How to Act: DOs and DO NOTs
Simple strategies to create inclusive environments in the workplace for deaf and hard-of-hearing colleagues.
Working with people who are deaf and/or hard-of-hearing can be mutually beneficial and rewarding.
It is the employer’s responsibility to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for employees who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. This includes aiding ease of communication and providing resources they need to succeed in their position.
Experts recommend putting inclusive practices in place before requests are made. Further planning for accommodation should be discussed on a case-by-case basis with new employees.
Below is a quick overview of what to do and not to when communicating with deaf or hard-of-hearing colleagues and a few resources to help to create an inclusive workplace.
|Ask deaf or hard-of-hearing employees how they prefer to communicate (email, instant messaging, text, speech reading, writing, signing, demonstration, etc.)||Do not assume deaf and hard-of-hearing people prefer to communicate in the same way|
|Maintain eye contact and face the person you are communicating with||Do not look away, turn your back, obstruct, chew or cover your mouth when communicating|
|Clearly explain the topic of the conversation. Repeat when the topic changes||Do not say “I’ll tell you later”, “never mind”, or “it doesn’t matter” – deaf and hard-of-hearing people hear these phrases or variations a lot while being excluded from information or conversations|
|Encourage deaf or hard-of-hearing employees to ask questions if communication is unclear||Do not stand or sit directly in front of a light source, lighting is important for the person to see you clearly sign, speak and communicate|
|Clarify, ask questions when and if communication is not clear||Do not give up when a misunderstanding takes place. A little effort goes a long way in inclusive communication experiences|
|Repeat and rephrase information. Try using a different word or phrase to clear any misunderstanding||Do not creep up or approach deaf or hard-of-hearing people from behind (approach from the side, by waving or tapping their shoulder to gain their attention)|
|Review key points of the conversation to make sure everything discussed has been understood||Do not assume deaf and hard-of-hearing people can lip read (not all can, and those who do, do not lip read exclusively to communicate)|
|Maintain a reasonable distance when communicating (important for hearing aid users, lip readers and signers)||Do not yell, over pronounce or exaggerate – this can alter your natural rhythm of speech and make you more difficult to understand|
|Take turns communicating when there is more than one person in a conversation||Do not talk over each other, it is hard to follow (take turns and wait for a person to finish what they are saying)|
|Plan ahead to ensure formal / group meetings are accessible (interpreter support, meeting etiquette, reference materials, room set-up, etc.)|
|Use open-ended questions that requires more than a yes/no answer; this ensure your message has been received and understood|
|Look at the person you are communicating with, even when an interpreter is present|
|Learn Auslan (Australian Sign Language) and support Deaf and hard-of-hearing awareness training at work to increase inclusion and better communication|
Note: all links listed in the sections below open in a new window
Rochester Institute of Technology - National Technical Institute for the Deaf (opens in a new window)
Hearing, Speech & Deaf Center (HSDC) (opens in a new window)
Legal Aid New South Wales (opens in a new window)
Guide Dogs SA/NT (opens in a new window)