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Deaf Discrimination and How to Avoid it in the Workplace

  • Publish Date: Posted about 1 year ago
  • Author:by Nicole Royles

​What is Deaf Discrimination?

Deaf Discrimination refers to the unfair treatment of individuals who are deaf or hard hearing. These discriminations can take many forms such as:

  • Failing to provide reasonable adjustments.

  • Exclusion from social and work activities.

  • Unequal treatment in the hiring process.

  • Audism- believing people are inferior because of their inability to hear.

  • Treating those who are unable to hear differently.

A recent survey by the Royal Association for Deaf People revealed that a lack of awareness of deaf individuals in the workplace was a significant barrier to employment. The study highlighted that 69% reported feeling lonely at work, with 83% feeling excluded from conversations with colleagues.

By taking certain steps, employers can create an inclusive workplace that values the contributions of all employees, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

How to Avoid Discrimination?

Communication is a key factor in the workplace, especially when working with a hearing impairment. Those who are deaf will have different communication needs, these may include:

Sign Language – British Sign Language (BSL) and International Sign Language.

Electronic Note- Takers- typing a summary of spoken words.

Lip Speakers- Facial expressions, using clear lip shapes, and gestures.

Be more deaf-aware- Celebrate awareness days or provide training in the workplace.

Remember to speak clearly, face the individual, and be patient.

Learning these and having different adjustments in place, will ensure that everyone is able to participate efficiently in the workplace.

Educate Other Employees-

Other employees within the workplace may not be aware of the deaf culture, or if anyone in their workplace is deaf, or partially deaf. It is important to educate employees so they have more awareness of deafness. This can then encourage employees to be more confident in engaging with deaf employees. With 63% of deaf individuals reporting that they hadn’t received equal workplace opportunities, educating employees and employers is a relevant beginning point.

Be Fair in the Hiring Process-

As an employer, it’s vital to ensure job requirements are not discriminating and are directly related to the position. During the interview process, employers should also ensure they provide accommodations, e.g. sign language, to allow for effective communication. Not only this, but employers should evaluate candidates based on their qualifications and ability to do the job role, and not their disability.

A woman conducting sign language to her laptop

Making Reasonable Adjustments-

Employers have a duty in the workplace to adjust for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, to ensure that they are provided with the same treatment and opportunities as others in the business.

What is considered reasonable adjustments?

  • Allowing people to send messages through emails or text instead of phone calls or approaching someone in person.

  • Having colleagues learn the language of specific individuals in the workplace allows for inclusivity.

  • Listening to recommendations or adjustment ideas to provide a positive work experience.

  • Providing any equipment required of the individual.

A man and woman sat on a sofa having a conversation using sign language

What are your health and safety rights in the workplace?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 doesn’t include any disability-specific requirement for employers. However, according to the equality law, you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments so a deaf employee or an employee with impaired hearing isn’t put at a disadvantage compared with others.

How to keep deaf people safe?

  • Ensure the fire alarms can still be heard if an employee has a hearing impairment.

  • It’s important to have visual alarms in more secluded areas such as private spaces, or bathrooms so those who are deaf can still be alarmed.

  • Fire marshals should be made aware of deaf employees, it’s also important that they complete deaf awareness training, to ensure they’re able to communicate effectively in the case of an emergency.

To read more on Deaf awareness in the workplace, there are many web pages you can visit-


NHS Employers

National Deaf Society

Need additional advice? Contact any of our experts, we're more than happy to offer assistance where needed to contribute towards a more inclusive working environment.

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