Common barriers Deaf people face in the workplace

Deaf people don’t just face barriers in the workplace – finding a job to begin with can also be a difficult task.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing people often have to work even harder to secure employment opportunities and prove their worth, mainly due to the lack of Deaf awareness.

Applying for jobs can lead to numerous questions and concerns like ‘will the employer be able to provide an interpreter if I get to the interview stage?’, ‘will my Deafness affect my employability?’ and ‘will I get the support I need from my fellow employees and managers?’.

Encouraging an organisational culture that is accepting of everyone, where everyone feels valued and able to contribute, is a fundamental part of good business management.

So, by becoming more aware and learning about the Deaf community you will encourage and relax potential candidates with the peace of mind they will be treated equally and given the same support and opportunities.

Barriers Deaf people face at work

Many Deaf people still experience issues with audism – the belief that the ability to hear makes one superior to those with hearing loss – in the workplace. In order to break down the barriers to communication, businesses must become more inclusive and accessible.

With the rise in Zoom and Teams meetings, Deaf people are once again faced with a communication barrier. If they rely on lip reading, a video conference call can become challenging, with buffering, un-synced sound and background noise being picked up on a microphone.

Challenges also arise in a face-to-face setting, especially if your business works in an open-plan office.

The background noise from other employees while a Deaf person is trying to have a conversation makes communication between them and the other person extremely difficult.

Furthermore, if fellow employees are not trained and aware of the Deaf employees’ needs, this can lead to discrimination. For example, if a hearing person shouts across the room or talks to a Deaf person without facing them, this leaves the Deaf employee feeling undervalued and unseen.

To tackle these barriers Deaf and hard of hearing people face, businesses need to ensure Deaf awareness training is provided for all employees. Basic sign language should become a necessity and Deaf people must be given the support they need to excel and succeed in their role.

Tips for co-workers when communicating with a Deaf person

If you have Deaf or Hard of Hearing employees, the first step is to better understand their communication needs, so you can support them in the workplace.

Gain attention

Tapping a Deaf person on the shoulder or lightly on their desk to gain their attention before speaking to them. Make sure you have your Deaf colleague’s attention before you start talking to them. You can do this by putting yourself in their line of vision.

Speak clearly

Try not to mumble, speak too loudly, or cover your mouth. Many Deaf people can lip read, which will be made more difficult if you over-pronounce or mumble as this distorts your lip movements.

Check the lighting

To help your colleague see you clearly, make sure you have adequate lighting in the room so they can see your face. Also, try not to stand too close to them as this can distort the way they read your lips and facial expressions.

Limit background noise

Whether it’s other employees in an open office space, the radio, or loud outdoor traffic, the less background noise, the better. For those who wear hearing aids, it can be harder to process multiple sounds. Limiting background noise will enhance communication.

Check for understanding

Look for signs that your colleague is on the same page as you and is understanding throughout your conversation. If not, repeat or rephrase what you are saying and don’t be afraid to ask them how you can improve your communication.

Have good body language

Sit or stand face to face with your colleague so they can see your facial expressions as well as your body language. Maintain a good level of eye contact throughout your conversation, both when you’re communicating and when they are communicating.

Learn the basic signs

Learning the British Sign Language (BSL) alphabet and basic signs will significantly improve the way you can communicate with Deaf colleagues. Offering BSL training to hearing employees will enhance overall communication throughout your organisation.

Make your organisation more inclusive

There are around 11 million people with some form of hearing loss in the UK, many of whom have skills, expertise and experience that would make them an asset to any business.

You can make a difference and create a more inclusive work environment with Deaf awareness training.

Sign Solutions can help ensure your recruitment, training, and employment processes are as accessible and inclusive as possible.

To find out more about our recruitment support services, give us a call on 0843 178 0773, email or contact us via a BSL video interpreter.