Promoting Workforce Opportunity for the Deaf

by Mike Hunter

With a rise in unemployment rates due to COVID-19, the deaf and hard of hearing are particularly vulnerable in the workplace. In fact, a study published in The New York Times acknowledged that employers are 34 percent less likely to hire an experienced job candidate with a disability. For this, among other reasons, nearly half of deaf people (47 percent) are not in the labor, force, compared to less than a quarter (23 percent) of hearing people.

The Arizona Commission for the Deaf & the Hard of Hearing launched a campaign the end of last month that aims to change those numbers and help additional deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind individuals obtain jobs across Arizona.

Arizona has an estimated 1.1 million individuals who are considered deaf or hard of hearing, and the “Let’s Get to Work” initiative is aimed at making sure they get the employment opportunities they deserve. The goal is to encourage employers in Arizona to interview, hire and, ultimately, promote workers who are deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind. 

“Arizona has a very talented workforce that is not getting hired due to their hearing status,” says Sherri Collins, executive director of the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing. ‘We are calling on businesses to commit to working with these employees to make sure they are getting the opportunities they deserve, both before and after the hiring process.”

The statewide public education and awareness campaign will focus on a variety of efforts to reach out to the business community, including advertising, outdoor billboards, digital advertising and direct outreach to employers. All the models used in the campaign are deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind and represent the diversity of the community both culturally and career-wise.

A key component will be providing education to the business community, particularly in the needs and costs of providing accessibility to workers. The Commission has developed a full employment guide to help employers understand the key needs of this community.

“One of the biggest limitations for many businesses is their understanding of how to provide accommodations for their employees,” says Collins. “The Commission is a great resource for helping individuals and businesses navigate the world of accessibility. Many people are surprised that it is not as costly or complicated as they would expect.”

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