Sadly, many people with hearing problems continue to experience forms of discrimination in their everyday lives.
Whether it be communication discrimination, assumptions about what deaf or hard-of-hearing people can or can not do, or being shut out of social or work environments, audism is still a real problem.
Table of Contents
Audism definition is: “Discrimination or prejudice against individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.”
15% of American adults aged 18+ report having trouble hearing, and that’s 37.5 million people in the United States alone. Just like with any different minority group, the majority has discriminated against the deaf for generations.
Read More: About Hearing Loss >
Although audism is not something that can be tried in court, discrimination can be, and many deaf people are beginning to become more proactive in their defense.
As of recently, lawsuits have been brought against companies that refuse to hire deaf employees, places that refuse to cater to the deaf, and hospitals like Northwest hospital in Seattle Washington that fail to provide sign language interpreters and other necessary accommodations.
Often, audism comes from people in the hearing community simply not wanting to put in the extra effort or money it would take to cater to the needs of the deaf and the hard of hearing.
Whether it’s a teacher refusing to put closed captioning on a movie that they’re playing in class or an employer refusing to spend the money to get an interpreter for their deaf employees. Both are examples of discrimination and can be taken to court as such.
Audism Definition – Barriers to Employment for Deaf People
Employment provides deaf people, and people with hearing problems with an opportunity for financial independence and plays a key role in their well-being and quality of life, but it’s not a secret that, unfortunately, many deaf people face a multitude of barriers that impact their employment opportunities.
The most critical barrier to the employment of deaf people is the degree of social acceptance or stigma which affects how employers perceive deaf people as potential employees (Stokar and Orwat 2018).
While deafness carries a considerable social stigma, it also provokes avoidance behaviors, fear, and anxiety in hearing people (O’Connell 2016; Perry 1996). As such, deaf people are often doubly stigmatized by labels of hearing loss and disability and are widely perceived as being incompetent, slow, unreliable, and intellectually inferior (Lott et al. 2019).
Stereotypes are, by definition, collectively agreed-upon notions of groups of persons based on certain characteristics such as disability, race, sexual orientation, or gender (Corrigan and Watson 2002).
Audism Definition – Stereotypes associated with deaf people:
- lacking in understanding
- inability to communicate with people
- easily discouraged
- rigid in their adjustment to life
- socially retarded
- deficient in reasoning ability
- in danger of maladjustment to the degree that they lack hearing
Negative stereotypes and biased attitudes may translate into discriminatory behaviors on the part of employers, and Stokar and Orwat (2018) find that employers are less likely to grant deaf people promotions or offer them jobs compared to hearing people. Employers often use the cost of hiring sign language interpreters as justification for not hiring deaf people. Such an attitude prevents employers from selecting the most suitable candidate, the candidate with the required experience and qualifications.
That’s the main reason why people with hearing problems often target jobs in deaf service organizations where working conditions were more likely to be appropriate and supportive of their communication and cultural needs (Punch, Hyde, and Power 2007; Young, Ackerman, and Kyle 2000).
Most deaf service organizations are managed by hearing people and they are generally “deaf-aware” in providing appropriate workplace accommodations. Deaf people find jobs in deaf service organizations more attractive than mainstream jobs because those organizations tend to be more open-minded about deaf culture and sign language.
What Can Deaf Job Applicants Do?
1. Take Care With Your CV
The issue concerning whether or not to include that you are Deaf or Hard of Hearing on your CV. Including this information may allow you to access support more quickly and easily, as the employer will be aware and informed ahead of time.
However, discrimination does exist – both positive and negative – and many candidates feel they would like to be considered and selected based on their suitability for the job and so choose not to mention this beforehand.
2. Ask for Support
Don’t let a sense of embarrassment prevent you from accessing the resources which can be used to support you in your job search. Whether you need a live captioner, specialist equipment, or simply additional understanding and training for your colleagues and managers, everyone has an equal opportunity to access the jobs that best suit their skill set. Don’t let the barriers you face prevent you from getting the job you want. Instead, grab the opportunities available, and see where your career takes you!
3. Communicate With Employers
If a telephone interview is arranged, inform the interviewer of your deafness if they are not already aware. They can then arrange to communicate through Skype or another video call platform along with a live captioner or interpreter or come up with another way to interview you.
Case of a Deaf Ex-employee Who Won $775,000 in Discrimination Case
A deaf woman won $775,000 in damages after a Broward County jury agreed with her claim that her disability led to her unjust termination from her job as a stocker at the Pompano Beach Costco wholesale club.
Christine D’Onofrio worked at the company for 24 years before her termination in October 2013, according to the suit, which was filed in September 2015 in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale.
According to her complaint, supervisors declined D’Onofrio’s requests to have an interpreter or to have communications written down for her. Instead, she was given a video phone, “which worked great at meetings, but served little purpose during regular work,” the suit states.
Managers began to complain that D’Onofrio “was yelling on the video phone, despite her not being able to control the sound of her voice,” the suit states.
After she was written up for being too loud, D’Onofrio sent a letter to Costco’s CEO complaining about the treatment, the suit says.
Shortly after, she was suspended for a week, and eight days after she was told about the suspension, her contract was terminated, the suit says.
About Hearing Loss Workers Compensation Benefits
The Workers Compensation Program was established in 1911 to encourage employers to make the workplace safer by requiring safety programs and the use of safety devices.
Since 1911, there have been over 2.5 million workers’ compensation claims filed. Hearing loss workers’ compensation claims now rank #3 in the number of occupational diseases claims filed.
Hearing loss workers’ compensation benefits are largely undiscovered benefits covering hearing health care, which is often uninsured. Many health insurance policies and programs like Medicare do not cover hearing aid purchases but workers’ compensation can. It also pays for the disability of hearing loss just as it does for the loss of eyesight or other injuries.
Read More: All About Workers’ Compensation >
Aging populations, advances in technology, and greater sensitivity to hearing loss are bringing more attention to financing hearing health care. For the most part, those who qualify for hearing loss workers’ compensation benefits are retired hearing-impaired workers who live on fixed incomes.
Always feel free to ask Johnson Law Offices about the process, the law, or an individual case. The legal, medical, and audio-metric questions that come into play in a hearing loss workers’ compensation claim can be complicated.
The claims require attention to detail mixed with an ability to work well with hearing-impaired retirees and their families, especially spouses, and their hearing health care professionals.