Inclusion and diversity are hot topics these days. As boardroom executives ponder how to expand their company’s inclusion and diversity, 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 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protections for the disabled, but when businesses focus on how to expand diversity and inclusion of the disabled, they too often focus only on the physically disabled. In limiting their focus, they ignore the Deaf community and also run the risk of non-compliance.
Expanding availability to the Deaf community is a win-win situation—previously underserved populations have better access to services, and companies grow their clientele. What can businesses do to expand accessibility? The following four steps are a good start for any company looking to improve ADA compliance and benefit from more potential employees and customers.
Incorporate the Deaf into Your ADA Plan
Businesses that aren’t adapted to serve or employ the Deaf are not in compliance with ADA expectations. Period. More importantly, they are missing out on an opportunity to be leaders in a movement to embrace Deaf culture.
Once they know this, the next important step is to review and revise their ADA plan to place a special emphasis on how the company will address the Deaf community. Similar to 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 ADA requirements.
Review Policies and Procedures
Every company has a set of operating policies and methods which describe their standard operating processes. Businesses will need to study 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 agreement with ADA expectations, companies should be providing an equal opportunity for the Deaf to take part in the company’s services, programs, activities, employment, and benefits.
Seek Out Deaf Job Seekers
US Department of Education studies have shown that implementing accommodations for the disabled is economical and that the result of reaching out to the disabled returns significant advantages. In general, disabled employees were typically ranked higher for performance, productivity, quality, and flexibility.
Some of these accommodations include providing employees with new technology—such as video software and video phones. This makes it easier for all employees to communicate effectively.
Create a Culture of Acceptance
If an organization is looking for inclusion and diversity, the greatest 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 endeavors to develop an organization that addresses the full spectrum of diversity in individuals.
In such a culture, all employees feel valued, and the company views them as their keys to success. For the Deaf, this includes avoiding unnecessary miscommunication by providing tools and resources that make conversation between the Deaf and those that can hear near instantaneous.
In Conclusion, Aiming for Inclusion
If a business truly seeks inclusion and diversity, taking these steps for the Deaf community will go a long way in achieving these goals. It will also serve to raise company morale.
Businesses that value all of their employees and customers and strive to meet their needs do better. It’s time to do better.