With more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, we are beginning to see more movement and activity in areas of society. The recent reduction of restrictions on businesses in the state will be a further step to returning to closer to what was known in the past.
All this change – as more people are vaccinated – is a positive step for business, and ultimately for the job market. But, when it comes to new jobs, we must make sure we don’t get back to “normal,” at least in terms of limiting opportunities to more vulnerable groups of the community,
Arizona is home to more than 1.1 million Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind individuals. We come from all walks of life, all levels of education and skill and from all races and cultures. But one thing we share, is that we have been traditionally left behind in the workplace.
Nationally, more than 50 percent of deaf adults are unemployed or out of the job market. This absence of employment is not correlated to a lack of skill or competency, but simply due to a lack of opportunity.
As a member of the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing community myself, I have seen countless times just how hard it is to break through the initial interview process.
Regardless of who you ask, all Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind individuals can share unfortunate stories of interviews gone wrong the moment the hiring manager became aware of our hearing status – whether that was before or during the interview – things typically went downhill quickly thereafter.
Most of the time it didn’t even matter how qualified or educated we may be. The employer only sees an “obstacle,” “complication” or an “inconvenience,” then suddenly the bar gets raised incredibly high, or the job is instantly filled. At best, it is ignorance by the employer. At worst, it is absolute discrimination.
The fact is hearing loss and damage is a common issue that many people face. Some are born with it, while offers face it over time. Either way, it does not change the quality of an individual and any skills they may have in the workplace.
For employers, it should not be an issue that is impossible to overcome. Minor accommodations, including interpreters, improved phone technology or even adjustments to the way a meeting is structured, can help these potential employees be productive for many years to come.
I believe most employers are not intentionally discriminating against those of us with varying hearing loss. However, I have found there is a lack of knowledge and understanding about what it takes to accommodate a person’s deafness.
No matter the reason behind it, we as a society must do better. Discrimination should not stand in any circumstance, including how we treat the deaf and hard of hearing in the workplace. It is time for us to do the right thing,
The Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing has initiated a new campaign to help Arizona’s business community called – Let’s Get to Work. The goal is to communicate directly with the business owners and decision makers to help them achieve a newfound understanding of the issue.
The Commission provides an informative employer guide and can offer free training and technical assistance to help companies achieve their goals of becoming accommodating workplaces for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.
We extend an invitation for businesses to join us in this important campaign at ChangeYourPerception.org or to contact the Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collins is the Executive Director 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.