A Guide to Accommodating Employees Who are Deaf

By: Verbit Editorial
a business conference

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide reasonable workplace accommodations for Deaf or hard of hearing employees. This means helping them communicate and providing the resources they need to be able to succeed in their position. It is helpful to put some of these practices to use even before the employee makes a request. In fact, even those without hearing loss have different preferences when it comes to communication and may benefit from the same accommodations. It is also important to discuss a plan for accommodation on a case-by-case basis for new employees who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Below are some options for accommodating an employee who is Deaf or hard of hearing.

Common Workplace Accommodations for Employees who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

  1. Closed captioning
  2. CART or live captioning
  3. American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter
  4. Text phones or video relay services
  5. Written memos and company communications
  6. Visual emergency notifications
  7. Changes in workspace arrangements

Now let’s discuss the use of these accommodations in several environments and situations.

Corporate & Company-Wide Communications

Communications from the company to all employees should always be available in text format. Designate a person who will inform the employee of any audio announcements.

Training videos

During the training process, providing captioning on all training videos will not only make them accessible to those who are Deaf, but it can also help all new hires retain more information. It is important that employees who are Deaf or hard of hearing have access to all training materials to have a fair chance at succeeding in their new job.

Workspace & IT Setup

Employers should also discuss the employee’s workspace, equipment and setup with that individual. For instance, if they’re expecting to get phone calls, you can provide a phone that is capable of video relay calls. Video relay calls may be useful for employees who prefer to communicate in ASL. Alternatively, consider using a text phone. Also, consider investigating different computer applications that can help them communicate.

Colleague Communication & Department Awareness

During a new employee’s orientation, everyone who will be working with them should be notified of the new hire’s preferred communication methods. Educate the department on the proper etiquette and how to provide an inclusive environment. Colleagues should know the best way to get the individual’s attention when needed and how to communicate in writing or verbally.


When setting up for a meeting, choose a space that will provide the employee who is Deaf or hard of hearing good visual access, ample lighting and a direct line of sight if there is a primary speaker. Before the meeting begins, ask the employee how they would like to communicate and contribute during the meeting. Providing an agenda, presentation handouts and other written materials is also a good idea. Try to inform others in the meeting that they should avoid talking over each other and participate one at a time. This way, it will be clear who the speaker is. Additionally, provide transcription, note taking, CART captioning or live captioning depending on the employee’s preferences and needs.


Unfortunately, most environments don’t have the proper arrangements to notify an employee who is Deaf or hard of hearing in the event of an emergency. Flashing lights should accompany any alarms that sound. For emergency announcements made over loudspeakers or intercoms, use a buddy system to ensure the employee gets the message. Make use of text and email emergency alerts. During orientation, walk the employee through any evacuation plans.

The employment rate among individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing is only 48%. This is partly due to a lack of welcoming and inclusive workplaces where these employees feel comfortable. Providing these accommodations can ensure that employees who are Deaf and hard of hearing can succeed in their position and produce their best possible work for the benefit of the company.