While there are arguably many minority groups that are grossly underutilized in the workforce, I’d wager that most people do not consider the Deaf community when thinking about diversity and inclusion strategies. The Deaf community shares a unique culture that is closely networked, but few employers know how to tap into this community, which comprises 10 percent of the population.

In fact, many people probably see barriers for the Deaf community when it comes to employment, rather than opportunity.

As someone who has worked with the Deaf community in my role with LUNA Language Services and seen the invaluable contributions they make in the workplace, I’d like to change that.

The causes of Deafness are varied and because hearing loss does not target one type of individual over another, the Deaf community is already very diverse.  There are Deaf housewives and Deaf professionals. There are Deaf African Americans and Deaf Latinos. There are Deaf therapists and Deaf pre-school teachers. There are educated and trained Deaf individuals with competitive college degrees and vocational certificates waiting for a company to recognize their abilities, not their disability.

Hiring a Deaf individual is inviting someone into your organization who carries a unique perspective to the world, and likely, to your company. Because people with a hearing loss problem solve their way through a hearing world every day, Deaf individuals often bring that same critical thinking skill to the workplace. With a fluency in American Sign Language as his or her first language, Deaf people already work diligently at communication and covet mutual understanding in regular conversations.

Being visually oriented, a Deaf team member may see details of a particular situation or project that are missed by others.Partnering with organizations like Tangram and LUNA Language Services is a great first step for tapping into the employment resources and talent that is marginalized by other organizations. Tangram Business Resourcing offers training and support to employers who are interested in diversifying their workforce through the underutilized talent pool of individuals with all types of disabilities. Their mission is focused on tearing down stereotypes and barriers that exist between employers and applicants. Members of the disability community can then find competitive and sustainable employment based on the skills they bring to the table, and businesses can reap the bottom line benefits of building a diverse workforce.

Sept. 24-30 is International Week of the Deaf and October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so there is no better time for your company to begin thinking about how to engage the disability community to support your business goals. You will encourage personal growth in your employees and help change the focus for the Deaf community from barriers to possibilities.

Rebecca Buchan is director of ASL services and education at LUNA Language Services.

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