If you’re deaf, it’s easy for the person on the other side to dismiss you immediately. “Oh, they’re deaf? Then they can’t talk. Why should I bother?” 

It’s a challenge our recent podcast guest, Spencer Collins, has often faced. But with his successful career in hospitality and private staffing, he’s blown those assumptions out of the water. 

With over 10 years of experience in the private sector as a house manager, Spencer shares his experiences of being deaf in this industry, the difficulties he overcame, and what’s possible for others like him. We also emphasise why we should be encouraging diversity and inclusion, just like in other sectors. 

Interviewing a deaf candidate

Typically, the first stage of an interview is a phone screening. Obviously, this won’t work for a deaf candidate. A candidate can email to ask for either a video call interview, an email correspondence, or a sign language interpreter to tackle this.

The Equality Act 2010 legally requires the employer to make any reasonable adjustments requested by the candidate. With the explosion of video calls as we all worked from home, many hiring managers are able and happy to fulfil this request. 

Approaching deafness and hearing loss in the workplace

In the UK, 5 million working-age people have some level of hearing loss, ranging from partial deafness to a total inability to hear. Over half of these people haven’t told their employer about it for fear of a negative outcome. This lack of understanding and openness can cause talented individuals to miss out on job opportunities.

Often, employees who are deaf or have hearing loss can feel marginalised by their employer or colleagues. In fact, 7 out of 10 employees with hearing loss said that their colleagues don’t communicate effectively with them. But there’s usually no malice involved; they just don’t know how to effectively communicate with a deaf person.

Here are some tips for communicating effectively with people with hearing loss:

  • Ensure they have your attention before you start speaking.
  • Speak face to face, so they see your lip movements.
  • Speak clearly, using regular movements and gestures. 
  • Try to avoid waffling.
  • If they can’t understand you, consider saying it differently.

What to consider when hiring a deaf person

When asked what he’d tell a company hiring for a role that hasn’t or wouldn’t consider hiring a deaf person, Spencer offered five excellent points: 

  • Attitude is everything. Spencer has heard many stories from disabled jobseekers regarding poor attitudes from recruiters. The trick is simple: treat a disabled jobseeker the same way you’d treat any other.
  • Don’t judge a deaf person by their cover. It’s easy to dismiss a deaf person and think that their potential communication issues could hold them back from a role. But in reality, it isn’t the case. They’re just as capable as any other person.
  • Don’t assume you know a lot about a deaf person. If a candidate has the perfect mindset, skills, and ability, then being deaf should not stop them from landing the role.
  • Everyone is different. Like any other person, deaf people have their individual personalities, quirks, and strengths. It’s impossible to lump them all together into one group.
  • Be aware of the Equality Act 2010. It was created to protect against discrimination in employment. In the case of disability and deafness, it puts employers under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to overcome barriers disabled people may face.

With plenty of support available from the Department of Work and Pensions to support deaf candidates in the workplace, there’s no reason not to hire somebody who happens to have this impairment. 

Watch the full episode

You can access the entire episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your preferred podcast platform.

This blog is only a summary of the conversation we had with Spencer. To understand how you can be more inclusive, watch the full episode here

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