Encouraging Employers to Hire Deaf, Hard of Hearing Candidates this Winter

by Curtis Humphries

Since the COVID-19 crisis began in March, the job market in Arizona has changed dramatically. Jobs that were once staples have become rare, while others that never existed are becoming more commonplace.

As we are rebuilding the job market, are we doing all that we can to provide an opportunity to some of the more vulnerable populations as potential employees.

In Arizona, we have more than 1.1 million Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind community members — many potential employees. Nationally, more than 50% of deaf adults are unemployed or out of the job market. This lack of employment is not reflective of a lack of skill but often due to a lack of opportunity.

As a member of the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing community, I have seen firsthand how hard it is to break through the interview process.

All Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind people have stories of interviews that have gone wrong as soon as our hearing status becomes known — either before or during the interview. It doesn’t generally matter how qualified or educated we may be. The employer sees a “difficultly,” and the bar gets raised incredibly high or the job mysteriously gets filled.

With headphones and other devices so close to our ears in everyday life, hearing damage is a common issue that people face on a regular basis. It is an issue that employers will face with new and existing employees as time goes on. Small accommodations, such as improved phone technology or even how a meeting is structured, can help a productive employee continue to be productive for many years.

I believe that most employers are not purposely discriminating against those with varying hearing loss. But I think there is a lack of exposure and unfamiliarity about what it takes to accommodate a person’s deafness. The truth is, these employees could be very rewarding to the business in terms of work production, overall loyalty and giving the company culture a boost of diversity. Many employers find that the cost of accommodation is significantly less than they expect. But the most significant point is that it’s the right thing to do.

To help the business community, the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing has started a new campaign: Let’s Get To Work. The goal is to speak directly with the business community and help them gain an important understanding of the issue. We offer an employer guide and can provide free training and technical assistance to help your company meet its goals of becoming a truly accommodating workplace for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.

We are also looking to celebrate our partners and let the state’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing community know about companies willing to commit to hiring.

We encourage businesses to join us in this important campaign at ChangeYourPerception.org or to contact the Commission at employment@acdhh.az.gov.

Humphries is the business manager with the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing, a statewide information bureau for issues related to people with hearing loss and a national leader in communication access, support services and community empowerment throughout the state. The purpose of the agency, and its commissioners, is to ensure, in partnership with the public and private sector, accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing to improve their quality of life.

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