Written by Clare Vale, Managing Director of Signs Solutions
Five million people of working age in the UK are living with hearing loss or Deafness and, whilst there are millions of Deaf people who are willing and able to work, sadly, people with hearing loss continue to face barriers when applying for jobs. In fact, almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents in a recent survey felt their employment opportunities were limited because of their hearing loss.
This need not be the case. There are steps employers and hiring managers can take to ensure their recruitment processes provide Deaf job applicants with the same opportunities as any other prospective employee. Here are some of the main things to consider.
Make job adverts clear
Businesses can ensure they recruit from the largest talent pool and include those who have hearing loss from the very outset by looking at their job adverts. They must make sure they advertise vacancies where people with hearing loss will see them, for example on disability recruitment sites like Deaf Jobs UK.
Employers’ attitudes towards hearing loss can be one of the main reasons why some Deaf people struggle to find and remain in employment, and many won’t disclose their disability on their application in case it affects their chances. They will be more likely to do so if the organisation makes it clear that they actively encourage applications from all.
Businesses should consider including an equal opportunities statement in their advert to let potential applicants know that they champion equality and diversity in the workplace and will support those with disabilities to fulfil their potential. Employers can also sign up for the Disability Confident scheme and include the badge on their advert to demonstrate this commitment.
Employers should think about the wording used in the advert carefully, clearly expressing the importance of matching people with the right skills to the job and should detail how applicants can request the job information in an accessible format. The advert should also offer a range of accessible contact options, for example an email address and SMS number to text, to allow Deaf applicants to get in touch easily and without hesitation.
Simplify application processes
Many job applications require lengthy submissions, and employers may need to take a flexible approach and adjust the application process for people with hearing loss. For example, some Deaf applicants who use BSL as their first language rather than English may struggle to complete the application form.
To overcome this hurdle businesses can use BSL interpretation tools to allow Deaf applicants to answer the questions in BSL and send a recording of their responses instead. To encourage more Deaf people to apply for roles, employers should clearly state on application forms that they offer accessible interviews at all stages if required, including for initial pre-screening telephone interviews, and should ensure application forms are in plain English and avoid jargon.
Understand the applicant’s requirements
Research shows that people who are Deaf or have hearing loss may be put off applying for jobs because of concern that their communication needs won’t be met during the interview process. Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are required to provide reasonable adjustments to ensure candidates who are Deaf are not put at a substantial disadvantage compared to candidates who are hearing. Every Deaf person is different, so hiring managers should not make assumptions, and should always ask what adjustments – if any – applicants need, as well as letting them know what the format of the interview will be, i.e. if they will be required to do a written test, telephone interview, presentation or group exercise.
Ensure the interview setup is appropriate
Prior to the interview, employers should find out if a BSL interpreter or other type of communication support service is required to ensure they can be booked in advance. Such services do not come at a cost to the company if the individual is applying for a paid position and can be funded through the Access To Work (ATW) scheme. Employers should also ensure the setup for the interview is appropriate for the Deaf candidate, for example by checking the room is arranged properly and is adequately lit to enable lip reading. The room should be laid out so that the candidate is not facing a window, as this puts the interviewer’s face in shadow and could prevent the candidate from seeing their lips. The interviewer should check with the candidate that the arrangement works for them before commencing the interview. If using a sign language interpreter, they must remember to address questions to the candidate, not their interpreter.
Offer ongoing provision
Upon making a job offer to a Deaf applicant, employers should make it clear that having hearing loss or any other disability or health condition is okay, and that they will be fully supported so they can bring their whole selves to work. By being proactive in offering support at key stages of contact over the journey of employment, including at offer stage, new employees will feel reassured that support is available.
Employers should use this period to discuss any necessary workplace adjustments with the new employee so that they can be made before their first day. They should make sure they understand all duties and responsibilities they will be expected to fulfil as part of their role, so they can determine which adjustments and equipment they are going to need and can detail these in their application to ATW.
ATW funding will usually cover a mix of face to face and video interpretation, translation and note taking services for any Deaf employee, and will allow them to pre-book a face to face or video interpreter on-demand to communicate instantly. External interpretation providers can also be used to translate any written policies or information and training videos into a BSL video to make them accessible for the Deaf employee.
Take advantage of external support
As well as making reasonable adjustments for the new Deaf employee, employers and HR managers should take advantage of the array of external support available to help them create an equal and inclusive experience for Deaf employees.
For example, Sign Solutions offers a package of advice, support and solutions to enable businesses to make their recruitment processes more inclusive. This includes training and awareness around the barriers Deaf people face when looking for employment and a comprehensive hiring and employment guide covering the advertising of the role, the recruitment process and ongoing inclusive employment practices.
With the right adjustments and employer support, hearing loss does not have to present a barrier in the job application process, nor in the workplace itself, for Deaf employees. By giving them the support they need, educating the entire workforce and seeking external guidance, businesses will profit from the diverse skills and talents many Deaf people have to offer, and employees with hearing loss will benefit, too.
 World Health Organisation, 2020
 NHS England, 2017
 NHS England, 2017
About the author
Clare is the Managing Director of Signs Solutions, a specialist company specialising in deafness awareness and training and providing business signing translators. Clare has been with the company since January 2005. Clare’s professional background is in accountancy, which is where she started her career as Finance Manager.