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Workplace strategies for the deaf


Statistics show that people with a hearing loss on average are more likely to be unemployed, under employed or paid less than their hearing counterparts. People are mostly blind to hearing loss because it is invisible and when deaf employees don’t respond in the expected way they are sometimes seen as stupid. However with just a little thought and consideration people with a hearing loss are productive employees.

There are many reasons for considering those with hearing loss and supporting them in the work place. First of all there will be a sense of well-being among all staff and in turn this will lead to less stress and conflict. Secondly, people who get effective training and are given consideration feel appreciated, give improved work performance and this means better retention.

Here are some simple support strategies which will help management, staff and people with a hearing loss perform better on the job.
Recruitment and retention
o be aware that first impressions may not be reflect the true person
o avoid telephone interviews
o give the applicant a list of questions which will be asked in the interview so they will understand the requirements
Using the phone – remember some hard of hearing people can still use a phone
o speak clearly and slowly
o say who you want to talk to
o say who you are
o check the acoustics of the office so there is no interfering noise
Speak in simple and clear language
o if necessary say things more than once
o use key words
o don’t use jargon
o stick to one topic at a time
o don’t change topics quickly
o let people know of a topic change.
Provide a listening mate
o team them on the job with a hearing person who makes sure they understand what is being said
Use visual information - hearing people often rely on words alone but it will help the deaf person if there is more than one way to get information. People with a hearing loss often use different skills to listen because they haven’t got the auditory pathways and using different methods to communicate will make the message clearer
o Use white boards, written agendas, written outlines and non-verbal clues to help explain requirements
Clarify understanding of goals and expectations - if a deaf person doesn’t understand the big picture they can misunderstand everything.
o provide written instructions
o ask the deaf person to write down their understanding of their role
o use before and after strategies to make sure people understand what is going on (knowing what will happen and confirming what has happened)
Make meetings easier
o make sure they are familiar with the subject before meetings. If someone knows the subject matter then it is easier to listen than if they have no knowledge of what is being talked about
o one speaker at a time
o manage noise levels, check the acoustics of the room
o if the person uses a hearing aid with t’switch, provide a loop
o record on a whiteboard
o avoid overload - people tune out with overload and this is truer for those who have a hearing loss because it takes so much energy just to concentrate especially if relying heavily on lip reading
o allow time for discussion breaks
Manage listening demands
o match the person to a job they can handle (no good putting an attractive girl at reception if she cannot hear the customers)
o put training in place
o create routines

Above all, make sure people don’t feel silly or shamed if they answer inappropriately or repeat something which has already been said. Focus on what they do well not what they have difficulty with and this will help manage stress and emotional responses.

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Communicating with deaf people
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Content copyright © 2014 by Felicity Bleckly. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Felicity Bleckly. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Felicity Bleckly for details.

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