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Small touches that make a workplace inclusive for people with hearing disabilities

We live in a world where people with and without disabilities work together. Effective communication is essential to make sure work gets done and everyone has fun.

To make a workplace accessible for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, just a few small steps are needed.

Sneha Murali, a sign language interpreter, is a key member of the NGO Deaf Leaders Foundation, that works for empowerment of deaf people in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.

I have got some amazing feedback from companies that have deaf employees. They are focussed and productive all day and don't waste time on useless office distractions. Deaf people are fast learners and committed towards results. It is always best if team members know sign language for better understanding. This enables them to participate actively in team activities. Employing deaf people is undoubtedly a true win win situation for companies. - Sneha Murali, Deaf Leaders Foundation

Do you have deaf members in your team? Here are a few ways to enable them to feel a part of the team.

  • Provide captioned videos- Add captions to videos of team presentations so that deaf people can follow them. This way the entire team will grow.
  • Awareness about communication methods - Some deaf people prefer hearing aids over sign language. When a new person is hired, ensure that team members are given a heads up on what type of communication they prefer. Eventually, colleagues must know the best way to communicate with their team member.
  • Facing emergencies - All buildings have equipments to handle emergency situations. But are they accessible to deaf people? For instance, if an office building catches fire, there are alarm bells to alert employees. But how will a deaf employee be alerted? Employers can install flashlights and other such equipment for alerting deaf people.
  • Choose right spots for meetings - When you choose a spot for meeting, ensure that the space has ample lighting and space. Ask the deaf employee how they prefer to be communicated with. Providing them with handwritten or typed out information is the best. Other employees must be made aware that they must not sideline the deaf employee during discussions. Instead, they must also be made an active part of everything!

Jessy Samuel is the principal of Sheila Kothavala Institute of Deaf, one of the oldest deaf schools in Bengaluru.

"One does not have to know sign language to communicate with a deaf colleague. All you need is a pen and paper to write down what you want to communicate. Or maybe just send an SMS or WhatsApp message! This can be written down in basic English. Ensure that you talk to them in a slower pace and do not turn your back against them when you talk. If the room has good lighting, then perfect!", says Samuel.

Try and talk to your deaf colleagues regularly. Involve them in recreational activities and you could even consider learning sign language to bond with them well.

ALSO READ: Meet the deaf trainers who are helping to spread the good word about sign language

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