How Do I Communicate With
a Deaf Employee?The Supervisor's Guide
to Effective Communication with a Deaf Employee
Written by: Carmen Johnson, C.S.C.for Deaf Community Advocacy Network (DEAF C.A.N.!)
Working with a Deaf Employee
Perhaps this is your first experience
with a Deaf person. Following a few simple guidelines will make communication
easy and will minimize future misunderstandings and feelings of frustration
for both you and the Deaf employee.Due to job stress, and extensive
responsibilities, a Supervisor may unknowingly be preoccupied and avoid eye
contact with the Deaf employee; face in a deep frown. To the Deaf employee
this conveys avoidance, disapproval, distancing, anger, or displeasure. It
all adds up to "Why are you angry with me?"The first and most important mode
of communciation for a Deaf person is eye contact and a smile. Most Deaf people
can lipread a simple greeting like "Hello" or "How are you?",
but may not be able to comprehend a complicated string of sentences.
SOLUTION: Be Careful of
Body Language. And Remember, smiles are a universal form of communication.
Tips for Working
with a Deaf Employee
AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE
- Many Deaf employees would want their supervisors
to learn American Sign Language. While you may feel that this is just "one
more burden to add to an already heavy load," it will be greatly appreciated
by the Deaf employee. SOLUTION: Ask your employee to teach you just one
Sign per day. The employee
will be thrilled to do so. Depending on your contact with the Deaf employee
it could be a Sign per week or a Sign per month. Just an outward "sign"
to the Deaf employee that you are open to the communication process.
- TECHNOLOGY AIDS TO COMMUNICATION
- With the current trends toward computer technology
many offices have some type of "chat" or computer based dialogue
capabilities. This makes easy access to communication between employees and/or
employee to supervisor. SOLUTION: Take advantage of existing technology
to communicate with Deaf employees.
- MICHIGAN RELAY CENTER
- The Michigan Relay Center (MRC) has been established
to allow Deaf and Hearing persons communicate with each other over the telephone.
The initiating party calls the Relay Center to set up a two way communication
process. A "relay representative" facilitates communication between
the Hearing consumer and the TTY (teletypewriter) user by reading to the hearing
person what the Deaf TTY user is typing and vice-versa. SOLUTION: Use
the Michigan Relay Center with your Deaf employees at 711 (voice/tty).
- BEING LEFT OUT
- There is nothing more frustrating to Deaf
employees than to see a conversation, laughing, an announcement and when they
ask what it is all about, they are told, "It wasn't important."
Let that valuable decision be placed in the hands of the Deaf employee. Deaf
employees need access to what is happening in the world just like hearing
employees do. And, while the supervisor may think nothing of hearing employees
"chatting" as they work, or listening to the radio, Deaf employees
are often reprimanded for "chatting" with fellow Deaf employees.
SOLUTION: Take time to "fill in" the Deaf employee. A lot of office
Other Tips and Solutions
for Working Deaf Employees
- WRITING NOTES
- Many supervisors have found writing notes
to be an effective way to communicate with a Deaf employee. A good method
is to place a whiteboard or chalkboard at the employee's work area. Keep it
simple and concise. Establish the subject to be discussed and then explain.
Remember there may be language difficulties for the Deaf person such as double
negatives or English idioms. For example, "I never told you you couldn't
do that" would be very hard to understand.
- TEAM MEETINGS
- When holding team meetings, safety talks,
trainings, or policy updates, be sure to hire a Sign Language Interpreter.
Information is crucial for any employee. Be sure to reserve a qualified
Interpreter well in advance. Also, be sure to identifiy with
the employee the best way to communicate during the meeting -- seating, protocol,
SOLUTION: Keep the
lines of communication open with the Deaf employee.
Don't allow problems
are Great Employees!
is the Key