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Myths of employing a deaf person

Alexandra Broderick, a Biomedical Scientist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, on misconceptions.

deaf illustration - CREDIT-shutterstock-2391161861

I have heard from talented deaf individuals facing obstacles with recruitment agencies and employers disregarding their needs. There are prevalent misconceptions about deafness and the support available for deaf employees. Many employers insist on the importance of communication but frequently fail to put it into practice.

01 “Deaf people are not fully qualified and experienced”

Not every deaf person can pursue a high-powered career, but with the right support and belief, they can reach their goals and contribute their skills.

02 “Deaf people cannot use the telephones”

We live in the 21st century and we have the technology to make contact with people. There is Text Relay - (“Text relay offers text-to-speech and speech-to-text translation services. A relay assistant in a call centre acts as an intermediary, enabling people with hearing or speech impairments to communicate with other people over the telephone.” – Ofcom) or SignLive/LipsLive (video interpreting service). Due to patient confidentiality, Text relay isn’t possible/ideal in the NHS. I hope for a secure web chat in the NHS, making my job more efficient. Embrace and be flexible with technology – not every person enjoys using the telephone, some people with auditory processing disorders struggle.

03 “Deaf people are poor communicators”

Deaf individuals use various communication methods, such as British Sign Language or sign-supported English. Some rely on lipreading, while others use gestures or write things down to communicate. We’ve worked hard to overcome being misunderstood, so we can’t miss anything – we have a responsibility. Deaf people are direct and avoid overcomplicating things to communicate more efficiently. Bruno Kahne’s book Deaf Tips teaches employees to communicate like deaf people, based on the efficient communication methods observed in the deaf community. When in doubt, ask rather than assume. Some may need sign language interpreters, lipspeakers, or speech-to-text captions. Most of us are happy to share our needs. Asking shows respect.

04 “Deaf people are too expensive to support”

Most of us rely on the Access to Work government programme for support with equipment and communication. Depending on the company size, some employers contribute to funding.

We simply ask for your support and encourage managers to discuss the support we receive to maximise our contributions to your company. The manager’s support to us is invaluable.

05 “Deaf people are a health hazard”

It is illegal to discriminate based on health and safety, as mentioned by HSE: “health and safety legislation should not prevent disabled people finding or staying in employment and should not be used as a false excuse to justify discriminating against disabled people”. We develop different methods for health and safety, such as flashing fire alarm lights and pagers. This requires thinking creatively and considering how to ensure safety for those who are deaf. Education is crucial to show employers that ableist attitudes can be harmful and illegal towards deaf people.


Pardon, I’m Deaf Facebook Group -

The RNID website - 

Image credit | Shutterstock

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