Tips for Communicating with Employees who are Deaf/Partially deaf
By Christina Goebel
The National Technical Institute for the Deaf has published a booklet, “Tips for Communicating with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Employees”
(http://www.ntid.rit.edu/nce/employers/tips-comm-deaf-hoh-employees ). Some of the strategies in the booklet include:
• facilitating lip reading by pronouncing words more clearly,
• having the individual with deafness or hearing loss sitting next to the primary speaker at meetings
• having one person speak at a time during meetings, and
• communicating messages such as announcements directly to the individual.
The institute also lists a plan for integration into the workplace, beginning with pre-employment and extending to on the job supports (http://www.ntid.rit.edu/nce/employers/working-with-deaf ). Some pre-employment tips include: providing written literature about the company and the meeting itinerary prior to the meeting, while orientation activities include hiring an interpreter during the first day and providing captioned videos. Ask new employees which communication methods they prefer, since there are a variety of communication styles used by people with deafness or hearing loss.
On the job suggestions include:
• asking the person how to get their attention,
• using visual cues,
• assigning buddies for emergency situations,
• using written communication or texts during emergencies, and
• making sure employees with deafness and hearing loss are included in conversations, breaks, and social events.
Phones that allow for using sign language or captioning exist and many are provided free-of-charge to individuals with deafness or hearing loss. If you notice your employee is struggling with telecommunications, you may find resources to share with them. If your employee uses sign language, they may already have a telecommunications service they use. If not, here is a list of service providers for Internet and Video Relay service providers (https://www.puc.texas.gov/relaytexas/relay/InternetVideo.aspx ). Some employees, generally those who speak, might prefer having someone to type what speakers say, and they might use some of these free captioning telephones (http://www.agbell.org/Document.aspx?id=1691 ).
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Accommodation Network, or JAN, provides extensive information and resources regarding communicating with employees (http://askjan.org/media/Hearing.html ). One of JAN’s most useful resources is their free, live assistance. You can post questions with JAN consultants at this link (http://askjan.org/JANonDemand.htm ) or call them at (800)526-7234(800)526-7234 FREE (Voice) or (877)781-9403(877)781-9403 FREE (TTY).
While most of the responsibility for communication is often placed upon the individual with deafness or hearing loss, don’t let that stop your employees from learning sign language via YouTube, website, or popular apps (http://mashable.com/2014/04/21/how-to-sign/#wNhbOov6wZk ) or by texting, emailing, instant messaging, or handwriting notes, depending on the needs of your employee. These alternative methods of communication are helpful when environments are loud or during emergencies. When all employees take active part in ensuring effective communication, everyone wins.