This week, the world celebrates International Week of the Deaf. The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) launched the initiative in 1958 in Rome, Italy to commemorate the month they first held the first World Congress of the WFD. This week provides an opportunity for people across the world to raise awareness about the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, promote human rights of the Deaf, and create a unity of Deaf communities across the world. We asked some of our staff to share why International Week of the Deaf is important. Here’s what they shared about what people should know about providing services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
People are not singular, so neither should the services offered.
At Applied Development, we call our Reasonable Accommodations Diversability Services. Our Diversability Program Manager explains that this isn’t usually what you see. “Within the Reasonable Accommodation field, we’re used to hearing the term “disability” when referring to individuals who may be Deaf or Hard of Hearing,” she says. But, rather than considering low hearing, low vision or mobility issues disabilities, “I prefer to view them across a spectrum of diverse abilities.” And, she adds, people might have a temporary loss of hearing or have hearing loss that develops later in life. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that the greatest predictor for hearing loss is age.
When we think about how our abilities can change over our lifetimes, we can see the need for diverse services. At Applied Development, we recognize that American Sign Language interpretation doesn’t meet the needs of all Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals in all scenarios. Therefore, we also provide additional services including CART transcription.
Providing American Sign Language (ASL) accommodations is about more than just translating.
“To me, Deaf awareness is learning about the richness and history of Deaf culture as well as learning about American Sign Language and how it has evolved (and is still evolving) over time,” says one of our interpreters Lindsey Lantz. From her work, she has seen misconceptions about Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals, how to interact with them, and about ASL. Like any culture, she suggests that the best way to learn about the culture and language is to immerse yourself in it. “One easy way to do this is to see if your local community college offers ASL classes or has an interpreter program,” she says. Then, you can take classes, learn about Deaf events happening near you, or find other ways to become involved. “My time in the Deaf community has taught me so much about the power of language, access to information and the importance of having a sense of belonging,” adds our Scheduling Coordinator Nicole Morgan.
The need for reasonable accommodations is great.
In the early years of Applied Development, providing ASL interpretation represented a tiny piece of our work. However, we realized this was a service we could grow because businesses needed it. When we did market research about companies offering sign language interpretation as a reasonable accommodation, we learned that there was a huge market opportunity. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University estimate that up to 48 million Americans experience from hearing loss in one or both ears.
Many of these people may need assistance with communication in the workplace, and workplaces should provide reasonable accommodations. The National Association for the Deaf (NAD) explains that, “Section 501 [of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973] requires federal employers to make sure that communication with deaf and hard of hearing employees or job applicants is effective.” At Applied Development, “we will continue to focus on our mission of empowering Hard of Hearing and Deaf employees to work and communicate effectively in the workplace,” says our CEO Kimberly Citizen, fulfilling the company’s mission of championing the rights of people of all abilities to work and communicate effectively.