Inclusion and diversity is a hot topic these days. As Boardrooms ponder how to expand inclusion and diversity in their organizations, one segment of the population is often overlooked – the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Community. This community represents the third largest cultural-linguistic group in the US after English. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protections for the disabled but when businesses focus on how to expand inclusion and diversity of the disabled, they too often focus on the physically disabled. In limiting their focus, they ignore the Deaf Community and run the risk of non-compliance but, more importantly, the opportunity of working with this large segment of the population. Accordingly, here are four ways that businesses can expand their ADA compliance efforts and tap into this rich resource of potential employees and customers.
1. Incorporate the Deaf into your ADA plan
Businesses that aren’t prepared to serve or employ the Deaf are not in compliance with ADA expectations but, more importantly, they are missing out on an opportunity to be leaders in a movement to embrace Deaf culture. So, an important first step is to review and revise your ADA plan to place a special emphasis on how the company addresses the Deaf Community. Just like addressing physical disabilities, the Deaf have a unique set of challenges that all companies should be aware of and should be taking steps to address as part of their response to the ADA requirements.
2. Review Policies and Procedures
Each company has a set of operating policies and procedures which outline their standard operating processes. Review these policies and enhance them to ensure that they address the needs of the Deaf as both employees of the company as well as its customers. In compliance with ADA expectations, companies should be providing an equal opportunity for the Deaf to take part in the company’s services, programs, activities, and benefits.
3. Seek out Deaf job seekers
US Department of Education studies have shown that implementing accommodations for the disabled is inexpensive and that the result of reaching out to the disabled pays significant benefits. In general, disabled employees were typically rated higher for performance, productivity, quality and flexibility. Some of these accommodations include providing employees with new technology – such as video software and video phones – making it easier for all employees to communicate vocally and visually.
4. Create a culture of acceptance
If an organization is looking for inclusion and diversity, the best step they can take is to create an organizational culture of acceptance. This culture goes far beyond just seeking ADA compliance for the disabled and deaf, but seeks to develop an organization that addresses the full spectrum of diversity and includes all in its employees as keys to the company’s success. For the Deaf, this includes avoiding unnecessary miscommunication by providing tools and resources that make conversations between the Deaf and those that can hear near instantaneous.
If a business truly seeks inclusion and diversity, taking these steps for the Deaf Community will go a long way in achieving these goals.