How to include Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing People in the Workplace

It is important for everyone to know they are valued. For a Deaf or hard-of-hearing (Deaf/HoH) employee there are small changes you can make to make sure they are included and let them know they are a valued member of your team.

It is important for everyone to know they are valued. For a Deaf or hard-of-hearing (Deaf/HoH) employee there are small changes you can make to make sure they are included and let them know they are a valued member of your team.

The employment rate among the deaf/HoH is only 48%. This is partly due to a lack of welcoming and inclusive workplaces where deaf/HoH employees feel comfortable.

If you have a deaf coworker, the best approach when talking to them is to start with eye contact. Eye contact is essential because many deaf people use lip-reading to assist in their communications with others. The key is to speak normally and be patient. Anticipate the fact that you may need to repeat yourself while talking.

In our pandemic world, consider using masks with a clear window, where safe. Clear masks will help your deaf employees (and deaf community members) immensely. Added bonus: These masks let everybody see your smile!

Providing these accommodations can ensure that the deaf/HoH employee can succeed in their position and produce their best possible work to the benefit of the company:

The Interview

  • Ask the candidate how the prefer to communicate during the interview.
  • If requested, arrange for an interpreter for the interview.
  • Be aware that the candidate may speak for themself, or the interpreter may voice what the candidate signs.
  • During the interview, make eye contact with the candidate.
  • Address your questions directly to the candidate, not the interpreter.
  • Encourage the candidate to let you know if your communication is unclear and be prepared to rephrase if necessary.
  • It is a best practice to provide a written copy of the following: the interview questions, an itinerary of the interview day, and company literature.

Training Videos

During the training process, providing captioning on all training videos will not only make them accessible to the Deaf, it can actually help all new hires retain more information. It is important that Deaf/HoH employees have access to all training materials to have a fair chance at succeeding in their new job.

Workspace & IT Setup

An employee’s workspace and set up should also be discussed. If they are expecting to get phone calls you can provide a phone that is capable of video relay calls if they know ASL or a text phone. There may also be computer applications that can help them communicate.

Video Phone

You can get a free video phone for your Deaf or hard-of-hearing employee, allowing them to communicate through an interpreter when making phone calls. Sorenson Video Relay and Purple are two of the largest companies.

Colleague Communication & Department Awareness

During a new employee orientation, everyone who will be working with them should be notified of the new hire’s preferred communication methods. Educate the department on the proper etiquette and how to provide an inclusive environment. Colleagues should know the best way to get the individual’s attention when needed and how to communicate through writing or verbally.


When setting up for a meeting, choose a space that will provide the deaf/HoH employee with good visual access, with ample lighting and in direct line of sight if there is a primary speaker. Before the meeting begins, ask the employee how they would like to communicate and contribute in the meeting. Providing an agenda, presentation handouts and other written materials is also a good idea. Try to inform others in the meeting that they should avoid talking over each other and participate one at a time so it is clear who the speaker is. Make sure the meeting is transcribed and noted thoroughly with visual aids, or that CART or real-time captioning is provided.


In an emergency situation, most environments are not set up to properly notify a deaf/HoH employee. Flashing lights should accompany any alarms that sound. For emergency announcements made over loud speaker or intercom, use a buddy system to ensure the employee gets the message. Make use of text and email emergency alerts. All new employees should be walked through evacuation plans during their orientation.