on people with disabilities. These community partners are a great resource to use to not only find qualified candidates but a lot of times the community partners can help go over any assistance they may need during their interview and employment process.
When focusing on diversity, employers need to remember to focus on inclusion as well. Employers need to take time to ensure that they are working with the candidate to give them a fair opportunity and provide them with the accommodations needed to interview. This can be something as simple as focusing on the skill match up and going forward with an in-person interview instead of requiring a phone call if it is easier for the candidate. While reaching out to community partners is the first step, remember to be mindful and provide accommodations throughout the interview process as well.