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Jobs - Information on Deafness for Employers

Helping Employers to Hire Deaf/HOH

By

Updated April 28, 2009

Many employers want to hire deaf and hard of hearing people, but have fears and concerns, or simply lack needed information that would make it easier for them to hire qualified deaf job applicants. Questions that an employer may ask include:

Q: Do I have to hire a deaf person who applies for the job?
A: No, but you do have to give the deaf person the same chance as a hearing person, and provide accomodations if the deaf person is hired (if the deaf person needs accomodations).

Q: I have had an employee for a long time, and now this employee has lost some hearing. How can I accomodate that employee's needs?
A: The Guidelines for Employers section farther down this page has the information and resources needed.

Q: I have just hired a deaf person. How can I help my other employees adjust?
A: See the Guidelines for Employers section.

Typical employer fears and concerns:

Employers often hold back from hiring a qualified deaf/hoh job applicant because of unrealistic myths or fears. These fears include:
  • Fear that it will cost a lot to have a deaf employee because of needed accomodations. The truth: It does not cost a fortune. The cost is usually minimal, and tax credits may be available.
  • Concerns about communication. Thanks to modern technology, communication between employers and deaf employees is easier than ever - with e-mail, instant messaging,chat programs,and text paging. Even the telephone is no longer a barrier because of the ability to use relay services. I am frequently asked about communication, prior to an interview, when I look for a job. I've learned not to let the question bother me but just answer it matter-of-factly.
  • Concern about English. This, unfortunately, is a problem for some deaf job applicants who may not have good English. Employers should bear in mind that the level of fluency in English is not a reflection of a deaf person's intelligence. Employers are encouraged to look beyond the English, and to encourage deaf employees with weak English skills to continue to work to improve their skills.
An article in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, Volume 16, Number 2 / 2001, "Why Businesses Don't Employ People with Disabilities," discussed these additional fears: Fear of additional supervision and loss of productivity, the fear of being stuck forever with an employee who does not work out, and fear of damaged goods from having to hire a disabled person as a "charitable" thing to do.

Another article, "Ready to be Heard," in the Society for Human Resource Management's HR Magazine (September 2004), provides employers with more advice and resources.

Reasons Why Employers Should Hire Deaf/HOH People

Studies have shown that people with disabilities are very loyal and reliable employees, which is a real plus in a good economy when the labor market is tight. Hiring a deaf/hoh person not only gets the employer a good worker, it also gets that person out of dependence on federal support.

Tax Credits for Hiring Deaf/HOH People

Small businesses can get a tax credit for up to $5,000 for providing accomodations to hearing impaired employees. In some cases, vocational rehabilitation agencies can also help pay a new employee's wages temporarily. More detailed information is available on the Job Accomodation Network website.

Guidelines for Employers on Hiring Deaf/HOH People

The NTID Center on Employment has two guidelines online: The Federal government provides more information on its DisabilityInfo.gov website. Clicking on the "Employment" tab brings up the Employment menu, which includes a "For Employers" section. This section provides information on rights and regulations, employing people with disabilities, federal employment, workplace accomodation, tax information, and small business resources.

In conclusion, I would like to remind any employer reading this, that non-disabled people are only "temporarily abled," as the disability community likes to say. Everyone is at equal risk of becoming disabled at some point in their lives.

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