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Cultivating an Inclusive Environment

If you recently hired a Deaf individual (or if you have had a Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing individual on your team for a while) it’s important to make sure your company is Deaf-friendly and fosters an environment where Deaf employees thrive. Unfortunately, many Deaf employees feel they are not part of the team when efforts and accommodations are not made to fully include them. If that is the case, they may be less able to contribute beyond minimum expectations.

The first step is making sure you provide ways for the Deaf employee to participate in day-to-day activities. Meetings, trainings, seminars, or just daily work can all require accommodations to provide an equivalent experience. Always ask the Deaf employee their preferred accommodation. It may not be the same for every situation and being flexible will help secure their comfort in their work environment.

Also consider a cultural competency training for the rest of your employees to educate them and to help avoid stereotypes, assumptions, and discrimination. Cultural competency will provide an understanding of what it means to be Deaf, what accommodations may be required, and how to connect beyond the language barrier so everyone can effectively collaborate. If accommodations are overlooked, a sense of isolation may lead to the Deaf employee not contributing to meetings and other discussions.

Be sure that you are fully including your Deaf employee(s) in social activities as well! Inviting them to partake in team bonding exercises and events can make the team even more cohesive. Accommodations will still be needed, but it is worth the investment to let them know they are a valued and respected member of the organization.