Deaf/Hard of Hearing Accessibility in the Work Environment

By Monica Garvin posted 27 days ago


July 13, 2020

Monica Garvin is an employer relations specialist at Gallaudet University.

Deaf/hard of hearing employees often face challenges when communicating with their work associates who are not aware of their access and communication needs.

In today’s rapidly evolving climate, organizations must ensure their environments are accessible so that employees are fully engaged and well-prepared to do their jobs. American Sign Language (ASL) users and English speakers should work together effectively and efficiently to make the work environment amenable for everyone regardless of their hearing status. 

Here are a few tips on communicating with deaf/hard of hearing Individuals: 

  1. Never assume anything about how a deaf/hard of hearing person communicates!   Not all deaf/hard of hearing people’s communication styles are the same.  Always ask what their preference is and what ways communication can be improved. Some prefer to use ASL, which is a natural occurring language with its own grammatical rules and visual cues; some might prefer to speak, and some might prefer to use technology such as text, email, or simply typing back and forth using a computer. 
  1. Don’t assume that lipreading is effective or that all deaf/hard of hearing can lipread. Lipreading does not allow 100 percent understanding.  For example, “I love you” and “olive juice” look the same.  Only about 25 percent of what is said is understood when lipreading. 
  1. When communicating, don’t yell/talk loudly. Make sure you are facing them and making eye contact.  Body language and facial expressions are key (as with verbal communication), however, don’t exaggerate your facial expressions as this may cause confusion.  
  1. When using a sign language interpreter, speak to the deaf/hard of hearing person directly, not to the interpreter. The interpreter is solely there to communicate what is being spoken or signed.  They are not part of the conversation.  Do not tell the interpreter, “tell him/her…” 

Society has broad misconceptions.  Genuine measures of understanding can help to break down and debunk those common misconceptions.  Acknowledging and realizing those differences can bring people who communicate differently together and avoid the potential for awkward moments and misconceptions to occur. 

Please join Gallaudet University’s Career Center team on July 23 for a free webinar titled Strategies in Working with Deaf/Hard of Hearing Employees to learn more about interacting with deaf/hard of hearing current and future employees. Register here:  or contact for more information.