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Deaf Awareness Week 2020 - Working when Deaf

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

CN: work, recruitment process, reasonable adjustments, Access to Work


Wishing you a happy deaf awareness week and a safe lockdown!

Here are links to my previous blogs:

It has been recorded that compared to 75% of hearing people, only 63% of Deaf and hard of hearing people are currently employed. Further, 1 in 5 Deaf and hard of hearing people in research from Action on Hearing Loss [link] were unemployed and looking for work, compared to 1 in 20 hearing people in the UK. Moreover, 59% of Deaf and hard of hearing people stated that the main barrier to employment was the attitudes of potential employers; and 49% stated that JobCentre Plus offices were not deaf aware.

I would like to say these figures surprise me, but they do not. from having to dodge phone interviews, job applications having a compulsory phone number field, to a potential employer’s having very little deaf awareness, it is very difficult for us. I remember from my own experience that despite requesting an induction loop, the staff members had no idea what this was and got angry that I had not responded when they had called my name from behind, and one interview on the sight of my interpreter (which they were previously told about) said I couldn’t interview with “my friend”!

Suffice to say, it is understandable that many of us are hesitant to disclose our deafness during the recruitment process in case it factors into us not being hired, as well as worries about not getting the communication support we need at interview.

So here are some tips on managing the job application process as a Deaf or hard of hearing person!

Recruitment process

The job advert

Disability Confident employers

Here is a BSL version on the topic of the Disability Confident scheme [link]. Some job adverts let applicants know that they value equality and diversity in the workplace, with the aim to support disabled people to reach their goals. These employers have signed up for the Disability Confident scheme and have included this badge on their advert. It is a government scheme designed to encourage employers to recruit disabled people, replacing the Two Ticks Positive About Disabled People scheme. Keep an eye out for these as these employers show commitment to supporting disabled applicants! Look here for a list of employers who have signed up to this scheme [link].

Guaranteed interviews – Here is a BSL version on the topic of the Guaranteed Interview scheme [link]. Some employers (those who have reached level 3 in the Disability Confident Scheme) give the option for disabled applicants to opt into a guaranteed interview should they meet the minimum criteria (60%) for the job. In theory, this is a great idea, because it means that Deaf and hard of hearing people are provided with an opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

However, there are still unresolved issues with this scheme. For instance, there has been a lot of criticism that employers are using this scheme as box-ticking for diversity and sometimes scores can be lower compared to not applying for a guarantee interview scheme. Further, it all depends on the interview panel and the person marking the application form as some have very little knowledge around disability and aren't Deaf aware.

Disclosing your deafness – there are pros and cons to both and at the end of the day, it is up to you! If you feel it is a part of you and you wish to tell the employer about it, then I would advise that you use your deafness as a way to focus on all the things you’ve achieved and can do, rather than the things you can’t do (e.g. “due to being deaf myself, this means that I am able to communicate in a variety of ways and am well-versed in connecting with people from a variety of backgrounds”). Often, employers are worried about how you will “overcome” your deafness and only see barriers, so it is a good idea to explain how it actually helps. It also may be that you’re applying for a job related to deafness (such as teaching at a deaf school), in which case it may support your application. However, you are not legally obligated to disclose any disability or deafness you have, and many argue that not including it means your application will be viewed the same as others, which may help to see what you have achieved.


Telephone interviews – this is a big barrier for Deaf and hard of hearing applicants! What is my best tip for avoiding these? When you can, do not list your number anywhere on your application or CV, just an email address or skype contact. If it is compulsory, I recommend putting down a landline or someone else’s number like a partner or relative (with their consent!). This means that if they call, you can ask them to say that you are currently unavailable, but that you will get back to them if they email.

Research – before your interview, research the company: what are their goals and values; what is listed in the person spec and how do you fit it; how will you get there. I always recommend bringing some notes of bullet points of anything you do not want to forget (e.g. “education background – college, uni 1, uni 2”). If anything, this shows that you are organised and prepared; I’ve always had employers compliment this technique!

Reasonable adjustments - if you (the applicant) acknowledge that you are disabled during your application form (usually a box that you tick), the employer will ask if you need any adjustments during each recruitment stage to ensure it is inclusive as possible – this includes the need for an interpreter, induction loop, or even just to ensure that the room is quiet or 1-to-1.

Starting work

Access to Work

Here is a BSL video to explain about Access to Work and how to apply [link]. Access to Work (AtW) is a scheme designed to make things easier for disabled people in the workplace over the age of 16, including those who are self-employed. It is funded by the government and helps disabled people to have equal access to workplaces through practical advice and support, as well as providing grants towards any (within reason) cost of communication and equipment support that you may need, which means that your employer can ensure you have your access needs to be met in order to carry out your job.

Certain things that AtW may be able to help with include:

  • An interpreter for meetings, conferences and job interviews

  • A support worker, such as a note-taker or communicator

  • Specialist equipment, such as portable hearing loop systems, textphones and conference microphones

  • Training for your employer and colleagues to help them be more knowledgeable in deaf awareness, in order to support you.

To get support from AtW, you need to apply online and make a claim [link].

You will then receive a reply, and they will get in touch with your employer and ensure that you get the right support.

The law

If you live in England, Wales or Scotland, you are protected as Deaf or hard of hearing person under the Equality Act 2010; this means that you are entitled to equal opportunity and support, and you should not be discriminated on the basis of disability. In Northern Ireland, the law is called the Disability Discrimination Act.

If you are diagnosed as having hearing loss and/or wear hearing aids, your employer is legally required to make reasonable adjustments, so you are not put at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ to other applicants.

Reasonable adjustments can include:

  • Having an interpreter for meetings

  • Being allowed to work flexible hours

  • Allowing you to sometimes work from home

Facing discrimination

There are many forms that discrimination can take from direct discrimination, your employer failing to make reasonable adjustments, to harassment in the workplace.

If you are being discriminated against due to being Deaf or hard of hearing, I advise the following:

  1. Keep a diary– record every incident of when you have experienced discrimination at work, including the date, any colleague or employer involved, and include as much detail of what happened that you can. Not only will this help you to understand the situation better understand from a rational perspective after any emotions have levelled out, but it can always be later used as evidence.

  2. Talk to someone you trust – explain what happened to a close family member, partner or friend; this gives you the opportunity to ask an outsider’s opinion, and they may be able to offer you advice on what to do about the situation.

  3. Try to resolve the situation – If you can, talk to your employer, but if you don’t feel comfortable, speak to your HR department and explain what has happened and the impact it has had on you; this will mean that they can try to resolve things and make any reasonable adjustments that have been ignored.

  4. Next steps – If it still is not resolved or appropriately addressed, get in touch with Citizens Advice [link] or Acas [link] for advice on what to do next. It could be that you need to make a formal complaint (also known as a ‘grievance’) or make a claim in a court or tribunal.

  5. Read over your contract – make sure that you re-read your contract, disciplinary and grievance policy and any other relevant documents you were given when you first started work, as it may be you can find parts of your contract that can be used either in the court of law or when speaking to HR/your employer.

For further information on what to do if you’re being discriminated at work, contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) here [link].

Thanks for reading and good luck with your job hunt!

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