Monday, February 26, 2007

Deaf and Hard of Hearing People-- The Realities of Employment

At a recent Parent Connection meeting over the weekend, a supervisor of deaf education mentioned that deaf and hard of hearing people often have difficulties finding employment and most are underemployed.

Many deaf and hard of hearing persons, the supervisor explained, often do not have opportunities to move up to higher positions despite being qualified to do so.

On the Hands & Voices website, the statistics are rather dismal but many of the studies are also quite old: A Snapshot of Statistics.

From the site:

Approximately 40% of deaf adults are unemployed and 90% are underemployed. (Siegel, 2000).

Underemployed simply means that someone has degrees, qualifications or skills that are not being utilized in their current employment.

The truth is a somewhat muddled picture. Today, with so much technology available, there are many more opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing persons to take on a variety of jobs that were considered unthinkable thirty years ago. We have doctors, lawyers, vets, reporters, realtors, financial advisors-- the list goes on. Yet, deaf and hard of hearing persons often have a difficult time of even getting their foot in the door and obtaining an interview. The one thing that often presents a barrier is the attitude of the person doing the hiring. One has to wonder how many qualified, talented deaf and hard of hearing persons are overlooked for jobs because of the perception that their "hearing deficiencies" will present a problem.

Jo Waldron sums it up: "The worst barrier in the world is attitude." Marlee Matlin, in a Business Week article also has something to say about attitude: All it takes to realize that a deaf person can rise to any task is a little awareness and interaction. All it takes is a little awareness. I like to say that the greatest handicap of deafness does not lie in the ear, it lies in the mind.

Check out Trudy Suggs' article: Will Work For Food.

Thoughts, anyone?


Deaf Niches said...

Your posting, although not surpising, shows the reality of deaf people. It is easy to gain employment at deaf schools or in any businesses (few) have higher number of deaf employees.

Anonymous said...

The reality of the Deaf? The reality of Deaf or Special Education? Do they teach critical thinking? Do they offer "shop talk" to Deaf children? Do they talk about taxes? Or these Deaf children need to learn how to "hear and talk" so that they could have a job?

Anonymous said...

I went to the Helen Keller National Center last week for my job interview. The staff I met so far there - excluding the ones that were absent - were not disabled as far as I could see.

I've noticed that the top positions - above teacher rank - are occupied by hearing people in even schools for the deaf and other organizations/agencies serving the deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deaf-blind population.

I recently engaged everyone in a discussion of this issue... One friend said that this may be due to power grab, a dearth of qualified deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deaf-blind people, and downright biased views of disabled applicants. Another friend believes that this is also due to the fact that there are more hearing people than there are deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deaf-blind people... And there are more positions in this country related to deafness than there are qualified deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deaf-blind people to cover these positions.

I'm not sure what to think about this trend in employment.

I do believe that there is a dearth of qualified deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deaf-blind individuals who can assume positions at the BA, MA, and Ph.D levels...

What's your two cents?

Karen said...


Yes, we do have to improve the way our children are educated so that each one of them reaches their highest potential.

groovyoldlady said...

I think blogs like yours make a difference too, Karen. I've only had a few contacts in the deaf/hearing impaired world, but this is the first time I've ever been educated. My attitudes now have become so different from what they were before I met you. If only there were a way to educate employers too.

And yes, deaf children need to be taught skills that will help them integrate into a hearing world.

Celeste said...

I am hard of hearing. I have less than 40% hearing in both ears. As soon as a prospective employer hears (or figures out) that I cannot hear everything that is said to me they lose interest. In the past I had them tell me to me face that they will not hire me because of my hearing. This was before it was illegial ro do so. I have a college degree and I am unemployed outside of the home. I do not recieve disability either. I am a lipreader and my greatest fear is going blind. My eyesight is poor also.
i recieved no special education in school, no concessions for my hearing. I was in 4 th grade before it was even discovered! I was born this way. I'm sorry I am rambling.
The reality is in every job interview or application that I revealed that I had a hearing loss I was not hired. NOt even Mickie D's.

Anonymous said...

You might want to read SWAP-the hero is hearing impaired.

Karen said...

What is SWAP?