Inclusion and diversity are hot topics these days and as boardroom executives ponder how to expand their companies 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 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 while running the risk of non-compliance. Expanding availability to the Deaf community is a win-win situation since you open up greater opportunities for more qualified individuals. Let’s start changing that and go over the 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 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. Knowing this now, the next important first step is to review and revise your 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 the ADA requirements.
2. Review Policies and Procedures
Every company has a set of operating policies and methods which describe their standard operating processes. 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, and benefits.
3. Seek Out Deaf Job Seekers
US Department of Education studies has 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 – 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 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 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. It will also raise the morale of a company by showing employees that they care about everyone no matter what. Increasing morale is priceless and something every company should strive to raise.