COVID-19 has changed the way we work, from offices and organizations moving towards a completely remote model to essential businesses implementing social distancing and new hygiene practices. While these measures are pivotal for public health during the pandemic, they are posing brand new challenges for those with diversabilities (diverse abilities), including the Deaf community. As a business owner or high-level member of an organization, there are a few ways you can help remove barriers for Deaf employees during COVID-19

Provide Your Team Members with Accessible Face Masks

This measure primarily applies to organizations that are already back in the office or work regularly with the public. The ability to read lips is important for many Deaf or HoH (hard of hearing) people who may not be fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) or simply prefer lip reading as a communication method.

Face masks that cover the mouth present significant communication challenges for these individuals. Fortunately, a handful of face mask companies have started manufacturing masks with a clear area directly over the mouth. This makes it possible for people to lip read and see facial expressions that can give them important conversation cues.

Consider Your Methods of Communication

If your team is working remotely, you need to make sure that you are giving your Deaf and HoH employees everything they need to continue being able to work on the same level as their hearing colleagues.

Platforms like Zoom are wonderful for team meetings and keeping in touch, but it is important to remember that there is a certain lack of accessibility that comes with using them. However, many video conferencing platforms do offer ways to improve this issue, including communication access real-time translation (CART) services.

Whenever possible, it is ideal to provide these types of captioning services or bring in an ASL translator.

Offer Mental Health Services

This applies to all employees right now, but especially for those in diversability communities who may be experiencing more obstacles than usual. With Deaf individuals facing mental health issues at approximately twice the rate of the hearing community, removing barriers to mental health services is incredibly important. We are all moving through a period of shared trauma right now, and the more you do to support your employees, the better.

Provide a way for people to communicate with professionals who can help them cope with challenging times. You can also encourage your employees to take the time to practice good self-care in order to recover from common issues like Zoom fatigue. Back-to-back video conferences can be exhausting, especially if the calls are large with multiple speakers.

Some ways you can encourage your team to take care of their mental health include:

  • Recommending they still take vacation days
  • Setting boundaries for work time and personal time when working from home
  • Speaking to management about any specific accessibility needs

Removing barriers for Deaf employees during COVID-19 is an important step to providing a safe and accessible workplace. If you have questions about improving your organization for your Deaf or HoH employees or clients, Applied Development can help. Reach out to us today at 410.571.4016 or contact us on the website for more information.